Behind The Curtain 16 – It’s The Economy, Stupid

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jake pulled into Humboldt Hydroponics at Sixth and I streets in Arcata. “It’s not about pot,” he said once more to Eric, sitting in the passenger seat.

“It’s the economy, stupid!” Eric responded, quoting former President Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign strategist, James Carville.

“That’s right, it’s all about money right now,” Jake continued. “The state needs the tax dollars of the grow industry, so that’s a given. Smokers will be voting, not growers. I’d like everything to remain the same, and keep getting three to four thousand a pound, but it’s not going to happen. The prices will drop, the majority of indoor grows will shut down because they won’t be able to afford the $1,000 it takes to grow a pound.”

Eric looked down at his hands, stained with resin. He and Caitlin had been up late again fertilizing and trimming. He couldn’t imagine doing this work for less than $3,000 a pound.

“I heard someone compare it to the television industry in Southern California,” Eric said. “They were saying the Feds added up Humboldt’s grows to something like, $14 billion a year. Just think, if the entertainment business should close down for some crazy reason.”

“That’s not going to happen,” Jake countered.

“Yeah, but just think about when legalization hits and all the small growers disappear,” Eric said. “The large growers and even corporate growers will, no doubt, step in. They say more than 30,000 people are employed some way by the grow market up here – not counting growers. What will happen to them?”

Jake and Eric sat silently, watching people go in and out of the hydroponics shop. A steady flow of customers entered and left the shop with fertilizers, soils, and hardware.

The grow shop was just off the Plaza in Arcata. A pricey location in full view. When its doors opened it caused quite the stir.

“Why put it out there for everyone to see?” growers complained. But, this was life in Humboldt as everyone knew it. And no one was growing tomatoes indoors, that was a given.

“If the entertainment business was set to fold in Los Angeles, don’t you think the state would see that coming and plan to do something to help?” Eric continued. “Would FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) step in with emergency aid? Because that’s what will happen up here. You think there’s too many stragglers on the Plaza now? Just wait.”

Jake looked down at his hands and slowly began to rub the resin from his fingers. “My neighbor has a full-time, legit job, but it’s minimum wage,” Jake said, beginning to understand the impact of what was to come. “She has a degree in wildlife management, but the job she landed doesn’t pay the bills, so she trims to subsidize. If she lost her trim jobs, she’d have to leave the county, that’s for sure.”

“And, that’s what I’m talking about,” Eric said. “When you start to think about all the worker-bees who subsidize by working in the grow world, that’s when it hits home. Your friend shops at local stores, buys food from the Co-op, takes her dog to the vet. Do a paper-trail on anyone working in the grow industry – not the growers, but the workers, and you can see what it will mean to the economy up here. It will be a disaster beyond any depression this country has ever seen.”

The two young men got out of the car and headed into the shop. “What’s first on the list?” Jake asked.

“Netting and stakes” Eric answered, opening the door for Jake.

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