Glow Houses Overtake Arcata – April 1, 2010

Friday, April 2, 2010

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

WESTWOOD – When agents of the Humboldt County Drug Task Force (DTF) turned up at a Stromberg Avenue home last Thursday morning, they took one look inside and thought they had another bust to boast about.

But it was not to be.

On answering the door, resident Justin Weston, 26, was confronted by the dreaded DTF with a search warrant bearing his name and address.

But, standing shirtless under a gleaming bank of halide lights amid a dense thicket of serrated-leaf plants serviced with irrigation tubes and blowing fans, his face didn’t go white.

That’s because of his rich new tan, courtesy of the elaborate lighting apparatus he had fashioned in his living room.

And therein lies DTF’s error. Gates had his handcuffs  ready to slap onto Weston’s wrists when the young man asked him what he had against gaining a ruddy complexion in fogbound Arcata.

“Does the government want everyone to be coast ghosts forever?” Weston blurted.

Puzzled, Gates asked Weston what he was talking about, since he had the guerilla grower dead to rights with the lights, the fans and the dope.

“It turns out it wasn’t a grow house,” said Detective Barry Gates, with obvious embarrassment. “It was a ‘glow house’ – an indoor tanning salon. This is something we hadn’t encountered before.”

But what about all the cannabis plants?

“Turns out they’re not pot,” Gates said. “Justin explained to me that they’re tannabis plants – rare cannabis lookalikes from the remote Peruvian jungle whose skunky aroma promotes melanin production.”

And that hash oil?

“Suntan lotion,” Gates lamented. “I mean, Justin said so. So I guess we won the drug war. Yay?”

Their day’s mission dashed, the dispirited DTF turned around and left. And for that organization’s agents, larger questions loom.

Word of the tanning industry’s profitability spread through the home-tanning community faster than a burning fatty at 4/20 – the next three grow house raids all turned out to be glow houses as well.

With no reason to go on (other than the rivers of meth and heroin flowing through Humboldt), DTF agents say off the record that they’ll miss the relatively low-hanging fruit of grow house take-outs.

On the record, the DTF is showing a brave face and looking to the future.

“We’re considering re-forming as the Deep Tan Force,” Gates said. “We could inspect for safe UV levels, make sure the tannabis is well-watered, that sort of thing. And we wouldn’t even have to change our patches.”