New Documentary Details Murder of Cannabis Advocate Les Crane

Crane, once a prominent figure in the cannabis community, was murdered in 2005, but the case remains unsolved.
Crane
Les Crane with a bag of cannabis. Photo provided by Patrick Duff via MendoFever

Cannabis advocate Les Crane was murdered nearly 20 years ago, and a newly announced documentary tells the story and analyzes who might have killed him.

On November 18, 2005, multiple gunshots were heard in Crane’s home in Laytonville, California. At first it was called a home invasion, but over the past two decades, Crane’s closest family and friends who remain believe it may have been law enforcement. “The documentary seeks to unravel the case by interviewing a number of people involved,” a press release published on Kym Kemp. “In addition, it will include footage of law enforcement and cannabis from the time to give the flavor of what was occurring.”

The promotional teaser for Who Killed Les Crane? NorCal Cannabis Murder Mystery includes brief clips from different people who knew Crane, such as Sean Dirlam (the “only surviving witness to the murder of Les Crane”), Tim Blake (local cannabis advocate and founder of The Emerald Cup), Jeremiah Crane (Les Crane’s son), and Jennifer Crane (Les’ widow).

According to Blake, the mid-2000s were a tumultuous time for the cannabis industry. “You had the DEA all over the place, they’re looking for everything, shutting down the indoors, coming after all of us, gauntlet on the road, it was intense,” Blake said. “And here comes this, you know, boisterous, loud guy from the east coast, [with] east coast accent, wanting to all these, you know, things. You know, they were going to take him out,” he said of Crane.

An unnamed speaker in the trailer described Crane as being responsible for growing thousands of pounds of cannabis every season.

Another interviewee, Patrick Duff, described Crane from his own point of view. “He was the one that tried to change the industry before anybody did,” Duff said in the trailer. “He was the one that tried to make the cops honest. His gonads were difficult to fit through a garage door.”

Ever since Crane died, there has been much uncertainty revolving around his murder. Dirlam was in the house when Crane was killed, and described a large individual who entered his room and assaulted Dirlam with a baseball ball while he was still in bed. A 2013 news report from The Willits News stated that Crane was “shot in the back of his head, in the arm and his abdomen,” and that “Dirlam suffered facial injuries.” 

However, both Jeremiah Crane and Jennifer Crane have their suspicions. “The whole thing of them even being alive was suspicious. You know, like, I’m sorry that’s just how it is,” said Jeremiah.

Everyone has their assumptions about the unsolved case. Kym Kemp conducted interviews in November 2022, which marked 17 years after Les was killed. Les’ sister, Laura Smith, claims that he had more than one million dollars on him when he was killed. “From the understanding I had,” she told Kym Kemp at the time. “There was $1.2 million in the safe.” However, Dirlam explained that he handled Les’ money, and that he only had approximately $7,000 in his possession.

Documentary producer Seth Ferranti posted on Instagram about the progress of Who Killed Les Crane? NorCal Cannabis Murder Mystery. “Who Killed Les Crane? will be out later this year from Outlaw Films and director Seth Ferranti. A harrowing trip into cannabis country, the Emerald Triangle, when the War on Drugs was raging, and bodies were dropping left and right. We investigate the murder of pot activist Les Crane, which remains unsolved to this day,” the post stated.

The film is presented by Gorilla Convict and Outlaw Films, which is produced by Ferranti, the same person who wrote and produced the Netflix film White Boy (2017). At the height of his crimes, Ferranti said that he was on the Top 15 U.S. Marshal most wanted fugitive list. Ferranti received a 25-year sentence for trafficking LSD, and took advantage of his prison time to create new purposes for himself. “But despite the unjust sentence, Seth decided to rise above his past and focus on his future. He began building a writing and journalism career from inside the belly of the beast,” Ferranti’s website explained. “With unlimited access to criminals and their stories Ferranti started crafting raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters. Discovering a passion and talent for writing Ferranti also studied the trade earning an associates, bachelors, and masters degree while in prison.”

Ferranti wrote multiple books and published 500 blog entries before he was released from prison after serving his sentence for 21 years. Afterwards he took up freelancing for outlets such as Vice, Ozy, The Daily Beast, Dazed, Merry Jane, and many others, while also creating documentary films including Night Life (2023), Dope Men: America’s First Drug Cartel (2023), and more.

Recently in May, Ferranti also teased the first episode of a documentary called Tangled Roots: The True Story of Humboldt County, which is a four-part series that is slated to release on Amazon sometime this summer. “The legacy of the pioneers of cannabis culture of the past half century has been deeply rooted in the hills and valleys of Northern California, and particularly Humboldt County- America’s Cannabis Heartland. The Napa Valley of the weed game,” he described.

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