Envisioning A Post-Marijuana Economy – April 4, 2010

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sharon Letts

Eye Correspondent

HUMBOLDT – Just as concerns are rising over where our food comes from and how it’s grown, similar issues apply with the production of Cannabis Sativa, or marijuana. Under current black market conditions, the where and what of an ounce of pot is left  to chance. With the serious prospect of legalization, regulation is just one aspect of change facing North Coast growers.

Ruin via bankrupcy of the county is another concern brought up by WAP (What’s After Pot) founder Anna Hamilton of Southern Humboldt, the driving force behind organizing what has long been known as an elusive grow community.

Last week’s town hall meeting, Tuesday, March 23 at the Mateel Community Center brought growers out of the woods and sat them down with indoor city growers, curious community members, county officials, non-profits and business owners concerned about the economic crisis that will surely besige the entire Emerald Triangle from Mendocino to Trinity.

A survey was handed out along with stacks of information from what Oakland is doing via its Measure Z, to text from the initiative measure that will ultimately fall into the hands of California voters.

The question of the night: Will marijuana be legalized this year? “Flip a coin,” Hamilton said. Whether it’s legalized right away or there is a wait, one thing is certain, the fiercely independent growers of the past must now come together in soladarity if Humboldt County is to survive.

As individual groups came together at tables, filling out the questionnaire together, the hot points of the evening were surprisingly the same challenges facing our farmers today, distribution, processing plants, cost per pound, supply and demand and branding the Humboldt name.

Humboldt County Supervisor Mark Lovelace sits on a task force committee that will ultimately be involved in defining the regulatory issues surrounding grows once legal.

At one point during the meeting Lovelace stated “back-to-the-landers” of the 1960s came to Humboldt County to “hide out” and grow pot, and it was time to come into the limelight and pull together to grow the “best” pot they can.

No longer is the issue whether to grow pot in Humboldt County, or not, but to grow the best for resale.

One back-to-the-lander was more than eager to take to the microphone, countering Lovelace’s “somewhat naive” view. In so many words, she said, “We came here to find a connection to the Earth. “Marijuana was a gift that allowed us to live this life here in this beautiful place.”

After more than 40 years for some Southern Humboldt growers, marijuana has become more than a way of life, it’s become an industry with a billion dollar bottom-line, creating economic dependency and environmental havoc.

So, where do growers go from here? Now they must become what they ran from during the “Summer of Love,” they must now become “The Man,” collecting 1099 forms from trimmers, filing itemized tax forms and becoming the cog in the wheel of a business California hopes will become savior to an economic crisis in full swing.

Branding, marketing, packaging, distribution and synergy are the new buzzwords. Forget about eco-tourism, goes this train of thought, it’s time to get on the bud bus as it tools through town shuttling tourists through fields of waving stalks.

At one table ideas were plenty. “We’ve already begun to make tinctures for the dispensaries,” one grower intent on the future said. “Survival of the fittest,” another grower said.

Hamilton said she’d like to see the estimated 30,000 Humboldters involved in the marjiuana industry plan now for a future without lumber or fish. Likening pot to the wine industry, where boutique wineries offer up varietals, specialized growers could brand “Humboldt Gold,” “Eel River Red Bud” or “Humboldt Fair Trade.”

Hamilton said she’s giving her time for the cause until December and hopes others will sign up to help in the transition from private to profits, with the county the ultimate winner.

For more information, contact Ann Hamilton  at (707) 223-2500.