‘Out in the Sun, Out in the Wind’: Opening a Cannabis Business in a Gray Market
But marijuana laws are changing and as they change, farmers and business owners wanting to be pioneers in a legal marketplace face not only a daunting permit process but a world in which local law enforcement may not agree with the planning department or with the County Supervisors or with the federal government. The laws, in spite of what Celli stated, are in flux and those who want to surf the legitimization wave have to be very careful as they navigate the treacherous waters.Mikal Jakubal, the owner of a bamboo business in Southern Humboldt for the last ten years, is facing these issues as he attempts to shift to selling cannabis starts in his nursery. Jakubal, whose small business is located five miles west of Redway in the tiny town of Briceland, has both sexed (only the female marijuana plants are typically grown) seed plants in two gallon grow bags and clones in 4″ pots.
“I don’t need to be a dispensary,” he explained, “because I am not selling any finished products just plants.” He is offering starts which have been acclimatized “out in the sun…out in the wind.” They are hardier than those grown only indoors or in protected greenhouses.
Jakubal has filled out permits and consulted with his county supervisor. “I’m really stoked that Humboldt County is proactive on this,” he said.
Jakubal is attempting to follow the law–he collects sales tax which he returns to Humboldt County, he makes sure anyone buying plants shows their 215 and their California I.D. He believes he is legal. In fact, recently, his small business was visited by a public official. “My whole nursery relies on stored water,” Jakubal explained. “He came here to see how a small cannabis farm can do things right.”
But, there is no doubt that, like other cannabis farmers and business owners, he might face legal repercussions trying to follow rules and regulations that are still in flux. “It’s like trying to jump through hoops into a black hole,” he explained. Though Humboldt County is one of the first in the state to set up rules for growers and businesses to follow, the rules are unfinished and Jakubal is trying to be compliant with regulations that aren’t yet completely set up.
Jakubal who is a photographer and respected documentary maker provide this image from his drone showing his nursery from the air.
The professional greenhouses and healthy plants at his business look like they could belong to any small nursery except, of course, that until this year, a marijuana plant nursery didn’t exist legally in Humboldt County. Jakubal is trying to develop a name as a fish friendly (a term used to indicate the cannabis is grown with stored water,) environmentally sound, locally owned business. But his attempts to contact a local newspaper in order to advertise never got a reply. Other businesses are wary of being associated with him.
“For the first time Humboldt County has been ahead of the game,” Jakubal explained and he’s excited to be part of the change.
“This is going to be normal in a year or two,” Jakubal states. It’s almost normal now. The nursery is selling a number of plants. “People buy just one or they can buy a lot more. On average I sell 10-20 per person. I’ve had people come from as far away as Redding—It’s really hard to get good seed plants….Most of the seeds I grow here are from local breeders.”
Jakubal said people buy his plants for many reasons. “One woman had deer get into her garden–chewed everything to the ground, other people have clones that “flipped” on them, or they miss-sexed a few.”
Just recently, he said, “One of the Humboldt homesteader/grower community’s original founders just came into my roadside cannabis nursery, bought six plants on the books, with sales tax, and loaded them into his Prius.”
He’s excited about his new business and trying to make sure it conforms to the shifting rules. “I just want regulation that makes sense,” he explained. “Any of us in a legit business want regulations that work….I’d much rather deal with permits and bookkeeping than cops in black helicopters.”
Like his plants, Jakubal is a bit unprotected at this point. He’s “out in the sun…out in the wind” waiting for the regulations that will safeguard his business. Pioneering is a hard to do alone. He invites local growers to join him. “Hey, come and make history and buy plants from me,” he offers. “This is a business and it’s legitimate.”
Will Jakubal’s road-side nursery grow to be another healthy commercial establishment paying taxes in Humboldt or, like Care By Design, the business raided in Santa Rosa on Wednesday, will it be the focus of unwanted attention from law enforcement?