America was fed by small, ten-acre truck farms. They were local, so you knew the farmer, and you knew where your food came from. In many rural areas the truck farmer still exists with the local food movement which began in the 1980s (led by chef, Alice Waters) a new awareness emerged, with farmers’ markets now prominent in cities throughout the country.
For the most part, small farms across America were replaced by housing developments, with large, corporate agriculture operations planting hundreds of acres of GMO-laden crops in regions where water doesn’t exist and must be re-routed at great cost and effort.
The Non-profit, Farm AID, began in support of the small farmers affected, with the U.S. Government stepping in by offering subsidies. But that didn’t stop the onslaught of GMOs or the mega farms devoid of substance or soul.
Many Farmers, Few Permits
The small cannabis farmers of California, specifically in Northern California within the Emerald Triangle (Humboldt, Mendocino, Trinity counties), have been meeting supply and demand of the world’s most beloved herb for decades in the face of great persecution and personal loss. With an estimated 15,000 small cannabis farmers in Northern California’s Humboldt County alone, and 2,300 applications turned in, with just 510 accepted for permitting so far, to say this is a catastrophe of grand proportions is an understatement. Generations of farmers have been passing down cultivation methods, perfecting the plant and raising the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to the heights we have today. The late Southern Humboldt cultivator, Lawrence Ringo, hybridized the THC back down. He gave us the high cannabinoid (CBD) stains at the forefront of the movement for acceptance of cannabis as medicine, making the rhetoric, “what about the children?” a moot point.
The contributions from farmers in the first medically legal State of California are numerous. They’ve also gone on without accolades, largely for fear of persecution. The healing in Humboldt County has been as covert as the crops they tended.
Kevin Jodrey is owner and founder of Wonderland Nursery in the heart of Southern Humboldt, where cultivation is king; and its customers have the most to lose.
“I don’t think anyone realizes the level of enforcement that is about to come,” he warned. “The overall tone is one of impending doom.”
The crux of the matter is the way most farms on the north coast have operated under the radar, with unpermitted roads, buildings, and a covert cottage industry that crosses state lines with tonnage.
“The first 60 cease and desist letters went out to the panther gap area, and literally made those properties worthless,” he continued, referring to land in Southern Humboldt. “A lien on the land until all fines paid and restoration completed. No permits are being offered for those properties. The rumor is another 8,000 are en route.”
To give an idea of what is happening statewide, Jodrey added that in the State Capitol of Sacramento alone, there have been 661 raids on indoor farm operations in a two-month period. An increase in the number of officers assigned will enable them to perform 600 raids a month. The operations are done by using algorithms via Smart Meters to detect high electrical usage by indoor growers.
“The state wants to protect its tax base,” he surmised. “Humboldt is more spread out, making this type of enforcement harder, except in towns like Arcata, McKinleyville, and Fortuna, with a concentration of indoor farms in residential neighborhoods.”
Jodrey said the “mega farms” being permitted now will provide material to legal retail shops, but it’s safe to say the thousands of farmers still unpermitted will face prison time, great hardship and loss.
“It’s the redistribution of wealth and prosperity that is going to be felt the hardest,” he empathized. “The shops will have product, just not the same products once produced by locals – and that’s not just in Humboldt. We are going into an industrialized model – that’s the state’s desire.”
Medicine Thrown Under the Bus
Washington State is one example of medical cannabis being disregarded; with Jodrey explaining they didn’t get the recreational revenues they desired and viewed medicinal as a competing industry. The same thing is happening in Colorado, with the business faction feeling the pinch from the medicine cabinet. The irony is, the plant is the same on both sides of the aisle – and that edible quickly becomes a medible when the pain miraculously goes away, and prescription pills are replaced.
Chrystal Ortiz farms in Humboldt County, she’s the former Operations Manager forTrue Humboldt, an award-winning brand that serves as an umbrella for more than 200 farmers in the county.
Ortiz believes the challenges and hopes of cannabis as medicine in California stems from the passing of the Medical Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA), combined with the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA), which created the Medical and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) after Prop. 64 or AUMA was enacted.
According to the California Growers Association, MAUCRSA is “the foundation of regulated cannabis in California.” According to Ortiz, it’s a roadblock to collectives in an already overly-regulated market.
“The collective model is absolutely threatened by the MAUCRSA, as it sets the square footage at 500 square feet,” she informed. “Our compassionate programs and collective models will need a lot of continued advocacy at the state level to survive.”
Ortiz feels the only way most small farmers and the cottage industry will survive is by banding together under one umbrella, lobbying and pooling financial resources for the greater good of the collective community that has worked without a hitch for decades. One such successful endeavor she cites is the Humboldt Sun Growers Guild, encouraging organic cannabis grown outdoors.
Unlimited Land Use
“Regulators scream about how medical is the priority, but we know now that is a smoke screen to calm the public while they dismantle it in the dark of night,” Jodrey added. “The removal of the one-acre cap is a precursor.”
The one-acre limit set forth by the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture was left out of the regulations put forth by the State, prompting many to panic as big money and large-scale operations were seemingly given the green-light. As of this writing, the California Growers Association has filed a law suit against the State of California protesting the unlimited size of corporate farms to come, if the regulations stand.
So far, only Sonoma County has held firm on its one-acre limit, with a compassionate nod to its small farmers, in a region known for its craft wines. The comparison of California’s wine industry to the cannabis industry isn’t far-fetched. While corporations and big money flooded its wine country during the 1980s, those with the wherewithal to go forward in small-batch craft wines, found success. But they also had the law behind them, with no threat of persecution or prison sentences, just loss of the business if they couldn’t compete.
The same can be said of America’s small farmers. The only difference is, the family farm wasn’t raided, the family dog wasn’t shot and killed, and grandpa didn’t have to do hard time in Federal prison.
The New World Weed Order
On another note, California’s Department of Tax and Fee Administration recently issued a last-minute request, that all dispensaries wishing to apply for a commercial permit must have its taxes paid in full.
No other industry in the country, including the alcohol or pharmaceutical industry, has such limiting demands. No other industry in the country is faced with the amount of fees and regulations from product inception to shelf. For cannabis patients miraculously helped by the plant for serious ailments, it’s an exceptionally hard pill to swallow.
With thousands of farmers now faced with staying firmly in the smoky closet due to said demands, the black market will be alive and well in California. Farms will be raided, people will lose everything, serve time in privatized prisons, and emerge as felons. They will work for pennies an hour in manufacturing jobs once held in the private sector, while the billion-dollar industry they founded thrives and prospers.
“Humboldt will always do what Humboldt does – buck the trends and make its own way,” Jodrey waxed poetic. “But the way will be littered with the corpses of all those who don’t fit into the new model.”
Originally Published in Weed World Magazine Issue 134