‘Rape and Exploitation Are Not Our Culture,’ Says Hezekiah Allen of the CGA

Welcome to our letters to the editor/opinion section. To submit yours for consideration, please send to mskymkemp@gmail.com. Please consider including an image to be used–either a photograph of you or something applicable to the letter. However, an image is not necessary for publication. Remember opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of Redheaded Blackbelt.

Hezekiah D. Allen, Executive Director of the California Growers Association (CGA) responds to the article we (and other media outlets) published about sex trafficking in the marijuana industry. 

Hezekiah Allen Executive Director of the California Growers Association

Hezekiah Allen
Executive Director of the California Growers Association

Dear Community Members,

Let me open simply by condemning sexual exploitation and violence within our community.

An article published on September 8, entitled In secretive marijuana industry, whispers of abuse and trafficking,” details the appalling truth that humanity has a dark side and that darkness is present here in our communities. There is no place for such activity in the world that I envision nor in the world that we are working to build together.

It is no secret that criminal behavior lingers in the shadows cast by prohibition and regulatory vacuum. This isn’t about cannabis. Rape and exploitation are not our culture. This is about criminals exploiting the failed policies that we are working so hard to overcome. A multi-generational failure of public policy has given safe-harbor to criminals in our communities. It is time to stand together as beacons, embracing change and solutions as we illuminate the darkest shadows.

It is time to stand together and talk solutions. And for starters, I’ve got a few:

Start with permitting. The courageous growers that have stepped forward to comply with emerging regulations must be permitted. The transparency, accountability—and ultimately—normalcy that will come from being regulated business owners is an important antidote to the toxic and cancerous criminality that is afflicting our communities. Standing in the way of issuing permits to growers is not solving problems. The system won’t work if permit applications sit in unprocessed stacks on bureaucrat’s desks.

Normalize our workforce. The day the article was published I was meeting with about 40 growers from around the state, a representative from the Agricultural Labor Relations Board and several private sector Farm Labor Contractors. Exploitation of farm and migrant labor is nothing new and solutions exist. It is time normalize this industry and ensure the workforce is treated with the dignity that all people have a right to.

More resources for law enforcement. Though it is unpopular to many growers who grew up victimized by the war on drugs, rural counties need more resources for law enforcement. Our communities need more resources for the people who are tasked with keeping our communities safe—this is one of the main reasons Cal Growers is willing to support tax proposals at the state and local level.

More resources for mental health and emergency services. Throughout the article the cracks in our mental health and social safety nets became very apparent. Shelters and crisis centers as recruiting grounds for trafficking; hard working non-profits without the resources needed to address the seasonal rush of demand for their services; these are real problems that we must address together. It starts with supporting and passing taxes to fund this important work.

As we make this transition we must work together to build the world we want to live in. The same way that world doesn’t include dry riverbeds and dead salmon, it doesn’t include sexual violence and exploitation.

It is a world where we honor and celebrate all people, women, men and those who are somewhere in between or outside of that binary. It includes healthy rivers, recovering forests and a strong sense of community. This is the world I grew up in and the world that inspires my focus and drives the hard work. I know it is possible, I have experienced it all my life.

And yes—I’ve experienced both worlds.

Today, both of these worlds exist side by side. They have for many years. It is not helpful to paint with a broad brush and blur the two. We must not let this dark reality divide us. Pointing fingers won’t help. Our future will not get better because we lump everyone together and condemn all growers for the actions of a few criminals. It is long past time we learn to distinguish between the two, learned to distinguish between criminals and growers. Permits and licenses are a clear bright line to get us started. It is well past time that we take that first step.

We must work together—especially when the dark side of humanity and human weakness inevitably rears its ugly head. It is time to move past prejudice. It is time for solutions and those will come when we work together—grower, environmentalist, law enforcement and local government—to permit and regulate this industry.

With a heavy heart and commitment to a better future,

Hezekiah D. Allen, Executive Director of California Growers Association



  • I thought the article by the Center for Investigative Reporting was pretty good. It mentions the ‘culture of silence’ that creates the conditions to grow bad behavior. Chronic under-reporting of crime attracts more criminal action, for instance. The statement, ‘it’s not helpful to paint with a broad brush that blurs the two’, suggests there’s a simple good/bad scenario, but I suggest there are a full range of behaviors happening in the cannabis community. We have to be willing to look at the dark matter woven amongst us and become accountable for co-creating it, before we can honestly get to the work at correcting the problem. I really believe we have the means, if we can harness our collective will. Peace.

    • Hey Susy, I agree with you re: the article from the Center. I also agree regarding the spectrum of behaviors within our community. The comment “it’s not helpful to paint with a broad brush that blurs the two” was meant to caution against blurring the line between cannabis culture and rape culture. Unfortunately I have seen evidence that folks are already conflating the two. There is no inherent nexus there. I have read several comments to the effect of “cannabis has cast a dark shadow over our community.” This is the type of response that I am concerned about. Cannabis has not cast a dark shadow, that darkness is present. We must work together to correct the problem.

      • Hezekiah, if the shoe fits. Are you saying permits will solve this problem?

        In your letter, no where do you ask for your fellow men to treat women with respect. Expoloitation of women is an issue in this industry that draws men, who may or may not have issues, to abuse their power.

        Meserve and Throckmorton are only two examples were marijuana growers thought they could get away with rape in Meserve’s case and assault in Throckmorton’s case.

        To use the recent article by Shoshana as a way to promote your agenda of “legalization” is deplorable. Use your influence to turn in bad boys and community image will improve.

        • John: the shoe doesn’t fit.

          Also, you might be confused: I am not promoting legalization. I am promoting an agenda of regulation, where workers are protected, crisis management resources exist to help victims and law enforcement has adequate resources to deal with problems. I am promoting a future where community and law enforcement are on the same side, working together to address these things.

          I’m not terribly concerned with community image. I’m concerned with sustainability and justice.

          Thank you so much for your comments!

          I hope you will soon use your blog and media resources to promote solutions and call on community members to treat others with respect.

          • Hezekiah, I use my blog on a regular basis to talk about issues of power, including in the cannabis industry. Certainly not popular with those exposed.

            This is a line from your letter:
            “Rape and exploitation are not our culture. ”

            That is what I have issue with, Kailan Meserve, Throckmorton, Timothy Littlefield, Jr all associated with marijuana, all convicted of heinous crimes, all used money to drag out justice. They thought they could get away with it.

            There are cases that make it to court, many don’t.

            Shoshana who wrote the article and others call me and ask, why isnt other media covering these cases?

            If you are against exploitation, call out the people above and practices of topless trimming. It amazes me with more women involved in this industry, there is not a call for this kind of behavior to stop and be exposed.

            • While I’ve heard of these practices and there certainly appears to be an issue, I have to say that I’ve never known anyone personally that was asked to trim topless. I don’t think it is a common practice. Dang, it would be heck of itchy.

              • SO itchy.

              • Yes, I agree. What a red herring. I’ve never heard of anyone trimming topless, it doesn’t make sense and is simply ridiculous. Just a fantasy. And, of course there are bad people out there, but it doesn’t make a case for the industry as a whole. Now that everybody has as many plants as will fit in their yard, bad things are bound to keep happening. I think the solution is for the good people out there to do whatever you can to keep the scummy green rushers away.

        • John: permitting and above ground legalization is exactly what is needed to elminate the vile and horrendous crimes that occur in our hills. Just because Mr. Allen has been pursuing an agenda of legalization and normalization does not make his response to the recent article “deplorapable.” To the contrary it makes it stronger: this is an especially gross example of what happens when sick people and criminals take advantage of a situation- there is no one to go to report or enforce these crimes. Normalize it and bring it into the light, and any sexual abuse or human trafficking will be dealt with as if it were a tomato farm, or a car wash, ect.

          • The fact is unfortunately no law ,regulation will stop abuse whether it’s sexual,criminal,environmental.a nice aspiration though.


            ” Sex trafficking flourishes in areas of male-dominated industries, such as fracking and oil boomtowns, military bases and, as a slew of recent court cases and victim accounts show, farm labor camps. The U.S. Department of State estimates that traffickers bring some 14,500 to 17,500 people into the United States each year. “

      • JustWantToHearTheEndofTheSotry

        I find the “legalization and regulation” argument rather amusing. So all the illicit growers, who live by their own rules, whatever makes them a profit, are suddenly, as soon as recreational marijuana is legalized, in a poof of cannabis smoke, will be rule following law abiding good citizens. If one follows your specious argument out to the extremes, there should be no laws prohibiting bad behavior, simple rules and regulations to follow while indulging. Putting lipstick on a pig doesn’t make it pretty, and putting a suit on a stoner apologist doesn’t make your arguments reasonable.

    • Henchman Of Justice

      This mofo claims “no exploitation”…….


      Who the fuck does he think he is kidding…….

      • Hmmm, not sure I see the part where I said there was “no exploitation.” Perhaps you got my letter mixed up with another one?

        • Henchman Of Justice

          😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈😇😈’..EXPLOITATION ARE NOT OUR CULTURE,’ SAYS HEZEKIAH ALLEN OF THE CGA

          example: Prostitution is regulated too, but regulation is not a solution, it is just a process of quid pro quo (pay to play).

          In fact, one could propose crime increases directly in proportion to increased regulatory controls.

          An irony could be who is exploiting who for what and when and how and why…..the “who, what, where, when, why and how” that every solution must certainly have a response for…….and certainly if it aint certain dope growers doing the exploiting, it is a public agency or few.

          Exploitation is the culture, sheesh.

  • Rapists are rapists & exist in all parts of our society. Exploitation happens everywhere. 30 cops in Oakland are currently in trouble for this crime. It’s about a power differential. It is not about cannabis.

  • Dope yuppie extreme. Nice suit bro

  • Talk of needing more resources to accomplish things while more armored vehicles are added to the roster…..

  • I actually think that quasi-legalization has created more exploitation of women, not less.

    Growing used to be a family business in tight-knit communities. Trusted friends and family were the trimmers, and that worked, because the weed biz was on a more human scale. Not anymore.

    This process has been a disaster. We’ve had decades to consider what smart legalization would look like. And I don’t think anyone hoped and dreamed it would look like this.

    • 100%. And those that try their darnedest to keep it like that will survive whatever shit storm the government peons and their sheep go along with.

    • I agree 100%

    • Change is something that is inevitable. It’s a freight train. I’ve seen it all over the West. Oregonians hate Californians moving to their small towns and driving housing prices through the roof. Rural communities in Idaho watch as their towns change overnight to Colorado-esque resorts. Countless examples like these… To say that this is any different is ignorant. If you want to blame something blame capitalism, not dope. This is what capitalism does. Instead of putting our heads in the sand or moving to a forest compound, we must embrace the change and try and use it to strengthen our communities. As sad as that may be.

      Newsflash: there’s a lot of money in dope. If we don’t embrace these changes and use a grass roots movement to morph and tame the beast to our ends, it will be gone with its prosperity and leave behind its ugliest elements.

  • What I’ve seen so far from this wonderful “regulation” (meaning regulation and permits from county and state agencies not self-regulation of ourselves and community regulation of neighbors) is a distinct favor towards bigger and more well-financed operations, resulting in less small families being able to keep it under one roof and between their circle of friends. This has resulted in the explosion of trimmigrants and more people working with other randoms they don’t know. I would even suggest that the allowance, nay encouragement of larger grow scenes has made our community MORE dangerous and increased the potential for exploitation of anybody stepping in for seasonal work. Hezekiah- you joined with CCV-H in promoting larger grows in the statewide medical bill by Woods and then you pushed for allowance of bigger grows here in Humboldt. Your land on Island Mountain was the largest bust of the year last year. I think the strategies you propose not only are geared to inevitably force out the small close-knit family grows but also increase the potential for exploitation. I don’t trust you. Heck- that California Growers Association (CGA) you spearhead can’t even oppose Prop 64! That Prop is a direct giveaway to the largest multi-national corporations to take over in 5 years! I don’t trust you at all.

  • Ladies:
    Dope growers may well be high, and they might not measure reality well. They also tend to think they can get away with anything at all. If alcohol and other drugs are added, we may encounter individuals with extreme behavioral disorders, or at least the perception that his or her behavior is acceptable. For a woman, or anyone at all, placing yourself in dangerous situations has nothing to do with exploitation! And if you take drugs too? In my world, you are expecting too much from people who may not have the best of limits, boundaries or self control. It is sad, but humans on drugs might not behave predictably, and it is possible that these persons may not be concerned with feminism or propriety! This is reality, not exploitation.

    There are places in outlaw country where no one at all should go. This is how things are in Humboldt, Trinity, Mendocino and the rest of Disneyland for druggies: Northern CA. You can be assaulted, robbed or killed just about anywhere, but a bar in a remote area of Humboldt County? Just don’t go there! And trimming? This is not a sensible occupation.

    I have seen the blitzed-out women down in the emergency room, the 15 year old girl dead from drugs in Garberville, the meth users out of their minds everywhere in Northern California.

    Drugs are almost never the answer, and they can lead to poor outcomes. Pot is not medicine; it is one of the foundations that addiction is built on. Alcohol is the worst drug of all.

    If you flirt with danger and death, you may not like the results.

    • …”This is reality, not exploitation,”…

      I think it’s actually both.

    • Henchman Of Justice

      When a comment is so one-sided looney, not even tunes can chime in….. then ya gotta figure the song is skipping on the ole 45.

      As far as women as trimmers, they do the job no worse than a man, tend to smoke less on the job, and if naked women are trimming (new claims), can’t imagine it is more than a handful.

      Women trimmers, however, often do solicit sex from growers with mullah (money)……so really, add into the equation trimmers engaging in prostititionesque scenarios…..

      Women trimmers also lie with the best of them, see a male grower with all the money, and want more of a cut……

      And God forbid, if you are a man, do not, repeat, do not get involved in a relationship with a female trimmer who depends so heavily on that income source, shell bite worse than a shark and bullshit her way into innocense…….been there, done that, waste of life’s time and resources.

      By a trimming machine and force trimmers into further unemployment.

    • Let's not do that okay?

      Please do not blame the victims. Women do not have the same inherent benefits that men have when it comes to making money. Some women have to choose less than ideal situations in order to get by. You are also assuming that they were told the truth about the situation in which they ended up. I’ve worked in the corporate world for 20 years and really, exploitation happens everywhere. It’s about respect for women, and not seeing them as a vehicle for men’s use.

    • I thought Reagan passed away, what’s this gateway Reagen propaganda i hear?
      You need to do sone more research hun.
      Yes the mega grows are bringing crime but this would be less the case with some regulation. Just look at crime statistics for colorado, washington & oregon. Crime is down and cops can pay more attention to the hard stuff

  • Current Humco. culture is about nothing but exploitation. That’s what draws people to this area. Reminds me of TV series “Dead Wood”. Be careful out there folks.

  • concerned earthling

    The proper response is “yes, this industry has a problem”…not this tired old “not all growers”, “not all men”, etc etc etc. It’s normal to be defensive of the culture you grew up in, but it’s not that helpful. Local permitting efforts (in Humboldt at least) aren’t doing shit about rape culture, they’re just propping up a cottage industry of consultants as growers try to figure out how they can keep doing what they’ve been doing with the least hassle and interference (while giving those bureaucrats with stacks of permits on their desks ulcers as they frantically try to keep up).
    And as for the shout out to “…many growers who grew up victimized by the war on drugs”….come on. Growers have been profiting from the war on drugs from the get-go. Anyone who could afford to move to the middle of nowhere and buy land to grow a weed to sell for thousands of dollars a pound has inherent privilege. It’s time we stop kidding ourselves. There are many real victims of the war on drugs, like women that the Center for Investigative Reporting piece is about, or the black and brown people that bear the brunt of disproportionately long prison sentences. I’m sorry, but it’s not the people with millions in pickle barrels buried in the back forty.
    This industry can’t change until we stop denying or obfuscating its problems and impacts on our community.

    • I appreciate how you worded this. Thanks for the finer points. I particularly like your mention of the ‘inherent privilege’ at the foundation. There IS a reflexive defensiveness and victim-mentality in the cannamunity that’s in the way of true and good progress. I’m thinking the brand will be even stronger if these uncomfortable and ugly realities can be looked at squarely, and then truly accounted for. This is very hard work to do, and maybe if we harness some of the loving-kindness consciousness the Sweet Plant gives us, we’ll have the collective strength to get to a better place together. I’m not giving up!

    • Thank you for your sensible post. I was around Laytonville area before CAMP, for Bill Stewart days and then CAMP and all through that until now. I CHOSE to stay in the battle, moving my plants to north-facing slopes under madrone cover. Never got those millions of $$, just enjoyed the lifestyle and the freedom to do what I thought was right in the face of federal oppression. I CHOSE it. As did my neighbors. We didn’t whine- we organized into Citizen Observation Groups (COG) and fought our best. Weed was high-priced as a result of CAMP and that helped our motivation, as did being a welcomed celebrity wherever we brought it. There is no comparison to the ghetto kids who had no other options and were getting locked away. There is no comparison to women who are molested or sexually abused. We were LUCKY and privileged to find this place and make the choice to grow. We were not victims!

      • concerned earthling

        I really wish more people had this perspective/attitude. Thank you.

      • That’s right Farce. We played the game, sometimes we lost but mostly we won. I never considered myself a ‘victim on the war on drugs’ . I’ve got friends who have done jail time that never whined about it. I’m not in sync with the new growing model, it seems to be rewarding the big guys and pushing out the little guys. What really bothers me is all the PRODUCTS this new way of growing has everyone depending on. At this point I wish I had a grow store because today’s growers are mass consumers.

  • People have a problem, not the industry! I’m sure there are rapist in every work force in America. Look at cops, priest, doctors, health care workers, school teachers, day care workers, tv and movie industry, blogers, web designers, cooks, cleaners, chauffeurs, pilots, lawyers, popes and many many more. Claims of sexual harassment can be found everywhere. There are some really bad people involved in cannabis. Same can be said for firefighters as well. Stop blaming an industry.

  • I think this is non sence. there is no exploitation of women in the marijuana industry. Most of the women who end up getting raped are not making smart choices in the first place. You should not come to humboldt trying to trim for strangers, you shouldnt go to farms in the middle of nowhere. Most these women could of prevented what happens to them by being a little smarter and more modest. I think humboldt is full of very courupt and bad women who are drug addicts and users. These women are setting themselves up for exploitation and in many cases thats what they want because thats all they have to offer. This is nothing new to california or the marijuana industry. Truth is if marijuana operated like a normal buisness no one would want to work these lame jobs.

  • Recently a video hit the political world. In the video, a candidate for presidency explained the difference between moral laws (we are born with them, pre-installed by our creator), & immoral laws (we are fined, taxed, fee’d by man, by govt). He said the war on drugs is just as immoral as red light cameras are.
    A moral law will persecute you if you commit immoral actions against others. Wherever there is a victim, there is a crime.
    An immoral law persecutes all for the immoral actions of another.
    Taxation is worse than theft, it is Armed robbery.
    Immoral laws to soften or expand other immoral laws are still immoral.
    The more we depend upon our inner voice, our conscience, the more we can self govern.
    The less we depend upon our inner voice, our conscience, the more man demands for man-made laws to be made.
    It’s always our choice, to either follow the law of our Creator, or to follow the law of man. In other words: Follow your heart, or follow the money.
    Our Constitution was created upon the concept of following our conscience, our inner voice, our moral code.
    But, that’s too theocratic for those who follow the money.

  • Misters Shak and Jack have come here to give examples of what ‘defensive finger-pointing’, ‘male privilege’ and ‘victim blaming’ look like. Well done, fellows! You are good teachers.

    I agree with Mr. Shak about following ones’ heart, as long as that heart is smart, compassionate.

    • Agreed. The moral code is inborn, endowed by our Creator. It’s the closing of our minds & hearts that cause people to do immoral acts against others.
      How do we find our way back to the inborn moral code? The simple rules that are found in an ancient book. There are 10 rules.
      Don’t murder, lie, cheat, steal, slander, covet, idolize, worship government, … oh crap, I forgot the other 2.
      But, that’s all there is to it. Treat others like you want them to treat you.

  • “Why is our culture so hellbent on casting girls and young women as the root of the problem, and not the collateral?”

    Women have the right to be in any situation and not be assaulted. Please no more victim blaming

    • So true, but not reality. As a human I have the right to walk the streets of Compton without a hassle from anyone, but the reality is it would probably be a bad idea as I would be putting myself in danger. Self defense classes are taught because there are predators out there, self defense , self preservation and not putting yourself in danger are up to the individual. In a utopian world people wouldn’t violate eachother , but we don’t live in a utopian world. To think that the Cannabis world is going to be immune from humans acting like humans is ridiculous . Sexual predators are everywhere and always will be.

  • Yes, thank you Hezekiah. Rape culture, sexism and male entitlement are problems *everywhere.* It’s just that the problems are magnified here by the (until now) underground, unregulated aspect of the industry. I say this as a woman who has been harassed, heard too many awful stories, and struggled to be taken half as seriously as men who work half as hard.

    The haters are working themselves into a tizzy because they know the jig is up. No longer will be they be able to pack workers into cramped, poorly ventilated shacks, have them camp in the rain and have fifteen people share one mostly-working toilet and one fetid, vermin-infested kitchen. It seems some people spent all their money from the “good old days” when prices were high on cocaine, prostitutes, and toys. Or they just never learned to balance a checkbook because they thought they were above natural law. Now they’re upset because they’re actually threatened with *consequences* (gasp) if they don’t clean up the garbage, build safe, sanitary work-spaces and treat people with dignity and respect. I know better than to believe all the rose-tinted stories about how great it was when it was just “ma & pa.” I have friends who were born and raised here. It’s always been tenuous, *especially* for the women, since the very beginning. There’s about to be a clear, bright line drawn all right. The “ma & pa”s who built improvements on their property to a reasonable standard, *saved* some money for a rainy day, and aren’t completly mired in fear and distrust of anyone outside their community will be just fine. People who want to be part of a sustainable industry that conducts its business in the light of day will come to the fore, and the high-pitched whine of the haters will fade away.

  • Anyone remember the girl that was sodomized & tied to a tree and left there over night outside. For about a week, she was hog tied in the living room of those short ugly milano twins. Same twins i heard yell in Garberville, “We rule this town!” Supposedly many people came and went out of that living room and saw her. No one called for help and told them to stop. They considered it deserving cause she owed them $. She thought she was gonna work the $ off, only to find herself imprisoned for bout a week against her will. One of them was in only semi trouble for this & went to jail. In the meantime the other twin got in trouble in a different case over sex w a minor. Dont look like they are ruling much nowa days.

    Anyways, my question is,

    “If it’s pay to play, do you still think she deserved this & Do you think it was ok for dozens of folks to turn a blind eye?”

  • Pingback: Crimes in Marijuana Country: Exploitation, Rape and Murder - California Stop Pot 2016

  • My first trim job was in Colorado, the scene was run by dudes from SoHum. As the only female on a 10 person scene I was extremely impressed by the professionalism/sensitivity of the grower, manager, and other trimmers. Before beginning work we had an orientation that included an anti-harassment policy more serious than any H.R. policies at corporate job sites. The fact that this unregulated underground scene self-regulated in such a professional way restored my faith in humanity and left a really good impression of Humboldt county.

  • Pingback: Humboldt Reacts to Sexual Abuse Exposé - Canna.Link

  • I don’t believe sexual exploitation is a big problem in Nevada County, but some of us elder ladies have formed a crises intervention group to help trimmers who feel they have no other recourse. Our county will not provide services to out-of area people (outside of emergency medical) so we are going to try to fill the gap by helping them get the medical attention they need, providing a safe shelter, and helping them recover wages withheld for refusing sexual advances. It’s up to us ladies to protect each other and it’s high time the good growers distinguish themselves from the “bad apples” we complain about.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *