Charley Custer: Cannabis Cooperation Will Help Bring Sanity And Prosperity – July 21, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What’s going to happen to the economic base of Humboldt County? Everyone thinks they know: timber’s on life support, fishing’s kaput, our steady-Eddie government jobs threaten to become minimum wage, and — lest we forget — our county’s elephant-in-the-closet economic foundation is facing the crisis of legalization. What’s a decent county to do?

First, forget what you think you know. Though everyone knows that pot prices are falling, and should plummet when legalization occurs, I can’t forget when I first came to Southern Humboldt in 1983, and saw hundreds of families building their lives around a will ‘o the wisp of insane government policy.

“What if something sane happens?!” I used to ask my friends. They gambled the odds of that were slim to none, and they were right.

Now we read RAND Corporation projections of what the free market, whatever that might be, will do to legalized pot. But pot, legal and illegal, is nothing like what baby boomers first pined to legalize 40 years ago. Legalization isn’t either.

Back then, everyone was glad pot was cheap. Nowadays, everyone who’s anyone in the potrepreneurial trades is glad it’s expensive, and scheming to keep it that way.

Government wants to tax the bejeepers out of it. Unions want jobs with dental benefits. Dewy-eyed idealists serve God by lobbying for (then owning) vertically integrated monopolies. Yet so many of us still think we know what’s going to happen.

No, we don’t.

Yet the pot-world’s crazy salad of opportunity and absurdity, seasoned with unintended consequences and steeped in idealism and greed, happens to contain the financial future of our county in its cracked bowl.

I know I know, you’re still wondering WHAT DOES IT MEAN? But that’s too much like asking, what if something sane happens? We needn’t sweat that, except right here in our own communities.

We have to start thinking clearly about something that muddles minds with or without inhaling. For good and for ill, pot is the economic backbone of our county—yet it’s stigmatized and driven from our largest cities, whose citizens bicker over which minimum-wage jobs to subsidize studies about instead. Nonetheless, pot’s sifting into cities from the countryside that our cities exist to exploit.

Humboldt Bay’s imperial relations to the Humboldt countryside matter because, for the first time, the countryside has stopped taking orders from the center. “Hippies” have been shining on “building inspectors” for 40 years with continuing success — and our county is immeasurably richer for it. More divided and goofier too no doubt, but we take the bitter with the sweet.

If the county wants to have an economic future, it should treat its economic foundation like one. It should cooperate. It should consult. It should, every blue moon as with timber, take orders. It should help create regulatory structures that recognize rather than punish success. And it should do this before it writes ordinances to regulate what it doesn’t know the first thing about.

This is much more important than our General Plan Update, which provides an instructive model of everything the county will do wrong until we get together to make it right.

We can start Saturday, July 24 from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Bayside Grange, where the Humboldt Medical Marijuana Advisory Panel forum entitled “Humboldt Cannabis — A Future of Opportunity” will bring together county politicians, lawyers, activists, recent outlaws  and interested citizens to begin coalescing our future.

All we can know for sure is, the future isn’t what we think — at least until we’ve thought about it.

Charley Custer is secretary of the Humboldt Medical Marijuana Advisory Panel ( and a Redway writer.