A cannabis farm raid in the Emerald Triangle took a turn for the worse, leaving a dog dead, and people have questions.
Los Angeles Times reports that outrage is growing as details about the incident unfold, given the farm held a license at the state level and was in the process of approval at the county level. As outrage grows, some locals are calling for the resignation of Trinity County Sheriff Tim Saxon.
A 36-second video clip shows a Cal Fire officer fatally shooting a dog in a chaotic attempt to control the situation. The video was uploaded by Kym Kemp, who regularly reports on the Emerald Triangle. An officer says in the video, “Hey, don’t touch the dog, he just got pepper sprayed.” Keep in mind that an unlicensed commercial cannabis operation in the county is supposed to be a $500 misdemeanor.
On May 1-2, 2023, police from the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office obtained a search warrant in the Hayfork and Trinity Pines area. Agents with the North State Major Crimes Investigation Team, Cal Fire, the Trinity County Environmental Health Department, and the Trinity County District Attorney’s Office Victim Advocate assisted in the operation.
SF Gate reports that pot farmer Nhia Pao Yang is not a native English speaker. But the officers shouted commands in English, so he walked towards them with his hands raised. One of the dogs on the site approached one of the officers, who shot the dog.
The police report describes the dogs as “aggressive,” using the word three times, claiming the dogs were trained to attack.
“During the service of the Search Warrant at Nhia Yang’s property, Investigators encountered Yang who had five aggressive dogs on the property,” the press release reads, which was posted on Facebook. “Nhia Yang, was non-compliant with Investigators and attempted to keep Investigators away from him by standing near one of the aggressive dogs. When Investigators moved to take Nhia Yang into custody, one of the aggressive dogs attempted to attack an Investigator, who defended himself by firing one shot at the dog. The injured dog was transported to a local veterinary clinic where it passed away. Nhia Yang of Hayfork, CA was arrested for illegal marijuana cultivation, possession of marijuana for sale and resisting arrest.”
Saxon said the dog was killed by a Cal Fire employee and that Cal Fire was conducting an investigation into the matter.
Yang was later charged with unlawful possession of cannabis, lack of dog licenses, rabies vaccinations, unreasonable tethering of an animal, allowing a dog to attack or injure someone, and resisting arrest.
California’s Dual Licensing Mess
According to Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) records, Yang’s family has a state license for their small family farm, and they were in the process of getting a license under Trinity County.
Proposition 64 created a dual licensing system that requires farms to obtain both state and local approvals to grow commercial cannabis. Los Angeles Times reports that thousands of farms in Trinity County remain unlicensed. License applicants in 2021 were required to start over, when locals convinced a judge to overturn the county’s cannabis license system because it did not include an environmental review.
The DCC then issued a letter reassuring farms that it would take no action against those who lost their local licenses because of the ruling.
Even the sheriff’s office admits that the dual licensing system isn’t currently working.
“What I wish for is that we would have a consistent policy throughout the state,” Trinity County Sheriff Tim Saxon told the Los Angeles Times. The dual licensing system, he said, is “placing many sheriffs in an uncomfortable situation, including myself.”