"To the Connected Shall Go the Spoils."
The best analysis of the Emerald Triangle outlaw culture that I’ve read so far is found in the November/December issue of The Washington Monthly. It’s detailed and nuanced but incredibly readable. Excellent research is interspersed with delicious anecdotes that those of us who have lived here forever will recognize as true to the spirit of the place.
“My neighbor over the hill and her husband, they were struggling to make a living, and he had got a contract to grow some worm beds. … And Jill said, ‘Don, do you think it would be okay if I put a couple of marijuana seeds in the corners of the beds? That wouldn’t hurt the worms.’ And Don said, ‘Well, yeah, I guess so.’ That year, I remember he wanted to buy a tractor. Just a little tractor that could plow the fields and move stuff around. It was 700 bucks, and he was trying to get the 700 bucks.
“The next scene was, this pot came out and it was amazing. We called it ‘Brand X’ because nobody had anything like this, at least not in our neighborhood. So Jill was over there and I was talking to her and she said, ‘I’m gonna sell this stuff for $15 an ounce.’ I said, ‘Oh Jill, that’s a ripoff.’ I was half joking, half serious.
“Before that season was over, she was getting $600 a pound. That was a lot of money.
“All of a sudden the next season opened at $900 a pound. Then it was at $1,200 a pound. That was ’77. We couldn’t believe it. … If you could make that kind of money just putting a few plants in the ground, this is going to be a miracle: we can make a living, and pay the taxes, and buy the kids presents for Christmas. It was good, you know?…
“And the next thing, coke infests the ridge here. An ounce for a gram was the trade. That was the deal. And that was the beginning of the end of our innocence.
“By ’79 it was getting to be a drug scene rather than a family scene with a little marijuana in there. I was at a New Year’s Eve party at one of the houses down here. And all of a sudden instead of us getting stoned, mirrors are laid out and there’s lines all over the place and everybody’s just tootin’ up. Next thing we know we’re standing there and the sun’s coming up. The next day I was over at Don and Jill’s, and Don said, ‘You know, a year ago I was struggling to get enough money for a tractor. And we tooted up my tractor two or three times last night. Just tooted it up our noses.’”
Beyond the stories though is the analysis that explains how big corporations are already pushing the mom-and-pops out of the market. It explains how those with political acumen and connections are pushing lawmakers to create a world friendly to them.
Ultimately, what will happen to Mendocino or to Oakland is likely to be decided only minimally by “pure” market forces. Even more so than other industries, the marijuana business will be shaped by lawmakers—and to the connected shall go the spoils.
This is a must read for those connected to the marijuana industry in the Emerald Triangle.