Marijuana Farmers Slide off the Mantle of Secrecy: A Grower's Guild is Born
Placards invite like-minded individuals to sit together at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Last night, the Redway Mateel Center in the southern heart of Humboldt County held a precariously balanced collection of about 200 people–each of them worried in their own way about how marijuana legalization would change their area. Gathered around long tables with placards defining various aspects of the community–business owners, 215 patients, government officials, non-profit representatives, growers etc.–knocked elbows and shared ideas in the crowed room. Anyone who felt troubled by the possible passage of some form of legalization was invited and many showed up. In an area known for its fear of government intervention and undercover cops, one seat was even designated humorously for the FBI.
In the beginning, the one table labeled Growers was sparsely populated as people carefully choose less controversial areas to sit in. The scorn of two brave souls however at that table, soon drew a small collection which swelled to make that section so crowded that those choosing that designation had to convene outside before the meeting was half over.
Many other tables rapidly shrugged off what they felt was the necessary facade of using the labels on the placards in front of them to define who they were and began speaking as growers to fellow growers no matter what word the placard in front of them carried.
Within minutes the “stakeholder” groups, as the various constituencies were called, began passionately talking amongst themselves about what they had been concerned with for awhile–how the probable legalization of marijuana was going to squeeze financially both the growers and the area they love. Some argued that with the removal of anti-cannabis legislation would come opportunity for growth and an influx of money and people eager to be part of the expanding social order. However, most were concerned that removing the criminal status from growing would also remove the lucrative black market. And, underlying nearly every conversation was the fear that with legalization would come the corporatization of a business that is, in Humboldt, mainly small Mom and Pop growers. What would happen if R. J. Reynolds began selling acres of weed? What would happen to their income, of course, but also what would happen to their county and to their cannabis? Would an inferior product be mass marketed?
Like farmers every where, the growers worried that if prices drop precipitously, they won’t be able to make payments on their property and, especially in the current economic climate, they will loose their business and they will lose their piece of property– their piece of Paradise. In spite of this concern, the mood at the meeting was upbeat– almost festive.
The consensus seemed to be that Humboldt and the Emerald Triangle needed to create an Appellation, a branded name, based on the terrior of this remote and beautiful countryside. Terrior is a French concept understood most readily when it is used to describe how the term Champagne can now only be used on sparkling wine made from grapes grown in the Champagne region. It denotes the unique characteristics that are derived from an area’s climate, soil, and local knowledge. Many present called for a organic, outdoor marijuana to be known as Humboldt Homegrown or some reasonable facsimile. A larger group though urged that the appellation be more inclusive ie the Emerald Triangle which would include Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity Counties all of which share similar climate and social conditions as well as are neighboring areas.
Whether or not legalization is imminent is a question many at the meeting would like to know. Mark Lovelace, a Supervisor for the Northern part of the County and the co-chair for the California State Association of Counties Medical Marijuana Working Group, explained that in his view that “there was no way the legislature can get out ahead of the people on this. If it is going to be legalized it is going to be by initiative.” He feels that Ammiano’s bill, AB2254, will most likely provide the framework for legalization if the Tax Cannabis Initiative passes this fall though the politicians will be unlikely to pass it without a significant more powerful pro movement. He seemed to feel that passage of some form though would come within the next few years. Before the meeting, two representatives from the Criminal Justice Dept. at College of the Redwoods who are following the marijuana situation explained to a small group that they feel it is likely to happen this year. Most people at the meeting agreed that marijuana will be legalized soon though the larger Humboldt community is more skeptical.
Ellen Komp, Deputy Director of California NORML, drew a huge round of applause when she passionately declared, “I’m not dying til there is a [marijuana] tasting room in Humboldt County…We’re pushing this behemoth that is the Federal Government.” Plans were made to meet again on 4/20, a date significant to cannabis consumers everywhere.
Note: the mantle of secrecy is only drawn aside coyly. The blushing growers didn’t want photographs of this historical moment. But in order to effect change, some are going to have to be as bold as the group’s founder, Anna Hamilton and step into the media spotlight. Not only were many of the local media spots well represented but an Associated Press reporter was there covering the event also.
Note: The North Coast Journal this week carries a story by me about ways Humboldt can prepare for legalization.
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