Sharon Letts: Cannabis Subsidizes Humboldt County

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Several weeks ago, many were shaken by news that a highly respected and prominent member of the Humboldt community was taken into custody by the Humboldt County Drug Task Force for cultivation of cannabis; with child endangerment charges added, due to an indoor grow in a garage.

Seeing the sad faces in mug shots of those taken down for something voted on and legal in our county and state is always disturbing. When it’s the teary-eyed face of a dear friend, it’s devastating, and gives more questions than answers.

How could this wonderful person of such high standing be in this kind of trouble?

Humboldt: Land of Opportunity

With Northern California’s lumber and fishing industries’ heyday a distant memory, it’s no wonder cannabis stepped up to provide.

According to U.S. Census data, Humboldt County ranks midway in Median Individual Worker Income at number 52, with an average income of $22,148 posted – barely reaching the federal poverty level of $23,050.

When I arrived in Humboldt County six years ago I had only an inkling of the county’s interest in its largest the cash crop. With a background in television production, I was hired to produce a daily news broadcast by the Eureka Reporter, a now-defunct conservative rag.

At the time of hire I honestly didn’t even ask what the wage was, knowing full well it could never match my average $900 plus a week earned from television.

Nevertheless, at $13 an hour I was the envy of those who had been there much longer, making less.

Paying the Bills

It didn’t take long to realize the covert world of  cannabis a majority of co-workers lived in – above and below the administrative line.

Whether it was a small grow at home or added income garnered with trim jobs, most had to have some kind of work affiliated with the grow world to subsidize the meager wages earned.

“You have to be stupid not to make money in Humboldt County.”

The above statement was shared with me by a longtime Humboldtian with a family heritage of cannabis.

The information was meant to enlighten, but I suppose I am stupid, and have never grown or relied on trimming to make ends meet – to my downfall, I might add.

By the time I was lead feature writer at the Times-Standard, my salary dipped to $12.50 an hour. Still the envy of those working for less much longer, my financial life suffered.

The summer gas prices rocketed to five bucks a gallon, I was choosing whether to fill the tank for work, or make a car payment.

One sunny afternoon, my car was repossessed from the parking lot while I worked on yet another weekly feature.

It’s Medicine, Stupid

My bottom line; cannabis cured my cancer. As detailed in an essay published just a short while ago, I was faced with Lobular Carcinoma just a few months ago – meaning I was faced with surgery, radiation, hair loss and misery, but cannabis saved me from all of that.

And while our government does not yet fully acknowledge its benefits, on October 7, 2003, represented by the Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Patent, No. 6630507 was granted, pertaining to any and all uses and applications of cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants.

I have never discussed setting up a room with anyone who wasn’t hiring an electrician for the hardwiring of the main power source. And electricians who will do the work are plentiful, no questions asked. After all, no one wants a fire in their home, and no one purposefully endangers their family.

Add the fact that residential structures are not meant to be indoor greenhouses, with power sources upped and grounded to the main feed,  the entire set-up is considered “tampered with,” regardless if a certified electrician was brought in or not.

In the case of the recent arrest, it has been confirmed an electrician was indeed contracted for the work.

Nullify It!

So, what to do when supply and demand is high, the people are healing, the state says A-OK, but the feds say no-go?

The concept of jurors judging the law, as well as the facts, is called jury nullification, and is an important part of American jurisprudence and its history.

The best example of this occurred during the time of slavery, when those who aided in escape were tried under federal law for violation of the “Fugitive Slave Act.”

But when Northern jurors opposed to the law sat in judgment of these “criminals,” they would often acquit, even when defendants admitted guilt. Legal historians credit these cases with advancing the cause of abolition of slavery.

One recent example of jury nullification took place recently in Orange County, a conservative patch of red in Southern California, when the executive director of a collective was pulled over after selling legal overages to another collective.

Juror No. 110 was the only juror to disagree with the punishment for the crime – a mandatory five years for 100 plants by federal law – and cast a “not guilty” vote, rendering the jury hung with an acquittal.

Humboldt Pride

There are bad apples in the barrel of growers that make up the Humboldt grow scene, but the arrest that took place recently is a slap in the face to good medicine and good people.

Do your homework, learn about the benefits of cannabis and hemp as a sustainable material, and nullify the negativity.

Feature writer/photographer Sharon Letts makes her home in Humboldt County. She has written for television, dailies, weeklies and national magazines, with a focus on human interest and cannabis as good medicine.