The Alcohol Model and ‘Scruffy’ Humboldt Growers


Humboldt County pounds. [Stock photo by Kym Kemp]

The Los Angeles Times posted an important story today for the cannabis community. The article looks into the ways a new law affects growers who now have to sell to distributors instead of to retailers. In the article, Humboldt growers are shown either embracing the new model which is based on how alcohol is distributed or seeing a “new threat to their scruffy livelihoods.”

According to the article, these later growers see that the “moneyed establishment was shouldering into the marijuana game, legislating the system to its favor, and the small growers who had built the industry had better accept the new model or get bulldozed by it.”

Sunshine Johnston, a Redcrest cannabis cultivator, represents this point of view.

To many farmers in Humboldt and Mendocino counties, this was not just an attack on profits, but on the backwoods hamlets that have long operated like autonomous states — where marijuana growers and their money build local schools, volunteer fire stations, community centers, even a regional radio station.

Some, like [Sunshine] Johnston, 43, who grew up in the Mattole Valley in Southern Humboldt and went to a pot-funded school, have decided to fight to survive in the industry by working to brand their fabled terroir.

She is trying to trademark her brand name, “Sunboldt” — because it’s grown in the sun, not under lights — and working on logos and packaging.

The article extensively quotes several other Humboldt cannabis people besides Johston. Hezikiah Allen and Patrick Murphy speak as well as others.

Murphy expresses acceptance in the article. He points out that carrying marijuana to the city for sale leaves growers at the mercy of dispensaries. According to the article,

He said it is common for North Coast growers to agree on a price point with a Los Angeles dispensary, then drive 10-plus hours only to be told the number had dropped. “It’s a typical bait-and-switch. What am I going to do? Stay in a hotel and look for other dispensaries?”

To read the whole piece, click here.



  • I don’t know what to say or think about all this .

    • Paying the Price

      Just replace Colorado with Humboldt/Mendocino Counties. This will be our problem in five years. Think we have a problem now…………………………just wait! Cuba??? What next the St Lucia cartel? It will never stop.

      Colorado Springs

      :Local authorities in Pueblo, just 40 miles south of Colorado Springs, were recently alerted by a vigilant resident to a possible illegal marijuana grow operation. Within days, on March 31, sheriff’s deputies from the Special Investigations Narcotics Section raided a single-family home that was in the process of being converted into a “grow house.” Authorities discovered 127 marijuana plants, over $100,000 in growing equipment, and two Cuban nationals.

      At first, no one seemed to take particular note of the individuals, Adriel Trujillo Daniel, 28, and Leosbel Ledesma Quintana, 41, who had recently moved to Colorado from Florida. They were arrested on felony drug charges but local authorities initially believed it was an isolated event.

      But in the span of the next week and a half, local authorities would arrest at least four more individuals in the Pueblo area in similar cases, with similar backgrounds. All were recent transplants to the state. All were reported by neighbors or by other Pueblo residents who had witnessed suspicious activity. All were transforming residential homes into elaborate marijuana grow operations. And all were Cuban nationals.

      “We have quite a bit of evidence” to believe they are members of “Cuban cartels,” Pueblo sheriff Kirk Taylor says in an interview.

      Local, state, and federal officials believe it’s not just isolated to Pueblo. “It’s across the entire state of Colorado,” DEA assistant special agent in charge Kevin Merrill says. “It’s just basically taken over the state, these residential grows.”

      Merrill likens the danger to that of meth labs in homes. Besides the criminal element, turning a house into a greenhouse invariably destroys the home. “The destruction of the homes and neighborhoods is even greater.”

      It is what Colorado Springs mayor John Suthers calls “the total nightmare” scenario, a byproduct of the state’s recent legalization of first medicinal, and later recreational, marijuana.

      People from out of town or even foreign countries move to Colorado and “buy or lease houses by the hundreds if not thousands,” explains Suthers, who previously served 10 years as attorney general of the state.

      The new residents then convert the residential homes to industrial grow operations. They’re “basically trashing the houses because they’re making so much freaking money they don’t care, and growing hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of plants in each house. And transporting it out of state to marijuana markets nationally and internationally. Literally. Marijuana is going back to Mexico from Colorado,” asserts Suthers.

      This criminal activity undermines a key argument used for legalizing marijuana in the first place. “One of the big arguments was, we’re going to get the cartels out of the marijuana business. Because we’re going to have all these legitimate businesses selling it. The Mexican cartels are going to dry up and go away,” he says.

      But now things are different. “Mexican cartels are no longer sending marijuana into Colorado, they’re now growing it in Colorado and sending it back to Mexico and every place else.””.

      • Lost Croat Outburst

        Something about this post screams “bullshit.” When weed is legal, there is absolutely no need to hollow out residential homes to grow weed. Somebody is fibbing. Nobody is growing hothouse tomatoes or commercial flowers in hollowed out residential homes. They are growing in artficially lit greenhouses or open fields. With legalization, open-field, full sun gardens are much cheaper than intensely, artificially lit warehouses.

        Despite patron saints concocted by Mexican cartels, there is no magic protection for them under legalization.

        I don’t think this commentor has any idea what he or she is talking about.

        • Your not getting it, weed isn’t simply “legal” under these new legalization laws,’black market is still flourishing, and will be just as strong under the new laws, the extreme tax and regulation costs make black market flourish. There will still be grow houses and trespass grows until it is federally legal and taxed like all other crops, otherwise there is still incentive to hide it and save some money. It is amazing to me how blind people can be when discussing this so called legalization.

  • I do like the name ‘sunboldt’ for a strain. However I find the whole strain names thing incredibly pointless and ridiculous. There’s literally thousands and thousands of different strains, but in reality the weeds type is literally either ‘sativa’ indica’ or ‘hybrid’ THAT’S IT.

    Not saying that different strains don’t have different looks, characteristics, or smells HOWEVER theres only 3 different types. Weed is a whole lot like beer. You can make your own, give it a catchy name, and whatever else. But in reality it’s just beer.

    • But there seems to be a whole lot of money poured into branding beer…

      • That’s true there is. And some beer is for sure better then others. Was just stating that I personally think the strain naming is a little over the top. I personally believe a REAL weed connoisseur would much prefer being told “this stain is mainly sativa, with a sweet but piney smell” rather then ‘the strain is called: rainbow sprinkles” — This is just my opinion though

        • Disagree… The intent behind branding is to make a product both recognizable and memerable in the marketplace so next time the consumer is shopping they can purchase again, or two their friends, or talk about it at work or what ever…

          No one is gonna point out the reason the Patrick Murphy is expressing “acceptance” in this article is that he has already signed his group, emerald family farms, on with Ted Simpkins led River Distribution who uses the teamsters to transport product up and down the state. They are profiting from the distribution. From what I’ve heard the cost of distribution (30% atleast!) being charged to the farmer. The distribution model was pushed in last minute to the MMRSA law by Simpkin and the teamsters and is going to cause big problems for complient farms once operating fully under MMRSA. Once AUMA (ca rec legalization) is voted in by the people this fall, Simpkin and teamsters will surely push legislators to add a distribution element to the law. The writing is on the wall folks, do your research, 30% distribution model, before a $2/sq ft county tax, a state excise % tax, all before standard income tax atleast 30%, and then expense of bringing your farm into compliance…. Big money (Simpkin and River and Teamsters union truckers) have used heavy lobbying and political clout to screw this thing up. The distributors are gonna take 30% for doing nothing accept lining up the deal, it’s a racket. You’ve been warned

          • Gone Are The Days

            Good luck with that warning! I’ve tried to hip people up about this form of “legalization” and the dangerous moves done by CCV-H and greenrusher Patrick Murphy in their alliance w/ Ted Simpkins as his friend Assemblyman Woods pushed a bill tailored exactly towards this 30% extraction. Nobody cares, no journalist cares and they all want to stroke “legalization” in any form at all. It is over for nearly all of us up here because people are stupid. The time of corporate weed is just beginning. Good luck w/ those branding ideas- southern Oregon weed is already being sold by the boxes to east coast markets as “Humboldt weed” and nobody back there cares either. People lining up under Emerald Family Farms will experience a few years of seeming success until they are no longer needed by top management and the rug is pulled out from under them…they have signed themselves into serfdom.

        • Lost Croat Outburst

          That’s a good point. Put that way, I agree.

      • As its a lot harder to ale beer.

      • A trademark does not give you the right to use the mark, it only gives you the right to keep other people from using it. And good luck getting the USPTO to grant a cannabis related mark.

    • Sunboldt is the name of the farm, not the strain. A single farm can grow multiple strains.

      • veterans friend

        Thank you for pointing that out.
        And folks, the chaos in the cannabis world is not going away anytime soon. Law enforcement & political types have proven that they cannot agree on ANYTHING meaningful, and will not be able to affect the black market in any substantive way.

    • Lost Croat Outburst

      Little bit of double-speak there. You say there are differences, but really only three. That’s your opinion and good for you. I am far down the list as a beer afficianado, but i’ve tasted many different types of distinctive beer that I feel I could recognize blindfolded. I still am nostalgic for Heineken Dark or San Miguel Dark. Weed is the same as beer in that respect. You have three major groups, sativa, indica, hybrid, as you say, and many, many variations. All those main groups vary in taste and effect. Don’t forget THV vs CBD.

      A new world of infinite variety awaits you! I’m jealous.

  • nothing lasts

  • you said it,man.

  • anybody else having problems trying to connect to read the whole article? As soon as you see the article a page comes up to buy the paper digitally but won’t give the article!!! I’d love to read it!!!

  • Clean it up yourself

    Yea it was last free market, now the middle men come in
    You thought it was bad when 13 became the standard price. If you ain’t got the family you’re gonna be the man’s bitch

  • What if the marijuana industry evolved into an artisan industry with different regions like the wine industry. Where a grower could invite people to his or her’s farm and show off their products. Imagine different appelations within the Emerald triangle and beyond, people wanting to visit towns like Alderpoint or Petrolia to sample the bounty. If money was truly put back into the land and towns to make it an inviting place in September and October. If only the greed and paranoia wasn’t such a factor. Instead of new trucks to wreck every year and trips to the tropics in the winter, money was spent to cleanup and invite the honest consumer to sample and purchase. Such an awesome place with some special people, gotta love Northern California. Just a thought from the outside looking in.

  • sucks for everybody.

    money money money. free the weed! completely decriminalize marijuana. speaking of alcohol its a crying shame, especially for the long term, that young people basically have little choice but to recreate with alcohol instead. its like people are encouraged to become booze addicts. well past time to evolve.

  • Scruffy? SCRUFFY??? I stopped reading at this point. Good night. af PS: Take the time to shake a Vet’s hand today, and maybe apologize for not getting the Nam Vets out sooner….

  • Seeds of change

    What a joke. Patrick says its standard practice to get the bait and switch. Probably happens to them because their product is subpar. So atleast farmers have the option of shopping it around after a bait and switch. What will happen to them when their is only a handful of distributors. Farmers will be held over a barrel way worse by distributors. Also farmers will be relying on the distributors sale staff to push their product. Are you telling me that a distributor won’t play favorites and when everyone harvests at once the price wars will get uglier then we have ever seen. Why can’t farmers have the option of taking that risk and then use distributors if necessary. I can go direct to a brewery and buy 3 kegs to serve at my party I can also go direct to a winery and buy 3 cases of wine to serve at my a party and drink myself also. So if cannabis is being treated the same way why can’t a farmer bring their product to market or sell it themself from their farm or direct at farmers markets like beer is allowed now. Breweries brew their own beer and sell it right there on the spot pint after pint for full retail and so do wineries. The way Patrick makes it sound like the distributors will come from outside of the area and save all the poor farmers from the heartache of going to la is disgraceful and shows his true colors of where he stands and it is not with the farmers but with river distribution because he will get a cut on every gram that sells through his “family farms” to them. Widdling down the farmers is not the answer. I like the distributor in concept but forcing people to use them is wrong. If a business wants to take their own product to market and take that scary risk of the fabled “bait and switch” then they should be allowed in the free market as long as it has been lab tested. But this is not a free market the distributors will have the monopolies and everyone will answer to them. Dispensaries as well. If you are not one of the top clients of the distributors then there is no way you will get the same attention allowing the rich to get richer and closing the door on the small guy.

  • Welcome to the inclusion of cannabis into the feudal guild system of crony capitalism.

  • We need to educate the community and reject these monopolistic distributors.

    They are directly violating the Prop 215 law, total scam.

  • Welcome to the real world growers. It can’t come soon enough.

    • Clean it up yourself

      The real world you talk about is corrupt and horrible, that’s why some if us came here or stay here. Go live in Babylon somewhere else

      • It’s because of us that live in the real world and pay taxes that allows you to pick up your benefits (medi cal , free tuition for your spawn, care program etc) that you can screw off in the woods somewhere and grow drugs that usually end up getting sold to school kids to get stoned.bravo you!

        • Clean it up yourself

          Damn I don’t get any of those handoits but also work 2 drops, raise children ,my wife and I have a a legal business and we participate in our community both far and near, and we grow some herb and we’re not down with and see the foolishness if our modern system. We try to do as little wrong as possible to our earth. We want mostly our own food and use our money to support worthy cause and small businesses as much as we can. We pay taxes on our paychecks and watch the world crumbling into a drugged out mess.. yet our friends and family are able to keep our heads above water and be happy and be in nature. The world is very real. If I don’t wake up and tend our farm we don’t eat. That’s real. If we don’t work jobs and run a business we don’t pay the bills that get us around . That’s real. So tell me, how is our conscious lifestyle of always thinking downstream not the real world? What do you know about old growth forest fungi that have evolved for billions of years? What do you know about the sixth extinction? We know exactly where our water comes from and exactly what our poop turns into, which is compost that is tested for no fecal anything… tell me, how is that stuff not real? Yes, I’m playing in the woods, cuz it’s real. Real work,real fun, real life. We all live and breathe and need eater and hafta poop. I’d say the ones who know where their water comes from and where their poop goes are keeping it the most real. So how about you? Do your taxes keep you and yours safe and healthy? Do you know what is curing cancer? Do you know we all already have cancer? If it wasn’t for getting stoned for me as a kid in the suburbs life would have been a bleak machine like it is for most. Working away from home all the time, not knowing or being able to control what we eat and where it from, paying taxes for every dollar we make to watch Obama build nuclear weapons still and cops not arrest the simple to see drug dealers walking our streets..wasting water every time we flush a toilet. Yes, there are some bad eggs in the weed game. But the real criminals are only beginning to rear their heads and the populace is so dumbed down that the politicians shaking our hands are usually the worst kind of crooks. Let’s get real. There are some community minded people that do grow cannabis for money, but are not greedy and are not wasting time, they are busy setting up the world for their children, where we as humans can respect our ecological place, despiteany differences of opinion and belief, and live harmoniously with the universe we find ourselves in. More vast and intelligent than we can begin to comprehend. So watch who you tell to get real. Go out to the streets and spread your message if you think you can, or live a life of peace and consciousness as much as you can. You don’t use any of those benefits? So the truth is the truth, if it hurts it’s only cuz you’re not ready but you could be. Ready for what?

  • The only family farm that I will support is MINE. I will never sign up with the county, state, or feds. In my 20 years I have never had a problem getting top dollar for my top shelf full sun organic products. Distributors? Branding? What a joke…. its all about loyalty and once you have that you have everything.
    Good Luck Farmers!

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