Unpermitted Blue Boxes Appear Overnight on Pacific Avenue

Marking an unpermitted blue box.

An unpermitted blue box at the corner of Pacific and Soquel Avenues is marked with spray paint.

On August 24, 2015, things were just a little bit different as the day began on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz. Most people, including locals, didn’t notice that the number of “blue boxes” painted onto the sidewalk had grown dramatically overnight. The “blue boxes”, which are actually rectangles, are supposed to represent designated areas of the sidewalk where artisans and people living on the streets will not be harassed and ticketed for displaying their artwork, artistic performance, or panhandling.

The action of painting blue boxes comes on the heels of two well-known artists, Joff Jones and Alex Skeleton, being arrested by Santa Cruz Police on August 20 for displaying art in front of Forever 21 which, as of recently, is not allowed since the boxes there were removed. A few days later on Sunday, the artists defiantly returned to the sidewalk in front of Forever 21 dressed in Colonial attire with displays of their artwork and a painting of the First Amendment. They were not arrested a second time.

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Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Officers Raid San Lorenzo Valley Cannabis Gardens

A cutdown cannabis plant in San Lorenzo Valley.

A cutdown cannabis plant in San Lorenzo Valley.

On the morning of Friday, August 14, dozens of residents of Boulder Creek gathered in a downtown coffeeshop in response to police raids of medical cannabis gardens. People took turns explaining what they experienced the prior day when members of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office’s newly formed Marijuana Compliance Team visited their homes and gardens.

Two of the medical cannabis patients whose garden was raided questioned why their 40 plants shared among three housemates was cutdown to only seven plants. Many people were very angry and stated that they had been growing in compliance with the county’s current medical cannabis cultivation laws: “Ordinance No. 5176. Ordinance Adding New Chapter 7.126 Relating To The Cultivation Of Medical Cannabis.”

On August 13, sheriff’s officers targeted properties on Moonrise Road in Boulder Creek. There were also unconfirmed reports of raids on Amber Ridge Loop. Using a bullhorn, officers entered some of the properties, breaking through gates, with their guns drawn and announced, “We’re here to cut you down.”

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Supervisors Leopold and Friend Propose Cannabis Cultivation Choices Committee

Cannabis in Santa Cruz County

Cannabis in Santa Cruz County

At the June 23, 2015, meeting of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, representatives John Leopold and Zach Friend proposed the formation of a “Cannabis Cultivation Choices Committee.” If formed, the 13 member committee, limited to a term of six months, will work to create a policy framework for the Board to adopt for regulating medical cannabis cultivation in Santa Cruz County.

The Supervisors want a committee of community members to develop recommendations that “protect our neighborhoods, protect our environment, and ensure that there is an adequate supply of medical cannabis for those who have a doctor’s recommendation.”

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Santa Cruz Supports Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement

Willow Katz of Sin Barras speaks outside the Santa Cruz Post Office about Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement.

Willow Katz of Sin Barras speaks outside the Santa Cruz Post Office about Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement.

Over 14,000 people in California prisons, and 80,000 in the United States on any given day, are kept alone in steel and concrete cells the size of a parking space, with no fresh air or sunlight, for years and decades, some over 40 years. Many more are in solitary confinement in jails, juvenile facilities, and detention centers. Activists gathered on June 23 outside the Santa Cruz Post Office to expose and end the torture of solitary confinement in all lock-ups, in Santa Cruz County, statewide, nationwide, and worldwide.

On the 23rd of each month, since March 23, 2015, Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC) are held in cities throughout California. The demonstrations were launched by the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, a network of grassroots organizations, family members, formerly incarcerated people, lawyers, and individuals who are “amplifying the voices of those in California’s solitary confinement in their call for an end to torture.”

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New Cannabis Prohibitions in Santa Cruz County

Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors On March 24, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 before an overflowing room to ban the cultivation of cannabis in all unincorporated territories of the county, with limited exceptions. Personal grows of 10×10 square feet are still permitted, with restrictions. Outdoor cultivation is entirely banned in the 2nd District, represented by Zach Friend, and includes the communities of Aptos, Corralitos, Freedom, and portions of Watsonville.

The vote amended the Santa Cruz County Code by deleting the existing Chapter 7.126, passed on February 11, 2014, in its entirety, and adding a new Chapter 7.126. The new version of the code drastically reduces the legal rights of patients to cultivate and access the wide-range of medicines they depend upon from the cannabis plant.

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