Putting a CAPP on Diesel Doping

When many local people hear the term “Diesel Doper,” they spit out stereotypes of greedy, short-sighted kids. An anonymous commenter on Eric Kirk’s SoHum Parlance disgustedly described how, “[O]ne of the younguns told me the goal of many of his buds is to buy the biggest truck, find the littlest girlfriend and by [sic] her a set of tits.”

However, the reality is many of these so-called ‘Diesel Dopers” are hard-working, good hearted people with questions about the source of their income. On Wednesday evening, a group of Salmon Creekers opposed to growing marijuana indoors with diesel generators met to discuss how best to reach out to this group and move them towards improved environmental practices and, hopefully, eventually, away from growing marijuana this way altogether.

In the Seventies, many people moved to Humboldt County, California with the goal of living off the land and escaping commercial society. They began planting marijuana first for themselves and then as a step towards a sustainable agricultural product they could sell in the city for enough money to support themselves. As marijuana eradication efforts grew more intense, pot growers began to move indoors. There, the farmers hoped to hide their illegal activities from being seen in flyovers by law enforcement helicopters and spotter planes.

The first operations rarely made much money as buyers were reluctant to purchase the new product. Indoor pot went for much less when it finally sold. Eventually, though, the uniformity of indoor pot began changing the minds of big buyers. Today, the ability of the indoor grower to control the plant’s environment allows for greater and quicker adaptability to the buyer’s desires. Want purple pot? The three month turnaround and climate control offered by indoor growers allows them to quickly provide what their consumer wants.

Experimentation at producing a more intense quick high was also facilitated by the 3 to 4 month indoor cycle. Prices for the new kind of pot skyrocketed. Today a typical outdoor pound goes for $1500 to $2000 less than an indoor pound. As a result, many outdoor growers in the rural areas of Humboldt County began purchasing diesel generators and growing indoors.

Ironically, many indoor growers actually cultivate a few outdoor plants for their own smoke or purchase open air “herb” from their neighbors. Citing flavor, a gentler high, and a belief plants grown outside are more medicinal than ones grown under lights, they express dismay that their buyers aren’t better informed.

The group of Salmon Creekers concerned about Diesel Doping is hoping to unite these concerns with a better understanding of what environmental damage happens as a result of growing marijuana with the use of generators. To that end, they have formed a group called CAPP (Citizens Against Pollution Pot). (UPDATE: This name is still in flux– under consideration is also Communities Addressing Pot Pollution)

A fact sheet about environmental damage is being compiled by one committee while another is looking into how best to consolidate with other watersheds that have similar concerns. Members are researching how best to get the message out to the right people and water samples are being taken in the Salmon Creek area to reassure members that no diesel spills have polluted their own water sources. One of the goals of the group is to disseminate information on roughly how many pollutants are released into the atmosphere per pound of marijuana grown indoors with a diesel generator. Another is to quantify the carbon footprint of diesel growing versus outdoor growing.

David Booth’s KMUD Environmental show will focus on the Diesel Doping issue the 3rd Tuesday in June 7 to 8 pm.

Tune in and let’s get the dialogue flowing.



  • Should be interesting to see what happens to this method of growing as fuel prices continue to climb. They may be priced out of the market soon.

  • It would be nice to have dialogue instead of black and white thinking. It’s difficult for me because I am flat against growing pot BUT it seems a waste of time and energy to try and uproot them. I’ve always been of the opinion that if you take away the user, you take away the incentive to sell drugs. But we Americans want to “go to the source” not realizing that addiction and dysfunction IS the source.
    After living here for a while, I’ve realized that pot is interwoven in the fabric of our culture and to deny it or vilify it is just as bad as the systematic destruction of the fishing industry and the timber industry in this area (though they helped themselves along).
    Perhaps this is a better solution than law enforcement and “eradication” that seems to only make a dent in the growing industry.
    I’ll shut up now.

  • Okay, I guess I’m lost. Why do they use generators? Are they in an area that is not served by the electric companies?

  • Kym … Careful or you’ll have 100 posts in this string. What a topic! The price of dope continues to drop as fuel prices rise. Economically, this indicates a pretty big profit margin to me. I suspect about 200% currently, as long as one doesn’t get popped. Then the costs go wayyy up.

  • Chris, as Ben points out, the profit margins are high. One of the goals of CAPP as I understand it is to point out the ‘real’ (as best as can be estimated) cost of growing this way. With fuel prices rising the profit margin is getting smaller. Is it getting small enough to make it not feasible to grow that way? I’m not sure.

    Jen, I don’t think many people are aware how much the economy of this county depends on marijuana. I can’t remember the exact figures or where I read this (so take it with a grain of salt) but a HSU professor claims that Marijuana is the largest income producer in our county by a large margin.

    Like you said, most people aren’t going to quit growing as long as there is money to be made. But, a increasing number of people are concerned about the environmental diesel grows. It will be interesting to see if a passionate campaign from CAPP will make some changes.

    Kitty, the nearest person with ‘hooked to the grid’ as we call those serviced by electric companies is almost 5 miles from my house. So, yes, most of us use other means. Our family is solar with a backup of a propane generator. But those power sources do not provided the huge amounts of energy needed to produce marijuana indoors so they use diesel generators.

    Ben, I only get about 60 unique readers a day. I’m small time. Sooo I’m hoping to provoke a dialogue with, what I like to think is, a highly intelligent though small readership. 8) Unfortunately, most of us don’t want to talk about the elephant in our livingroom. I’m hopeful to get at least 10 comments and a lot more quiet thinking about the subject. I’m planning on doing several more posts about it over the next couple months.

    When the final crunching of estimates is done, I’ll be interested to see how much profit CAPP thinks a typical grow makes in profit.

    And, of course, that costs assume that the grower doesn’t get busted, ripped off or have a partnership go sour. Then, oh boy, the costs explode. Once I heard someone state that it was irresponsible to grow without a 1/2 year’s profits tucked away to pay lawyer fees. OUCH!

  • I can’t speak to the main topic of growing pot indoors with diesel fuel as I know absolutely nothing about it. I am a tad confused that growers are so concerned about the environment, and not so concerned about the health of their buyers.

    Like Jen, I am opposed to pot growing for two reasons. One, of course, is that it is illegal. The other, which I think is even more important, is that so many buyers who start out using marijuana turn to harder drugs, ruin their lives and the lives of their families, end up on the street, dead, or in prison. And to me that second reason should be reason enough not to grow and sell, no matter how high the profits.

    You will probably get a lot of comments on this subject, Kym.

  • The same type of environmental problems can result from generator use near any water source whether it is related to pot or not. No matter what job you are doing: growing weed, building houses, fixing cars, it is your responsibility to keep it from negatively impacting the Earth. Those who’s poisons seep into nature deserve to serve consequences. Environmental impact is an issue of all multi-million dollar industries, including (obviously) the marijuana one. It is nice to hear that there will be a forum on the radio that addresses this.

  • Aunt Jackie, Many growers consider marijuana as actually medicine. Rather than harmful, they consider it a natural blessing.Here is the prestigious Mayo Clinics take on this controversy.

    Also there a great deal of argument over whether marijuana is a ”gateway’ drug or not. The most recent study which I can’t find right now concluded that it was NOT a gateway drug.

    Ren, Some of the information that I’m hearing is that the soot coming from diesel generators plasters onto plants and rocks around then when rain comes the soot is washed off and ends up as particulates in the water table. I haven’t seen this backed up with science yet (I’m trying to get the info and will pass it on if I do.) But that has implications beyond what I think even the most conscientious is aware of. I understand though that some sort of muffler system can help.

    Having lived here all my life, I can see the changes in the sky–the yellowing of the horizons that occur even after rainstorms now. This never used to be. I hate controversy but I am concerned enough about the damage that I want people to get all the information to make the changes needed to minimize the damage to Earth.

  • Momentarily Anonymous

    Illegal or not, a lot of people depend on it to make a living. Not just the big time pot proprietors, but all the people they employ for trimming and other maintenance. A lot of families can’t find other work that pays as well or has the flexibility. If everyone suddenly stopped growing pot, the economy would take a huge hit — all of us would be affected.

    Which is not to condone or praise it, but to once again point out the situation isn’t as simple as black or white, legal vs. illegal.

    I think the HSU econ study estimated $500,000 added to the local economy — the North Coast Journal had a story on it.

  • I read the info on your link to the Mayo Clinic, and it sounds to me like the risks are much higher than the slight benefits found so far.

    Let’s see: cancer, memory loss, loss of balance, etc., vs reduction of nausea and possibly reduction of pain.

    It’s a no brainer to me!!

  • Moment, I think you meant $500 Million annually. Here is a quote from Prosperity Strategy Analysis at Humboldt.edu.

    “Dr. Hackett of HSU stated, “Humboldt County likely generates 200-500 million dollars through marijuana production every year. What would happen if marijuana were legalized?” The economic ramifications of marijuana legalization would indeed be devastating to Humboldt County.”

    The next highest industry is tourism at $237 million.

    Aunt Jackie, most growers would say that all you need to do is to look at any prescription drug to see the same possibilities of problems juxtaposed with the health benefits.

    Many doctors believe it is medicinal. The American College of Physicians (2nd largest physician group in America) supports its use for medical purposes. (This is a PDF link be aware it will be slow loading)

  • I want to add, in doing some more research, according to the an article in the Times Standard 05/14/2007, timber “has fueled the local economy with combined annual spending of more than $300 million.” So Marijuana falls somewhere in the top 3 moneymakers for Humboldt–just where is nebulous.

  • I respect your courage in posting this, Kym, albeit to your small but faithful audience. Perhaps it will get forwarded and elicit more attention. I would like to submit that the group had begun to digress when it discussed naming itself (some weren’t sure it was even necessary). If CAPP is the working acronym, I propose it stand for “Communities Addressing Pot Pollution” because that would cover all the other evils that this weed wreaks on our neighborhood– outdoor growers aren’t saints, either. There’s a lot of black plastic crap in our creeks and forests. Then there’s the pollution of common sense…

    As the world changes rapidly on both sides of our Redwood Curtain, I think it’s time a lot of local “farmers” took an honest look at their cash crop. Advocates of “215” or medical use often do turn a blind eye to the downside of growing pot and what it leads to. I don’t mean other drugs, though pot’s often in such company. I’m not qualified to comment on the health risks of smoking the stuff: I think that’s a case by case issue. Instead, what’s troublingly addictive about it is the profit: that’s what keeps big engines humming in these hills (they “SO HUM”) all day, all night, all year. The invasive noise and vibration (low frequencies that carry a LONG way) are the least of our complaints. Diesel exhaust is a known carcinogen, 200 times more polluting than gasoline exhaust. A constantly running generator makes a lot of particulate poison and it carries a long way, too. The risk of spills from poor containment on site is amplified if a delivery truck (which comes up daily) goes off our steep, narrow, winding road. And if the “scene” catches fire- which does happen- the health hazards are enormous. Multiplied by so many “indos” over the last ten years, the problem is now immediate.

    Probably all drugs-for-profit (how about alcohol and tobacco?) should be squashed eventually, through honest education and decriminalization. That’s another thread, eh? For now, a concerned group of folks (of many differing professions, ages and opinions I was glad to see) are trying to pull their dear neighbors out of those closed, artificial worlds, and back into the sweet, clean, free SUNLIGHT of the real one!

  • Re: the market distinction. Before CAMP efforts drove so many growers indoors, they drove outdoor growers into the shade: the resulting poorer (leafier) product was what buyers had to compare to the McBuds of factory dope.

    Since proposition 215, there’s no excuse (except huge land payments, giant trucks and cosmetic surgery) to not stick the stuff in your sunny front yard with your prescription nailed to it. It would be so low maintenance, you’d even have time for a real job!

  • Kym… I’m told that a 25K generator uses 300 gallons of fuel running 12 hours a day in one week. 600 gallons if they are running two rooms and 24 hours. If so (and I have no real proof of my figure) they are spending at least $27,000 on each crop in fuel alone. With soil and fertilizer, it has to be over $30,000. That would be a 30 light operation. If they were very good and got a pound per light, they would gross $90,000 every three months. That’s close to a quarter million a year profit. That kind of money habit is hard to break. It seems to me that the ones most vulnerable to some sort of regulation might be the fuel suppliers. I suspect they have solid political connections. If a generator uses 80+ gallons of fuel a day you can see how important big deliveries are. I have heard that Renner will not deliver less than 1,000 gallons. Don’t know if thats true. Why are they allowed to deliver fuel to tanks without a safety catchment?

  • Ben and CAPPer, It is hard to quantify an illegal business with so many variables. Hopefully, CAPP will be able to come up with some hard figures to help people understand the costs to the environment and help them find ways to move away from the most harmful practices.

    I’ve been asking around. The consensus seems to be that the companies (Renner & Moore) are pretty careful and try to make sure that containment systems and fuel lines etc. are safe. However, I have heard (no proof–just rumor) that individual drivers get tips and may be willing to overlook problems.

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