Exploring the Cannabis Conundrum: How Do We Market It to Tourists?

 

Humboldt County tourism groups tour Huckleberry Hill Farm's cannabis greenhouse.

Humboldt County tourism groups tour Huckleberry Hill Farm’s cannabis greenhouse in Southern Humboldt. [Photo by Johnny Casali]

Another prickly puzzle among many that Humboldt County is trying to come to grips with is how its famous cannabis connection should be marketed to the outside world. Will tourists who are thinking about coming here for our coastline, cuisine, and redwoods be disenchanted by the cannabis culture? Might it tarnish our fresh outdoorsy reputation?

For some, especially those in the tourism-related industries of the Humboldt Bay region, cannabis has been a subject to avoid or at least not mingle with their other successful brands–our redwoods, our dairy, our coastline, our Victorians.

In May, the Eureka-based Humboldt Visitors Bureau Board of Directors voted to keep cannabis businesses on a “separate but equal” marketing track. This followed a presentation a month earlier to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors that omitted any mention of cannabis.

Last Thursday, in hopes of bringing the marketing groups to appreciate the possibilities of cannatourism, the Southern Humboldt Business and Visitors Bureau sponsored a tour for members of the Eureka Humboldt Visitors Bureau, Humboldt Lodging Alliance, and others.

Employees at the One Log Tree Lounge were ready for the tour inside the discreet facilities.

Employees at the One Log House Dispensary were ready for the tour inside the discreet facilities. [Remaining photos by Kym Kemp]

Kevin Jodrey, well-known cannabis personality, led the first stop on the tour at the One Log House where he is a partner. He introduced the group to an integrated traditional tourism and cannabis business–from the kitschy but cute house made from one redwood log to the gift shop/cafe to the cannabis store which sells locally grown products.

If the tour members were expecting giant marijuana leaf posters and flashing neon signs, the natural wood interior and discreetly displayed merchandise soothed their fears.

The gift shop and cafe are just one door away from the cannabis store.

Hand-dipped candles glow in the One Log gift shop and an older tourist couple purchase food at its cafe. One door to the cannabis store opens from this room.

Jodrey started out by reassuring the group that the goal should be to integrate cannabis into the already existing tourism culture not wave it prominently ahead of all Humboldt’s other draws. He said cannabis should be “a button on the shirt, not the other way round.”

Then, he pointed out that legalizing marijuana has had a serious financial impact on the area. “Overall the county is experiencing a downturn,” he pointed out. Businesses in Southern Humboldt are reporting a 40 to 70% drop in income. There are reports of the effect being felt widespread in northern Humboldt also.

Jodrey asserted, “Fiona Ma [currently running for State Treasurer] told him that Humboldt County received eight billion from cannabis but that legalization would redistribute [most of the] money to the rest of the state.” He said she told him that of that money more than “six billion would be distributed throughout the rest of California” leaving Humboldt to survive on less than one fourth the money the underground economy had been generating for the area.

Jodrey said he was a long time resident that planned on staying and raising his 5-year-old child here. He urged all the disparate groups to work together because the county would be better served by unity. Jodrey told the group, “I do everything I can to keep the money in town.  It is really better if my neighbor has a job.”

Poverty in the area will begin to affect the other tourist industries, he pointed out. “We want people to come here and feel welcome,” he said later.

He said he was determined to make the cannabis business and other businesses thrive. “I’m not going anywhere,” he stated. “Here is where we fight.”

Kevin Jodrey addressing the tour at the entrance to the nursery

Kevin Jodrey addressing the tour at the entrance to the nursery which is downstairs from the gift shop and cannabis business.

 

He talked about plans to funnel tourists who came to the One Log business at the southern border of Humboldt County to businesses further north. He mentioned wineries, the Lost Coast, the Avenue, Ferndale, Old Town, the Sequoia Zoo, Trinidad, etc., as well as cannabis businesses.

He pointed out that the average customer in One Log’s cannabis shop made a purchase of $50 to $70. These were desirable tourists with money to spend was his not-so-subtle point.

As the group left the first stop, one member leaned to another and murmured, “He’s saying all the right stuff.”

The tour then drove out the winding Briceland Road to the site of Johnny Casali’s Huckleberry Hill Farm.

Huckleberry greenhouse

Ponds and landscaping surrounded the Huckleberry Hill greenhouse and home where Johnny Casali has lived since he was 5-years-old.

Beside a pond and a cannabis greenhouse in flower, Casali talked about his dreams as a small farmer (he cultivates under 5000 square feet of marijuana) and his work with the community. Casali says he supports several non-profits including Sanctuary Forest-he helped purchase land–and the Veterans Cannabis Group–he grows a therapeutic not psychoactive cannabis strain to donate.

One of his cannabis strains is part of Willie’s Reserve–a brand owned by Country music star, Willie Nelson. Another strain was featured in a cannabis swag bag offered to film glitterati at the Oscars by his distributor FlowKanna.

At lunch served in the open air,  Johnny Casali pictured right described his love for his home while tour members listened.

At lunch served in the open air, Johnny Casali (pictured far right) described his love for his home while tour members listened.

Casali spent his childhood on the property. In a voice occasionally choked with tears, he described being arrested and charged federally with growing marijuana in 1993. He spent eight years in prison. His mother died while he was inside.

Today, he is the only permitted farm in the valley.

Recently retired Humboldt County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Kenny Swithenbank who was at the event spoke up. “John has always been a good guy,” he said. “I knew him when he went away.”

Casali said he loves his community deeply in part because they were so supportive to his family. “When I walked out of jail, there was 50 people sitting in my front yard waiting to help,” he said with tears in his eyes. “My goal is to take care of the people that supported me in my time of need.”

Galen Doherty, program director at Sanctuary Forest, spoke after Casali. He said that his organization received a great deal of support from cannabis growers. Because of marijuana’s illegality, people who cared about the environment in the underground industry “haven’t had an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the environment,” he explained. “We raised over $500,000 in 14 months for Sanctuary Forest” in part because of cannabis growers.

“It is not what you are growing but how you are doing it,” he said.

Josh Sweet, a Southern Humboldt businessman, agreed. He described how difficult it is to get a cannabis permit compared to permits for other businesses he is involved in running. “Getting a timber permit was way easier and is more damaging to the land,” he said.

As the tour wrapped up, Terra Carver, Executive Director of the Humboldt County Growers Alliance told the group, “We look forward to a long and prosperous future together.”

Later, the Southern Humboldt Business and Visitors Bureau called the event, “An amazing day of open minds, sharing, education and enlightenment.”

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55 comments

  • Groba dude trustafarian osnt

    Wow.

  • Is that you in the top picture kim? Bet you got a free doobie or two…lol

  • Po ick ur battles

    Chumps.

  • So pot was only legalized in Humboldt? I’m confused.

  • If the seven emotional stages of legal & recreational marijuana for Humboldt growers are usually understood to be shock or disbelief, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression, and acceptance/hope, it seems they are in the denial and bargaining stages right now?

    I didn’t read one word about how SoHum marijuana growers protect; rivers, creeks, streams, ecosystems, wildlife, threatened and endangered species in the South Fork Eel and Mattole watersheds!

    And I wonder, is “Dr. Earth” a Proctologist or just another bag of dirt…

    • Not everyone is at the same stage Ed. Some are in disbelief. Some are at acceptance/hope. Most are somewhere in between. A lot of people are running so fast on life’s treadmill that they aren’t thinking about it the way you are. They are just trying to keep their home, their job, their personal relationships, etc. It looks like many may loose everything.

      • And so who is to blame, who twisted their arms, who made these “people” choose a lifestyle that in the end would lose “their home, their job, their personal relationships, etc.”?

        You need to remember; there’s what people want to hear, there’s what people want to believe, there’s everything else, THEN there’s the truth! Truth = responsibility, which is why everyone dreads it!

    • lol… Our Supervisors are definitely in the “denial” stage, just on the cusp of “bargaining”. Though talk of developing just for regular tourists signals that they are tiptoeing on the edge of “acceptance”.

    • groba dude osnt trustafarian

      So, Mr Casali, 25 years ago you were jailed for growing weed (probably sold some too, huh?), and now you are, a pot farmer?

      Sounds like no one is learning anything…

      Hello? Pot is lame!! Why would anyone need this stuff?

      I sincerely hope that marijuana becomes so cheap, that it is just given away.

      Adding money to drugs, just makes them even worse.

      Instead of promoting pot tourism, you should just give it all away!

      It already ruined your life, so accept it and move to the next level!

      Free dope!

      Yay!

      • You really need some education on cannabis! I don’t mean that as harsh as it may read, as we all need more education about it. It’s hard to believe someone lives in Humboldt and still doesn’t realize how beneficial this plant is. I do agree that we should give some away, to people who really need it for their medical conditions.

        https://www.cannabis-med.org/studies/study.php

  • With all the new testing regulations I wouldn’t let anybody that close to my plants. I read this Sunday Times Standard all I can say is good luck people.

    • That was my thought also. Letting people walk thru your plants with the testing requirements is not the best idea, at least have clean suites, shoe covers and hairnets, like when you’re in a lab.

  • i see LT Swithenbank!!

    now youre re tired, smoke it up baby!

  • Why pay 500 dollars to fly into arcata? Humboldt needs better infrastructure to attract business. Widden the highway, dredge the bay and create a bigger cheaper airport. Cannabis cannot sustain us any longer. We the producers gave up the power when dispensaries were created

  • Weird! Kevin Jodrey is now a long-time resident? News to me. I remember when he showed up and started selling thousands of clones to massive bulldozed grows and environmentally-destructive indoor diesel scenes. Exactly the people who tore up the area and then ruined it for every mom and pop. Of course now they are the “heroes” of the story in the rewriting of local history. Selfish greedy people who dress themselves up as “weed warriors” or “herbal medicine fighters” or such crap. But many of us were here and we saw it and we know better. It’s the ones who greenrushed later – both imports and locals- that fall for their stories. Sad.

  • Yes, all this county needs is more potheads and more crime. Isn”t the stinky influx of Eastern Europeans every fall enough for you people? Many of them go missing.

    Shame on all these old (and young) hippies who think dope is manna from heaven. Likely you all have nice, secure havens in the hills and don’t have to deal with the crazies and druggies on the streets (like right outside my door in Eureka).

    Must be nice to be a yuppie pot enthusiast, living in a sixties haze.

  • Really All Good Now ?

    kinda funny how big criminals are now permitted. Josh was involved with sending weed across the country and was raided for it 5 years ago. It should be no permit for you. Or someone who grew on BLM land that’s why Johnny went away. It should be no permit for him either.

    • Really? How is he even out then, those charges carry a 10 year sentence. 6 if you plea down through asset forfeiture. I don’t think you can secure a permit for cultivation with a federal record like that.

    • I don’t believe he was convicted of any charges. Am I incorrect?

      • So he’s a big time pot grower who has also been convicted but because the system runs on money, which he had, that would be the only reason. But if he did time he was convicted . Either way he’s a chump. And none of these guys are hippies. Just dope yuppies.

  • Well done Kevin, Johnny and Terra.. thank you for all your doing to help our industry, our community.. much love

    • Bastion of Faith

      I disagree. Terra “from the industry” Carver told me since I can’t get a permit on a shared parcel I should sell my interest, or brown nose someone in shively and grovel for a rrr deal. Lame! I didn’t move to humboldt for the “industry” but sure did leave because of it. Gross; “Diesel, go home!”-LokoyokoL

  • Still a controlled substance… Still illegal…

  • Nice article.

  • Mendocino Mamma

    After living the industry for over 30 years, I myself am amazed at the declines.
    Some weekends the ladies and I would hop in the truck at Willits Safeway. Tied our hair up under scarves and hats to begin the trek up the mountain. We were a crazy bunch of ladies. Some young, some old, some known some not, all moms. Looking to supplement our incomes. A couple hundred dollars went a lot farther in 1990!
    Now some have passed, some unknown, some long friends, some still growing. Over the years knowledge and love for the plant grew deep roots in my being. Developing strains…some that won awards and working on the medical side of it. Getting environmental and health degrees. Learning soil science based Jeavons and Stametz. The soil webs, biosecurity, roots going 100 ft in the earth. Hooked, irreparably by my love for the plant and all the sciences around it, the relationship on our ecosystem and communities.
    Met so many great people, all believing in the plant, the industry, the art. I got a bitter taste in my mouth. The struggle got REALLY real. Couldn’t earn a living consulting anymore, hundreds of clients for farm management and business plans just evaporated over night it seemed. Started planning switching the ol skill set to a different genre/venue. The industry just is not the same, the heart of it has changed. Its lost its pulse…drifted far from its base. Ugh…I have a cannabis broken heart ❤🍋 SO you want to know what would be a good tourism item. A hotel with a cannabis club right on the site. You call it “Hempies.” You have cannabis wallpaper, green carpet, cannabis CBD massages, a outdoor patio with a few beauties in the landscape. Items with hemp seed base in a little cafe there. You have cannabis bath towels etc. It would be 1 of a kind and a great draw. Add a Japanese enzyme bath to it you could be # 2 place for that in all of Northern Ca. Sigh…Very lucrative!

  • . It’s gonna be a real estate bonanza!

  • Awesome?

  • Party is over

  • How come Jarred Huffman and Dan Rather did not come as well my friends mother was friends with Dan Rathers daughter I am sure it would make an interesting interview.

  • Our chances at cannabis tourism were dashed when we inappropriately demonized indoor.

  • Thanks for a lovely article Kym, marred by the bulk of the comments from prohibitionist haters who haven’t learned a thing from a failed decades-long “war on drugs”… 🤨

    I would only add that Briceland Forest Farm hosted a Sanctuary Forest tour last weekend that attracted well over 60 participants. Daniel and Taylor have created a wonderful rural haven, and are regenerating a property ravaged by a timber company that was preparing to apply a toxic defoliant mixed with diesel fuel via aerial spraying when Daniel’s parents rescued the 160 acres in the 1950s.

    One of the most interesting things to me as a late arrival to Humboldt is that local cannabis-haters typically look with great fondness back at extractive forestry, even though it is at the root of our environmental problems! 🤔

  • But yea Josh sweet is the hero of garberville now right? Remember when his property was radided full if illegal immigrants . This guy is poison, local or not. All the big business men in this town have been busted with lots of weed. Gimme a break. Check the ild articles. Even Kym Kemp herself asked if Josh sweet was arrested back then, the property owner. What a buncha bad criminals.

  • In my 1911 I trust

    Separate but equal? C’mon now I thought that sort of lingo was done away with in the 60s.

  • In my 1911 I trust

    If you are separate you are not equal. Now, that everything is “legal” growers get the opportunity to be “equal” too! Isn’t that great! You just have to pay a nominal fee to acquire that status, and if you don’t, you will still have to pay, just without the benefits. Good ol California, if you want to cut the tree, pay the gov’t, want to save the tree? Pay the Gov’t. Want to divert a river? Just pay the gov’t. Want to save a river? Just pay the Gov’t! Do you want to live? PAY THE GOV’T! Want to pass on? Fine, just make sure you PAY THE GOV’T before you check out. Welcome to the USA, the land of the free! Welcome to California, the land of the fee!

  • Ah, how desperate are the growers now? I laugh my ass off at all the dopers trying to rent out their shitty properties now they can’t make a small fortune growing dope. Anything but get a job lol.

  • unbridled philistine

    Wheres the feds when you need them? Imagine how funny if the feds raided at that moment that pic was taken? Would the tourist get a jacket? Come on vacation leave on probation!

  • I’d love to put in biking and hiking trails at my place.
    Even better would be multi-property easements to open up our beautiful area to maximize enjoyment of our wonderful mountains and creeks.

  • This is Ray Escobedo trying to contact you to give me a call. I’d love to talk to you…
    805-315-4818

    Take Care…

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