Farm Report #8: Whither or Wither?

Humboldt County’s marijuana crop brings in about $300-$500 million annually, while the rest of the county’s $3.6 billion dollar economy comes from cattle and dairy, education, forestry, wildlife, construction, lumber, fishing, media, non-profits, tourism, wellness, restaurants and retail.

The local community radio station KMUD gives reports of fixed wing aircraft, helicopters and law enforcement movements. They are supported by donations for the growers, as are numerous community service clinics, non-profits and businesses. One grower told me that many small businesses were opened by people who would have found a way to be successful no matter where they were. But the infusion of cash for start up didn’t hurt.

With legalization will come some problems as well as a potential economic downturn if prices don’t hold. And there’s a good chance weed won’t stay at $3,000 to $5,000/lb.

What Humboldt has going for it is a lot of what Napa and Sonoma Counties have with regards to wine, what the French call terroir, a group of vineyards (or even vines) from the same region belonging to a specific appellation and sharing the same type of soil, weather conditions, grape and wine-making knowledge, all of which combine to give its specific personality to the wine. Can branding and appellation help keep Humboldt afloat?

Humboldt weed is legendary, whether grown indoor or out. Will legalization change that? Most plants are clones, so technically, Mr. Nice or any number of varieties could spread like, well, weeds. Is appellation possible? Co-ops could be formed like the dairy co-ops, organic certification is possible, outdoor vs indoor labeling…but is that viable?

Can Humboldt create a pot tourism industry like Napa’s wine tourism industry, and to a smaller extent Los Olivos, and build on what is already there in the gorgeous county? Does it want to?

Humboldt has a strong organic food and farming base, plus wineries and breweries. Loleta Farms raises its own cows and makes their cheese right in their shop in Loleta. Loleta also has an organic bakery that uses locally grown wheat and fruit. Cypress Grove Chevre makes Humboldt Fog and other goat cheeses. Grass-fed beef is the norm; pork and lamb are also raised, and yes, I saw “meat rabbits” at the county fair, but that’s not likely to be a major retail food anytime soon. Locally grown fruit and vegetables abound. Add in an art scene, a film festival, performing arts, the Victorian homes of Ferndale, and you have a really sweet area for vacationing, an hour flight from San Francisco, two hours from LAX–when it’s not fogged in.

Can all that–combined with the ocean, rivers, and lush mountain scenery, river rafting, surfing, and eco-tourism–plus legal artisanal pot help lure tourists? We’ll see in the next year or so. There’s still a harvest to be brought in before the election, and November 2 there’s a Legalize Pot rally at the Veterans Hall.

Farm Report #6: Breakin’ the Law, Breakin’ the Law


There is supposedly a crime problem involved with pot growing. And not just because some of the people growing it here in Humboldt are growing more than their legal limit. No, with a pound of pot worth $3,000 to $4,000, there is a problem with theft. Grow houses get ripped off. Drugs deals go bad. And people will steal plants out of the ground.

Or at least try too. A grower told me about the one time a rip-off was tried at his place several years ago. He and his buddy had guns, a shot was fired into the air, the perps screeched off the property,  and the crop–which was too well rooted to get yanked out–was saved, end of story.

Crime as a side effect of indoor grows are an issue in this November’s Humboldt County District Attorney’s race.

In an interview with Eureka’s local paper, the Times/Standard, DA candidates Allison Jackson and Paul Hagen said:

home invasion robberies and fires associated with grows in residential neighborhoods are out of control, and that something needs to be done to rein in abuse of Proposition 215.

Jackson felt that the county’s recently overturned 99-plant limit, an ordinance drafted by incumbent Paul Gallegos,

brought a massive influx of people from outside the county, outside the state and outside the country into this community. And, it’s made residential neighborhoods unsafe.

Gallegos disputes Jackson’s assessment about home invasion robberies, calling them drug deals gone bad and said with regards to
non-medical pot growing and sales:

Illegal marijuana is accessible to anyone who wants it — that’s how successful the war on drugs is.

Opponent Paul Hagen–the only candidate who supports Prop 19 and said he will vote for the measure which will legalize marijuana– has a solution:

If we make it legal, we can finally control it above board. You’re never going to get rid of it.

If the initiative passes, the DA will be plenty busy, since there could be a new wave of local controls, regulations and ordinances. And then there’s the economic side effects.

According to reporting in the Los Angeles Times,

Humboldt State economists guess that marijuana accounts for between $500 million and $700 million of the county’s $3.6 billion economy.

I stopped at gas station and went in to buy a pack of double-A batteries for my camera. I asked the cashier which he preferred for my $4 purchase, a debit card or a $100 bill.

Either

he replied with a smile–everyone in Humboldt is really, really nice and friendly and smiles all the time–so I gave him the C-note since I wanted change, and he didn’t even check to see if it was counterfeit. What a change from LA where many businesses have signs posted saying

No bills over $20

and a fake-bill checking pen resides in the cash drawer. It’s like they see them all the time.

Oh wait, they do…

Farm Report # 5: Humboldt Medical Farming


My last day in Humboldt was spent on a farm where a group of people who have medical marijuana cards under the compassionate care law live and grow their medicine. Up until June of this year, in Humboldt County, under guidelines set by the county, 215-ers–so called because of Proposition 215, the medical marijuana bill–could grow 99 plants or less in a 100 square foot area.

The guidelines were developed in response to Senate Bill 420, which set  limitations on the amount of marijuana a patient could possess, and allowed counties to create their own ordinances with different limits.

Then in July of this year, things changed when California Supreme Court ruled earlier this year in the People v. Kelly that S.B. 420 was unconstitutional, as it placed limits on a voter-passed initiative.

The city of Arcata has its own ordinances in place–created in response to residential grow houses which are often for profit and exceed the original county limits. Arcata’s indoor grows are limited to spaces 50 feet wide and 10 feet in height.

So now outside of Arcata, things are in a gray area. One outdoor farmer I spoke with had plowed under a field after spotting a fixed wing aircraft since he was in excess of the old Humboldt ordinances and didn’t want to run the risk with the new lack of law confusion, though he did admit that it could have just been a pleasure flight, not law enforcement. But caution is a watchword up here and there is no point in drawing unwanted attention.
The 215 collective I visited is an outdoor farm, where the residents also grow fruits and vegetables. A copy of the doctor’s recommendation was attached at the entrance of each grow area, and each patient’s area had plants in pots

See it’s a real pot farm

joked the grower, fertilized with various nutrients and treated with organic fungicides, a very different from another grow spot I visited where chicken manure and bone meal were the sole nutrients and the plants went directly into the ground. The plants were behind a simple fence, ringed with trees, and a “hot wire” fueled by solar generated electricity was in place to keep anything/one out.

The potted plants had already been sexed and were starting to produce small buds, and several varieties were represented. All were grown from clones/cuttings. As I mentioned in an earlier post, there is some breeding going on, but for growing, cuttings/clones are the wave of now and the future.

After a tour of farm we picked berries made dinner some of the produce from the farm itself, while the rest was locally grown.

Legalization wouldn’t negatively impact these folks, in that they grow for themselves. Granted there would be peace of mind that the amount they are growing is legal and not is some weird legislative limbo. No more fears of fixed wing aircraft.

Or thefts. But more on that later…

Farm Report #2: Environment

Arcata, pop 14,000 is bucolic historic little town, home to Humboldt State University and the epicenter of grower chic, replete with a French style bakery, wine shops and a creperie.  The old frontier hotel with beautiful tile floors and ornate ceiling panels is owned by the local Native American tribe, and the bars lining the square which once  served the loggers, and still has some noontime drinkers see a huge uptick in young faces as soon as classes start up.

This could be just a basic college and tourist town, a stop on the 101 before you get to Loleta for the cheese, or Ferndale for the cemetery and county fair.  But the underground economy is what has pumped real life into this town, and at a cost to the environment.

Growing uses electricity, a lot of it. The Humboldt County Journal reports that one grow house case prosecuted by the DA was using 10,000 kWh, or about 20 times the average household. Sadly solar panels won’t make enough to fuel a grow house.

The extra electricity used by grows in Humboldt County totals an astounding 90 million kWhs a year — about 70 times the total output of all the solar panels in the county, or enough to power 13,000 typical homes. Generating that electricity, even with PG&E’s relatively low-carbon grid, puts 20,000 metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. And that’s without considering the energy and environmental costs of using chemical fertilizers, which are significant.

But legalization comes with a bonus for many electricity consumers in the Emerald Triangle. Should Prop 19 pass, there will be traceable, reportable income streams for growers, and commercial growers will be paying taxes And their electricity bills.

The Humboldt Journal also reports:

Many growers have no reportable income so they qualify for subsidized electricity under PG&E’s “CARE” program, which is intended to help low income households keep the lights on. That means we all pay higher electricity rates and underwrite lower rates for growers who use this assistance program.

I’m all for helping low income folks. But like the kid from AmeriCorps speculated:

Seems like there’s a lot of income here, just not on paper.

Legalization will allow anyone who can to grow enough for themselves on a minimum 5′x5′ plot, with individual municipalities being able to set a larger space for private per person use.

Off grid growing currently presents environmental challenges as well. The Journal reports:

Grows on the grid are only part of the story. Many of the largest indoor grows are off-grid in the more remote areas of the county. These operations use diesel generators to provide the electricity and have even worse environmental consequences, since there are fuel spills as well as CO2 emissions. Setting aside the issue of spills, we used estimates from Jack Nelson of the Humboldt County Drug Task Force of the number and size of off-grid grows to estimate the amount of CO2 they emit — another 20,000 metric tons a year.

These clandestine remote grows, like the on-grid ones, allow for year ’round crops of weed to supply medical marijuana clubs and dispensaries state wide, as well as going to out of state distributors that aren’t so above ground.

I know some people that got in a lot of trouble for doing out state deals. Like, busted.

said one of my contacts.

Next: I sex plants and pull males.

Can Mary Jane Help California Budget Crisis, ‘Cuz We Don’t Have to Pot to Pee In

Cannabis may be a panacea not only for untold ills of mind and body, but also a cure for some of California’s budget woes, according to the Marijuana Policy Project which is advocating the legalization, regulation and taxation of pot.  The advocacy group claims at least $1 billion dollars coul dbe raised annualy fomr the taxes on pot currently sold on the street. And to get the populace on their side MMP is launching this ad on Wednesday–though some stations have refused to air it.

If pot is legalized, will people be allowed to grow small amounts for home use, like beer and wine hobbyists? What will happen to the booming marijuana pot dispensary businesses, which do pay sales tax already as required by a 2007 law? Will they just simply become licensed pot stores, like liquor stores? Will this be retroactive, allowing pot dealers with no other related convictions to get out of jail?

Will there be laws allowing only California grown pot to be sold in CA? One hopes so, as it is the state’s number one cash crop. Will there be regulations to insure the pot sold is grown responsibly and not in ways and places that harm the environment? How much of the revenue will go to administrative costs? What sort of driving laws and tests to enforce these laws will be created? How will this affect teens?

Dude, It’s 420! Celebrate and Watch a Movie!

Don’t fondle the water pipe!

In honor of  vipers, stoners, bong loaders, high rollers, reefer madmen and hemp honeys, marijuana activists, medical marijuana cooperatives and their attorneys, pursuit of happiness advocates, Tommy Chong, Paul McCartney, the late, great Robert Mitchum,  those who don’t think the government belongs in our bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens or medicine cabinets, and many more…

Today, 4/20 until 11:59 PM, the movie High: The True Tale of American Marijuana, which we hosted on Movie Night will be screening on-demand for free on the official website, truehigh.com.

Easy snack recipe:

* 1 cup butter, plus more for greasing pan
* 1 cup peanut butter
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 pound powdered sugar
* 1 cup of chocolate chips (or to taste)

Directions

Microwave butter and peanut butter for 2 minutes on high. Stir and microwave on high for 2 more minutes. Add vanilla and powdered sugar to peanut butter mixture and stir to combine with a wooden spoon. Add chocolate chips, stirring slightly. They don’t need to melt all the way.

Pour into a buttered 8 by 8-inch pan lined with parchament baking paper. Place a second piece of parchament paper on the surface of the fudge and refrigerate until cool (you can used buttered aluminum foil instead but it will be kinda weird). Cut into 1-inch pieces and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

(adapted from Alton Brown)

Actor Robert Mitchum did time for pot possession

Obama Won’t Legalize Pot, Wonders If Online Community is a Bunch of Stoners

obama.thumbnail.jpgIn his first ever interactive townhall meeting, President Obama addressed questions and issues raised online from the change.gov site.  One of the most popular ideas floated online there and on the pre-inuagural citizen’s policy book was the legalization and taxation of marijuana, which could provide additional taxes and jobs, as well as lowering crimnal justice costs. His response:

 There was one question that was voted on that ranked fairly high and that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation, and I don’t know what this says about the online audience.

Yes, it got some laughs. Then he added that he wanted to make sure the question got answered.

The answer is no, I don’t think that was a good strategy.

And it’s probably not a good strategy to mock your constituents, either. Not everyone who supports legalization of marijuana smokes it recreationally, or even at all.

Pot: Mistake or Moneymaker?

When it came to the bong pic, Michael Phelps admitted to Matt Lauer that

It was a bad mistake. I mean, we all know what, you know, what you and I are talking about. It’s a stupid mistake. You know, bad judgment. And it’s something that, you know, I have to, and I want to teach other people not to make that mistake.

But with two tons of Kelloggs’ corn and frosted flakes with the gold medalist’s picture recently delivered to their doorstep, Phelps’ mistake has proven to be a very good thing for the San Francisco Food Bank.  And the substance Phelps is assumed to have consumed by the mere act of fondling a bong may very well prove to deliver some huge bank for the state of California, per TIME Magazine.

232602d1208476820t-medical-marijuana-delivery-service-makes-debut-resized-gdp.thumbnail.jpgMedical marijuana is already subject to sales tax per a law passed in 2007. That year the state’s medical marijuana patients consumed somewhere between $870 million and $2 billion worth of weed a year, translating to to between $70 million and $120 million in state sales tax.

That doesn’t suck–but California state assemblyman Tom Ammiano sees more gold in them thar weeds by legalizing hippy lettuce and allowing the state to regulate and tax its sale–to the jazzy tune of  $13. annual tax revenue. Pot is  a $14 billion a year cash crop, almost double the income from dairy which brings in $7.3 billion a year, according to the most recent USDA statistics.

Says Ammiano:

 With any revenue ideas, people say you have to think outside the box, you have to be creative, and I feel that the issue of the decriminalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana fits that bill. It’s not new, the idea has been around, and the political will may in fact be there to make something happen.

And there’s another reason that legalizing wacky baccy could make (or at least save) California money: Retired Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray, a longtime proponent of legalization, told TIME that he estimated legalizing pot and thus ceasing the arrest, prosecution and imprisonment of nonviolent offenders could save the state $1 billion a year. Though I suppose if there were the same driving under the influence laws, there could be increases in court costs and short term jail time costs, and conversely an increase in revenue from fines…

Phelps: No Charges Filed for Holding a Bong

michael_phelps_1.thumbnail.jpgRichland County Sheriff Leon Lott will not be filing charges against Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps. In an email statement the sheriff wrote:

Having thoroughly investigated this matter, we do not believe we have enough evidence to prosecute anyone that was present at the November party.

In the statement Lott explains that he was placed in an untenable position. There was evidence seen around the world that a crime had been committed in his state, and he had to do something about it:

I took an obligation in my oath as Sheriff to enforce the law equally and fairly without any personal bias or prejudice.

With Michael Phelps I had to remove his medals, his hero status, and look at him as any other person.

I felt it was important that he be treated fairly, equally and that a message be conveyed that illegal drug use is illegal by anyone.

 However, others at the party are facing charges on possession of marijuana and paraphernalia that were seized by deputies while serving search warrants in the Phelps case. The sheriff defends those arrests:

The house of the November party had previously been the subject of a drug case and other crimes. The related house in Irmo had also been the subject of a previous drug case. Both locations were the source of problems in our community. 

The charges of those arrested in this investigation will be handled as we do in other similar type arrests…

I would have been remiss in my duty as Sheriff if I would have ignored the November incident and subsequent drug violations we discovered during our investigation.  

Phelps was suspended for three months three months by USA Swimming and lost his sponsorship deal with cereal maker Kellogg’s–but if you bought those Olympic winner boxes of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes with Phelps on them as a speculative commodity, they aren’t selling too well on eBay.  

Sheriff Pursues Phelps in Pot Witch Hunt. Will Charges Sink Michael?

michael_phelps.thumbnail.jpgDetails have emerged in the arrest of eight students who partied with Michael Phelps the night he was photographed holding a bong at a party in Columbia, South Carolina.  And it seems Phelps is the focus of Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott’s reefer madness.

Columbia attorney Dick Harpootlian said Richland County Sheriff’s deputies arrested his client–whom he declined to identify–Saturday in his home after seizing a small amount of marijuana and asking questions about the Olympic gold medalist:

He’s sitting there on Saturday, and 12 cops kick in the door with guns drawn, search his house and find 5, maybe 6, grams of pot. They never asked him, ‘Who sold you the pot?’ … They were asking, ‘Were you at the party with Michael Phelps? Did you see him using marijuana?’ It was all about Michael Phelps.2.thumbnail.jpg

The other seven people arrested in connection with the festivities at the house on Blossom Street have been questioned  about Phelps, says Harpootlian:

All these people have been asked the same questions. It’s all about Michael Phelps.

On  Good Morning America this morning, local defense attorney Joseph McCulloch–who is representing an arrestee in the case–characterized the arrests as

a fascination, if not an effort, to destroy a public hero.

One of Harpootlian’s clients had computers and storage drive seized,  supposedly to try to find evidence against Phelps, Harpootlian said.  Sheriffs refused his request Wednesday to return the items to his client.

A former solicitor (prosecutor) for Richland and Kershaw counties, Harpootlian said in his entire legal career he had

never seen a search warrant executed for simple possession of marijuana.

Sheriff Lott has said he would charge Phelps if there is evidence a crime was committed. Lt. Chris Cowan, sheriff’s department spokesman did the spokesperson thing, saying:

As soon as we’re ready to release information on this case we will and we’re still in the middle of this investigation.

Attorney McCulloch commented:

It seems to me that Richland County has a host of its own crime problems much more serious than a kid featured in a photograph with a bong in his hand.

Under South Carolina law, possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor that carries a fine up to $200 and 30 days in jail for the first offense, while possession of drug paraphernalia is a $500 fine. Holding a bong in a photo is not "possession of paraphernalia," especially when the bong was offered for sale–by someone other than Phelps–on eBay for $100,000. The person selling the bong is among those arrested.

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