Murder Mountain (2018) s01e02 Episode Script

Paradise Lost

1 So, what'd you do? Felon in possession of a fire well, not a firearm ammunition, which is a big deal, apparently.
How long you been in? I've been in about 45 actual days.
Have you been able to clean your property up since the last time you were there? No.
I went back one other time and caught some people up there that weren't supposed to be there.
Let a couple bullets fly over their head.
There are a couple people that I'll have to personally deal with when we get out.
I was already way behind before they trashed my place.
And here I am, you know, doing not serious time but time.
So I guess it's not easy.
That's the price you pay for living this life.
If you want to do things that aren't necessarily legal, then you end up in here.
But is being in jail worth the price of being an outlaw? Fuck yeah.
I moved to Humboldt County in the very end of 1968 along with a bunch of friends because land was cheap here.
The first piece of land that I was involved in, we bought 40 acres for $11,000.
So we're looking at some pictures from the old days at the Nonagon Commune.
The Nonagon became the name of our communal land because we built a nine-sided house on it.
There it is from the front.
There are a couple of other pictures of it in construction.
This is me building rafters barefoot, because that's the way I roll.
Here's a photograph of the communards building the Nonagon wearing nothing but nail belts.
Naked with the exception of our tools.
- Why were you guys naked? - Why were we naked? Because We it's hard to answer your question why we were naked.
First of all, it is our natural state, after all.
Secondly, this was the quintessential hippie life.
Unfettered, with a quality and quantity of freedom not experienced by a lot of people.
A lot of people came up here just to get away from the materialism and the dishonest values that grip our culture and which are continuing to be the great disease of our times.
The back-to-the-land movement was individuals who made choices to drop out and move to the country, to the land, to try to be self-sufficient.
Our intention was to grow our own food, grow our own staples.
Well, weed was a staple.
The marijuana industry has been a foundation in this region for a long time.
It's deep-rooted, and with that brings a lot of, well, historically, um a lot of money on the black market industry, and that's attracted people from all over the world.
Most of the calls that we have for missing persons that I deem suspicious do come from the regions that are related to marijuana.
Humboldt County has the highest number of people reported missing across the entire state of California, and it's their biggest concern with illegal marijuana grows.
It can be difficult to generate leads and get information regarding missing persons in this area because of the deep-rooted marijuana culture that's been passed on through generations.
The sheriff's office currently has about 230 active missing person cases dating back to 1975, around there, so we have a fair amount of cases open that somebody knows some information about and hasn't come forward.
Another man is believed to be missing somewhere in the hills of Humboldt County after telling his father he had a job in an area called Murder Mountain.
Today, the sheriff's office issued a press release asking for the public's assistance in finding 29-year-old Garret Rodriguez.
When Garret was in Humboldt, before we knew that he had disappeared, one of his girlfriends called me and said, "You know, you haven't-- No one's heard from Garret.
" When I first met Garret, he was just kind of scruffy, cute, you know, some tattoos and things.
A typical Southern California surfer boy.
I knew that he smoked weed.
I hadn't really been exposed to that world so much, but kind of, you know, joined in a bit.
Garret pretty much always returned to San Diego.
Ocean Beach was his place.
He said he still wanted to come down all the time and see me.
As soon as he would come into town, I would get a phone call from him.
I would kind of ask questions about what's going on, but he wasn't sharing a ton about, you know, his work stuff but knew what he was doing, obviously, that he'd gone up there for a grow operation.
Um, you know, he said that he was in it with some friends, you know, had put money into it.
You know, and he'd come down, obviously, to bring product down.
He'd bring down a few pounds, you know, sell it off locally, and he'd be rolling in cash for a few weeks.
He would, you know, have a great time, have parties, buy food for everybody, have weed for everybody, and just piss it away as fast as he got it.
One time, he came here, I remember that he said he had made, like, $33,000.
And I told Garret, like, "Dude, shut the fuck up.
Stop flashing your cash.
Stop acting like you a big man.
You're just making yourself a mark, and, you know, people are jealous.
" Stealth is wealth.
Nineteen sixty-eight to 2010.
Well, it seems like it was just yesterday.
It's gone by so fast.
I'm the first cultivator in the world's capital of cannabis.
That's my claim to fame.
I took a bunch of marijuana seeds from the Mexican pot that we had managed to buy.
I had a good, strong soup spoon, and I planted about 100 little seedlings.
Twenty or so actually made it.
A neighbor came down and said, "There is an actual way that you can make marijuana profitable.
Get rid of the males, and the females, in their desire to be pollinated, swell and get bigger and more aromatic.
" This guy grew a pound, and he got $800 for the pound.
I said, "Well, that sounds pretty good.
" I had no money, so I'm gonna go grow it, and maybe people, they'll give me ten bucks for an ounce or something, but I never thought it would be so complicated.
And here we go.
We start having at least a business.
Maybe not an industry yet, but, in the '70s, '80s, Humboldt County becomes the producer of that product for the larger American economy.
To think that the founders of this industry, we're gonna get rewarded we were not.
Go! Don't move, stay down! When we started getting money through selling marijuana, we knew we needed to create a community.
We didn't pay federal income taxes, so we immediately started funding institutions.
Each watershed, they all had their own schools, all paid for by a voluntary taxation system.
The same system that funded the community park here in Garberville and the Redwoods Rural Health Clinic.
We have community service organizations, excellent volunteer fire departments, environmental groups.
The money that was gained from marijuana growing has served to create a community that could not have been created otherwise.
The institutions, the essential organizing processes that created this community, were a form of self-taxation.
Marijuana's been the backbone and the footing of Humboldt County.
Do you want to join me here? Won't you be seated, please, ladies and gentlemen.
America's public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse.
In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new all-out offensive.
I have asked the Congress to The War on Drugs started with Nixon.
He devised a strategy to go after hippie culture by going after their drugs.
One of the consequences of that was a code of silence.
People within this culture didn't talk about what they did for a living.
You were a farmer, or you were a land developer, or you were a carpenter, or whatever.
But you weren't a pot grower.
And one of the outflows of that was that we became an outlaw culture.
I'd like to characterize us as outlaws as opposed to criminals, and the distinction is, we never hurt anyone.
Early on, we had only the Mexican swag, which was relatively poor-quality marijuana.
It came to our attention that there was another variety of marijuana that grew in Asia, and a lot of it grew at higher altitudes in much colder and more extreme weather situations.
They went to North Waziristan, an area of Pakistan that was of the same latitude as we are here.
The person who went there to get seeds we lovingly referred to as "The Smuggler.
" Who was the Smuggler? Flying into Pakistan, when we landed, there were Pakistani soldiers every ten feet.
There were a couple of real intense moments, but I was not busted.
There was a family there that helped bring the seeds.
They were carefully sewn into the seams of clothing and hats and tea cozies and various artifacts, and they were shipped over here in that form.
We were able to connect with a kilo of Asian indica seeds and get them back into the United States.
Prices went from $300 a pound for the seeded weed that we had been growing to 800, soon to 1,200, soon to 1,600 within a few years, within a couple of years, and that's when the money started flowing in.
We didn't come here to grow weed.
We came here to escape, and now we were engaged in widespread criminal activity.
We didn't know what to believe.
We didn't know what to think.
So, when my brother said, "I think, Sis, we should file a missing persons report on him," I agreed.
I called the county where Garret was in Humboldt.
Mister Fulton was the one that I spoke with, and he wasn't very concerned with what I had to say.
"It happens all the time up here, and you don't have to worry, Garret probably is fine.
He'll probably show up on your doorstep any day.
" Initially, we were told that the sheriff's department did not believe that Garret had made it to Humboldt.
There were no signs of him there.
So they weren't looking for him.
They weren't looking for anything.
But he was there.
And he we knew he was there.
He said things that really pissed me off.
"He's just another one of the losers that come up here and try to make money off this business.
He just falls into a category of people that do this all the time.
" He could have care less, you know? He didn't care about Garret.
Just another drug dealer to him.
"It's a lost cause," you know, and that's what everyone wanted me to believe, that I might as well just forget about it.
I'll never know anything about my son.
That's when I hired a detective agency.
I was a police officer, investigator for 27 years in Humboldt County.
When I retired 14 years ago, I became a private investigator.
I get a lot of missing persons calls on a regular basis.
It's which ones I take, is the question.
I only want to take the cases where they really need my assistance.
They're not easy to solve.
Garret's family contacted me in the late spring of 2013.
They had already reported this to the sheriff's department.
They were told that there was no proof that Garret was ever in Humboldt County.
So that seemed to be the biggest hurdle in getting law enforcement interested.
The area where he was working, I know it as Rancho Sequoia or Alderpoint.
But, to many people, it's known as Murder Mountain.
Unless you live in Humboldt County, you don't understand our culture here.
If a family came to law enforcement and said, "Someone who lives at 123 Main Street saw Garret leave," they would go there, but a trip to Murder Mountain is a whole different story.
Most of the time, they don't have paved roads, people are armed, there's pit bulls and how many people want to talk? Many are involved in illegal activity.
They don't rely on law enforcement.
They don't rely on, you know, city council and a mayor.
They make their own rules, and talking to an investigator is not part of that.
It's not a place where a law enforcement officer fancies to go up to take a report.
And so that is where I began my case.
One of the reasons that the marijuana industry took root in Southern Humboldt was our unwillingness to give up.
On my road, we could see the convoys coming in, and if the lookout saw the cloud of dust coming that indicated they were coming down our road, another volunteer would drive up to where the backhoe was parked and move the backhoe, blocking the road, and take an important part out of the backhoe's engine.
The local authorities made very little impact on the marijuana crop in the first couple of years of commercial activity.
It wasn't long before they got other resources.
These are ones he didn't think he was gonna lose.
It's the federally funded, state-run Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, known as CAMP, and it's striking daily in the hills of Humboldt County.
That's the way I like it to go up.
That's right.
CAMP was a state program with federal backing.
Yeah! It employed military-style helicopters.
The personnel from CAMP was largely drawn from narcotics divisions of urban police forces.
The era of sheriffs and deputies driving vehicles up a rutted road was over.
They went roaring all over the place, and it terrified children.
For people who came here to live peaceful lives back in the woods, it was Vietnam.
It was pretty exciting stuff, actually.
We were receiving in Humboldt County a half a million to a million dollars of support.
We had a lot of people in the hills, and we were chopping a lot of marijuana.
We thought at that time that we were really doing something very noble.
We really felt that this was the right thing to do and that we were really making a difference.
They could come and wipe out a whole neighborhood.
I mean, I remember when, for years, during the heyday of CAMP, we'd end up hanging them in trees, you know, or everything got tucked under a bush.
My little 20 plants were overlooked.
They would put powdered tempura on the leaves to take the flash of green away from it, to kind of discolor it a little bit.
It was really a pretty good operation.
I've never been arrested.
All CAMP got was one small garden, and they missed much larger gardens close by.
There came a point at which CAMP became much more adept at spotting hidden gardens and much more efficient, therefore, in their raids.
They did many warrantless searches.
They came into people's houses, took them into custody and interrogated them without warrants.
They would not talk to me, move or lower their guns.
All of them were aimed directly at me.
I could look down every barrel.
There were no markings on their trucks or on their uniforms.
Nothing, they wouldn't identify themselves.
I'm scared to bring my kids home at night.
Come by here and the military is pointing their guns at you.
I don't have any guns.
I'm just going home.
The people united, will never be The community hated CAMP, uh, and even those that weren't involved in the industry hated it because it felt like a real invasion.
We'd see 'em alongside the road sometimes.
People would make hand gestures as we'd drive by and sneer at us.
I can remember a kid standing alongside the road crying as we drove by 'cause they knew that we were taking the crop that year and there may not be a Christmas.
You know, I can remember that.
We did such a good job of eradicating the marijuana that it was harder to come by on the open market.
We drove the price of marijuana up, and so the greed factor kind of took over.
The gentler people amongst us started to leave.
People started coming in who were far more hardcore, who were far more criminally-oriented.
The more gentle hippies decided they didn't want to live here because of the increasing amount of violence and assault.
That started a shift in this community for sure.
And CAMP was directly responsible.
When I first spoke with Mr.
Rodriguez, Garret's father, they were completely unfamiliar with Humboldt County.
People say the word "rural," but most people don't actually know what that means.
We're an hour and a half, almost two hours from Alderpoint, where we were based at, at that point at that time.
And so it was also important getting the family to understand that uh, you know, financially, it was going to get expensive for us to be driving down there every couple of days.
Make some noise for Garret, y'all come on! We had a big fund-raiser for Garret.
All of his friends showed up, and there was a big crowd.
Garret had so many friends.
Garret was an important person to everyone.
Everyone loved him.
And everybody missed him, and Where the heck is he? You know, where did he go? One of the first things we did was set up an anonymous tip line, and that was a huge benefit because a lot of people, the outlaw society, they're not inclined to call the police at all.
We received phone calls from young women who had actually worked on the same farm where Garret was working, and they told us some pretty crazy stories.
There was a lot of rumor, a lot of innuendo.
At some point, it was turned into, you know, these guys might be trafficking guns for the Hells Angels.
It was, like, one big knotted-up ball.
Rumors and double, triple hearsay and, frankly, false information, and somewhere in there was the truth.
We had zero actual confirmation that he had made it up to Rancho, let alone, you know, that he'd ever made it past Central California, and so we really had no idea.
The speculation and the strong sense was that Garret wanted to come back to San Diego.
I had heard that he basically wanted to be bought out of his share of the operation up there.
He was fully intending to just get out of it and return down here.
Lighting up, that's the way proponents celebrated the victory of the Medical Marijuana Initiative in California, and they did from Santa Monica to San Francisco.
Anyone suffering from AIDS and cancer to chronic pain and migraine headaches would be free to smoke pot under the new laws.
No written prescriptions required.
That suddenly changed the whole game.
Under 215, six plants could be put out, so we put out six plants, and then it got to be ten plants.
Then bumping it up to 25 and 50.
The state didn't step in with regulation, and so it makes it a big challenge for us to stay on top of it.
They're not busting.
They're confused.
They're trying to figure out the policies and the game plans, and it's proving to be way too complicated.
The logical conclusion was, let's just do a thousand plants.
The word got out.
People came from all over the country to grow here because there was so much gray in the law.
Prices for Humboldt weed at that point were near their peak.
The highest price topped out, I think, 5,200 a pound.
And more and more people come into the area, buy land for the purposes of growing marijuana.
That was the green rush.
It's not like the hippie days in Northern California's Emerald Triangle.
Our medical marijuana law is so vague, it's opened the floodgates for profiteers.
Mega-marijuana grows mean mega-money.
The green rush was an influx of, uh, people who were looking to get rich.
There's this new element we don't recognize walking the streets.
You know, wear your baseball cap backwards and don't talk to anybody and keep your eyes low.
They get their lifted pickup trucks, and they even post pictures of themselves on Facebook fanning their money.
The black market was very lucrative, but it was all underground, similar to the prohibition era of, you know, alcohol, and anytime an industry is illegal, there will be violence.
Deep in Humboldt County, law enforcement agents get ready for a raid of an illegal marijuana grow.
What one generation does in moderation, the next will do in excess.
Each generation's become a little more greedy and a little more violent.
They would build their own cartels, and they became very big.
Don't move! Stay down! Suspect's on the run.
Do not move.
We hear stories on the scanner fairly regularly.
People getting tied to chairs and robbed.
Workers who were brought here from other countries and ended up being murdered.
A migrant laborer told the firefighters he had just been shot in the face by his boss on the pot farm.
The victim's boss ran out of money.
The workers wanted out.
Instead, Michael shot them.
What you have now in Humboldt County is you have organized crime families and also gangs.
We have Eastern European people here.
We have Bulgarians, Russians.
We have outlaw motorcycle gangs that have their piece of the action here, and we've had a lot of murders that have occurred surrounding marijuana.
It's a very violent thing, to protect their illegal industry.
There was actual collateral damage that happened during the War on Drugs.
Who won the war? I don't think either side really won the war decisively.
We did not give up.
And so, in that way, we won.
We continued to grow marijuana against the biggest-organized, longest-standing domestic law enforcement operation in this country, and public policy has changed as a consequence of our efforts.
We want to turn to the historic night.
Yeah, voters legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
The yesses have it with 56%.
Yes, this is a tremendous night for many activists and a great night for them to celebrate.
The War on Drugs is an abject failure, and California now has sent that message powerfully to the rest of the nation.
This is a sea change.
It's gonna make for a very interesting couple of next years here in California.
To me, it's just the most exciting time in California's history.
Some people are celebrating this new year with marijuana.
It is a really hopeful day.
It is an exciting day.
I dub thee free! I did not vote for this.
Did not.
Local retailers are ready to begin serving customers in what's expected to be a billion-dollar industry It's really only set up for the user versus everyone else that's in the industry.
I don't think the voters of California really took into consideration that there's gotta be a farmer involved.
January 1, 2018.
It's a completely different world.
We're trying to get rid of the black market.
That's the goal of Prop 64.
But this is going to be extreme amount of growing pains, especially for small folks.
It's an industry that, for a long time, didn't have to comply with any environmental regulations, any labor laws, and the market is already collapsing.
The price for a pound of marijuana 10 or 15 years ago was $4,000.
Now we're hearing $500, $600, or less.
I wanted to sign up for this program and be completely open with the government and hope for no repercussions because of it but it costs a lot of money.
US$ 7,350 to the county.
US$ 1,270-some dollars to the water board.
I do have to have a biological survey done for Fish and Wildlife.
US$ 9,892 dollars.
By the time it's all said and done, close to a hundred thousand.
Then the square foot tax, and then the county tax, which is US$ 80,000.
We have 4,000 square feet.
At this point, we're so far in that we're just gon cross our fingers and go for it, even though the numbers aren't really matching up.
Well, what else are we gonna do? Yeah.
I'm not gonna go work at Hooters.
I'm, like, atop of the game here, and if I'm having trouble making it, I don't even want to-- I feel bad for-- I don't know how it's gonna work.
It can't work.
It's a tough process, but they need to create a thriving cannabis industry.
That will lead to less problems with violence and also more tax revenue.
There were people who were killing people for their product or robbing them.
With legalization, we can clean up our community, bring our children up without fear of crime.
You worry about going broke.
I'm worried about going broke.
That's, like, the ultimate truth, and it's stressful.
Right now, I'm wishing that I hadn't gotten my big toe into the white market.
Basically, what I've saved for retirement um, could all go in one year.
People are gonna witness the downfall of farmers that have been here for so long that no longer can compete with what has clearly been structured for Big Pharma or large corporations to come in and infiltrate.
The danger could be losing our community.
I take a look at an old-schooler, or OG, if you will, who's been doing this for 40 years it's incredibly disheartening.
They just wanted to create something beautiful.
I would like to direct a comment towards Estelle.
I had a meeting with Estelle early in the year.
She assured us that this board of supervisors was going to do everything they could to support the small farmers.
I think we've been betrayed.
I've raised three kids here.
I have five grandkids living here.
And I've never been closer to losing everything I've worked for than right now.
The cultivators are now broken, tired, and financially strapped individuals who have parceled out their life savings in $20,000 and $30,000 increments to consultants for a "maybe.
" Most small farmers won't be around to pay your taxes.
Most of the best growers I know cannot survive.
We're down to nothing.
Business is off.
Charitable donations are down.
All the money has been soaked up by the permit fee.
Oh, my God, the stress level is, like, can I eat? Can I sleep? Can I feed my kid? Will I lose my house? Is the bank gonna come after me? This is you guys.
You are ruining our community.
We are all working so hard to make this happen and be part of this community and make it work, and you guys are killing us.
You're literally killing us.
Thank you.
After 20 years of law enforcement attempting to wipe everybody out, it's really ironic that legalization is able to potentially destroy what criminalization couldn't.
Everybody who went into the marijuana industry from the '60s onward knew that there was risk involved, and the risk is what made it profitable.
If you're somebody who managed to grow marijuana for years and years and make money, it could feel like the changes in the industry are a betrayal, but I think from a community-wide standpoint, it's a lot more complicated than that.
Overall, I think the community in the long run will be better off.
I worry about people who really belong here and are part of Humboldt County.
I really worry about them getting to the point of leaving.
I don't worry one bit about the green rushers going.
It's fine by me.
We want to get rid of the bad actors and support and reward the people who want to change their ways.
When you first get arrested, you spend about a week just like "Maybe I ought to change my life, and, you know, rethink why you're in here and everything.
" And then you realize that, "Hey, they can't keep you forever.
" And, when you get out, you're still gonna go back to doing what you're gonna do.
Humboldt picks and chooses who can stay and who can go.
If you're meant to be here, you're gonna end up sticking around for a while.
And if you're not, then you get escorted not-so-quietly out.
Or you don't make it out at all.
Each day went by and I didn't know where my son was.
Uh, my imagination would go wild into thinking any and everything.
I felt helpless.
Deep despair.
There was a missing persons poster on the window.
So we stopped and read it, and it was about Garret.
And it was sad.
It was a sad story.
Because we knew what happened to this kid, and their parents didn't.