It is that time of year again… or is it? Happenings in Humboldt County today, especially for farmers, are hardly recognizable. Even for non-farmers there certainly must be a noticeable stench in the air. Have you noticed it too? You can see it in the long change machine and DMV lines, the sticky-armed workers, and in their contagious anxiousness to “get paid and get the fuck out.” You can see in temporary car registration tags, or in the slumped shoulders inside grow-dozers, the angry malnourished pits, and in the non-profits operating in the red, and ongoing question on most minds-what will become of our community in the wake of this Prop. 64 disaster?
It is officially 2018 and as the last season, of what I call the once last remaining “free (from government control -and so corruption) market” in CA comes to a close, one might sense a fleeting cultural essence in the air this year. As capitalists conquer what’s left in the rubble of the back to the land culture, it seems as if The People have lost some great-unnamed war to looming corporate and political interests. Adios Humboldt County as we’ve known it for the last couple generations, it was sweet and sticky while it lasted.
Look around, take a mental photograph folks, for what we see today, is not what will be a few years from now, just like what we saw a few years ago was nothing like what we saw a few years before that and so on, exponentially. As much as propaganda would have you buying that, “legalization is for the best,” I am betting big on the contrary. At the very least legalization has cast shadows of doubt, and for many it brings the end of their very livelihoods, undoubtedly causing a ripple effect throughout the entire tri-county community.
Obviously many mistakes were made at a state-level on Prop 64 from the new DUI regulations (driving under the influence of …medicine- come again?), to the perpetuated illegality of home-growing and dispensary permit accessibility specifically for anti-cannabis counties. And impacts specifically to major cannabis farming communities like notorious Humboldt Co., are extreme as well. The local economy is currently in a grave state of collapse in and out of cannabiz as a direct result of legalization. Here are some of the biggest flaws surrounding legalization that will no doubt cause more damage to the county, while increasing the number of people in cycles of total decline:
1. Lack of cultural awareness for the free market farmer mentality nor any regard for basic economics. Last I checked the back to the landers who brought life back to Humboldt County from the decaying logging industry, represented an anti-government and anti-capitalist sentiment, some war veterans, environmentalists and general war resistors built this community. Now we are all meant to trust the capitalist-driven government, pay taxes for war, and live in opposite-land? Strange notion.
One cannot expect literally thousands of families who have made a living growing a plant for generations to just uproot their concept of reality and pick up to work for a small fraction of what they are used to making at the gas station instead. That is not how people, careers or economies work, and especially not for self-sustaining types. These folks “make it happen” and have proved this with generations of ingenuity, bush divin’, forest rompin’ and general renegading. So no doubt it’s back to creative shade grown varieties (here’s to finding a buyer!) and infamous days of intense Government harassment such as CAMP. Don’t forget to trade your casual kicking-back-on-the-farm flip-flops for jogging shoes, you just may need them in the coming years, when cannabis is legal (“only for the rich”).
2. What is it about the assumption that if you grow you are wealthy? It seems you have to be a millionaire to get a cannabis permit and even generally wealthy to consume it legally. If you’re not rich you can’t afford to “pay to play,” As Supervisor Rex Bohn said in a general BOS meeting and District 2 Supervisor clearly doesn’t even consider small farmers in the legalization equation either. All growers are “big business” according to Estelle Fennell, who said, “We’re talking about giving big business a break and I don’t understand why,” when she spoke on behalf of her efforts to increase taxes on cultivators in the same May 23, 2017 supervisors meeting. This formula exacerbates economic inequality, and leaves the wealth and future of the community in the hands of a small minority- for better or worse.
One 2nd generation lifetime farmer we shall call “Sara” explained, “Legalization is a scam and ruining the lives of many. I can’t afford to go legal because I never blew it up, I grew just enough to support my family. That’s the case for most people I know. There are exceptions of course, but for the most part the people who can afford to go legal you’ll notice destroyed the environment, and/or took advantage of workers. So that means honest, hard working, non-profit supporting, permaculturalists such as myself are at a total disadvantage and now more pressured by government agencies and police… Ironically the damage I’d have to perpetrate to go legal according to the county- like a 3 acre conversion- is something I would never do to the land because I respect it so much.”
I also spoke with a longtime worker from the free market in District 2 (aka So. Hum.) for over 10 years, who recently made the shift to get permitted at the farm he manages, “Brown” explains, “People are going to loose their property no doubt. Mainly mom and pops, those who did the minimum, environmentalists ironically, they are all going to go out of business. Where I farm we realized the only way to make it work anymore is to run it like any other capitalist enterprise, and consider the cost of the pounds now-yikes (he noted pound prices took the sharpest decline he has ever experienced in fall of 2017). Now you got to take away the cost of the trimmer, cost of supplies, cost of legalization, taxes, employees to help, and there ain’t much left of that cherry pie, no room in our shrinking budget for what we once spent tediously nurturing high-quality cannabis. This will change the face of our community, not to mention diminish the product.”
Consider how many people you know who subsidize their low wages or put themselves through college thanks to “trimming on the side.” And how about all the sweet little commune-type communities’ that pop up all over the mountaintops, full of locals blended with international travelers, creating conversations and a culture like no other. Those days are no doubt over. Which highlights another key component completely overlooked by the county.
3. The total demise of the working class. What has sustained the majority in our community and thriving small business’ for the past two generations or more (even through the economic collapse of 2008), is undergoing a massive upheaval. It is said (NCJ) that upwards of 85% of the entire Humboldt economy is based on “black” market cannabis profits. So what happens when the free market has plummeted so hard, so fast, post legalization? Well surprise surprise just like other industries, you can no longer afford the cost of workers at all, or to frequent stores as prevalently and so bye bye economic affluence, and so long non-profits and small business’. Consequentially all across the county (in and out of the biz) you’ll notice owners laying off their work force, looking for ways to minimize costs, atomize, outsource to affordable-currency-users, cutting share-cropping out completely and determining how they will run an hourly one man ship next year, if they can afford that. The days of workers having workers are certainly over and it may even be time for property owners to learn how to work themselves-gasp.
4. Humboldt County continues to treat farmers like criminals, while simultaneously broadening criminality of cultivating, transporting and even consuming cannabis. It’s not called Commercial Marijuana Cultivation for nothing folks. “Marijuana,” what headier cultivators and consumers commonly call “cannabis,” has always been a divisive slur. I am afraid that not much has changed since it’s racist inception, not coincidentally in 1910 only a few years before the first bill in CA was passed to ban use, prior to the infamous “refer madness” propaganda campaign which ushered in full federal prohibition in the 1930s. Over 100 years later many are still falling for the same political tactics of good guy/drug v. bad guy/drug.
Leafy highlights this common fear tactic used over a century ago, in ‘The Origins of the word Marijuana,’ “The Great Depression had just hit the United States, and Americans were searching for someone to blame. Due to the influx of immigrants (particularly in the South) and the rise of suggestive jazz music, many white Americans began to treat cannabis (and, arguably, the Blacks and Mexican immigrants who consumed it) as a foreign substance used to corrupt the minds and bodies of low-class individuals.” Sound familiar? Eerily so, indeed.
It is interesting to me that few seem to mention or care about what happens to the majority of people living off of the ‘free market’, some for their entire lives who know nothing else but cannabis. Ironically many of the same people and organizations complaining about the state of Humboldt’s streets (from addiction, to pharmaceuticals, meth, heroin, to crime, violence, homelessness, etc.) you know direct results of a crashing economies, are some of the same people supporting legalization which will make all of these circumstances much worse. A sort of insane self –fulfilling prophesy, bringing more extreme economic inequality.
Have you noticed the prevalence of out of state busts this year originating in Humboldt, interestingly many are from permit holding businesses (Ex. Eden Farms and Jacks)? Get used to this too, it will become more and more common as supply and demand grow exponentially contrasted in CA and people are forced to flee the state to find sustainable markets, even just to fund their permitted business’. And get used to more ‘good grower v. bad grower’ distinction-setting propaganda. Falling for it on the other hand is on you.
Another 2nd generation small farmer “Chris” still surviving in the “free market” said, “For a legal industry it sure doesn’t feel like criminalizing our community for growing a plant is letting up at all. They are still treating farmers like drug dealers. No other industry is held to such impossible standards; what about tomatoes, wheat or corn? This isn’t legalization, this is increased criminalization and that’s why I am entirely against it. There are thousands of farmers here and probably a hundred thousand workers relying on them who are about to loose everything they have and have ever known.”
The most shocking matter surrounding legalization is that found in Measure S, the ‘Commercial Marijuana Tax’ that had enormous support in Humboldt County, with 65.8 % of voter approval. One of few urging voters to vote against the CMC tax in an open letter posted on Kymkemp.com, Sunshine Johnson warned of this “unprecedented tax” stating,
“No other crop in California is singled out in this manner and subjected to its own special tax by a county. The well-known wine growing counties in the state do not tax growers on the square footage of vines planted. This tax potentially sets a reckless precedent of area-based taxation on crops produced for human consumption. This proposed excise tax, as currently structured, represents yet another economic barrier for Humboldt County’s smallest, and often, most environmentally friendly cultivators.”
The most shocking element of the Measure S excise tax for me, goes way beyond it being another form of criminalization on cannabis cultivators. The tax is beyond poorly written, and it was changed substantially after being voted on, so much that it is totally illegal.
5. Measure S mistakes mean no one owes taxes! The most recent Board of Supervisors tax scandal is the changes made after the voters voted on the Measure, which contradicts the entire notion of democracy. Basically the measure voted on in November 2016, then revised in June 2017 expanded the definition of cultivation space, changed who owed the CMC tax, and added the fact that property owners (now) owed the tax regardless of cultivation activities -year around! The most stunning error is that in effect the Measure’s text invalidates itself by being so poorly written in requiring federal government law adherence for a tax to be owed at all. One could say, free taxes for cultivators this year thanks to Eugene “ED” Denson and The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, yay!
Convinetnly the new non-voter approved County Cousel and BOS revisions added a hefty ~$1 million to the general fund, which is directly in conflict with what was voted on as well and you know the law. Cannabis Lawyer and Advocate Eugene “ED” Denson explains this issue extensively in his must-read letter delivered January 10 to the County Council and Board of Supervisors for Humboldt County, ED explains, (FULL LETTER HERE: https://shaktinicholenorris.wordpress.com/2018/01/11/eugene-denson-cannabis-advocate-and-attorneys-full-letter-sent-to-humboldt-county-board-of-supervisors-regarding-measure-s-commercial-marijuana-tax-illegality/)
“When the voters passed Measure S they imposed a tax on “each person” who has a permit…Ordinance 2575 changed the taxable person from the cultivator to the property owner …The voters did not vote to tax the property owners…tax bills will be an unpleasant surprise for property owners who have leased their land to persons who have applied for permits…The alterations to the basis for the tax, and the person who must pay it, have effectively created a new tax in place of the Measure S tax… The revision of the ordinance also increases the amount of the tax….The voters have not approved this new tax, and therefore it is a violation of Government Code section 53723, that prohibits the County from levying a general tax without approval by a majority of the voters. No Cultivator is in Compliance with Federal Law. … Because of the language … requiring an activity being in compliance with federal law and regulation in order to be defined as commercial marijuana cultivation or for the tax to begin to accrue; there is almost certainly no person or property owner in Humboldt County who owes any tax under either version of the Measure S ordinances…”
6. “Appalling” “industry interest” “backroom deal” changed the 1 Acre Cap to unlimited grow size. The county stabbed growers and consequentially the whole community in the back by becoming prey to undisclosed “industry interests” and cutting the 1 acre cap for cultivation after taking money from farmers under completely different circumstances. This promises to bury all farmers eventually. Even our own CA State Senator McGuire can see through the lies and our community being sold out by government calling it “appalling” in an interview with Lost Coast Outpost, he states,
“Someone’s been whispering in the ears of California Department of Food and Ag. It’s a last-minute change to the draft rules, and no one knows where it came from. It came out of left field. And it’s appalling. We have upended every promise that was made. This is the worst part of politics. This reeks of a smoke-filled backroom deal, and it’s appalling. My belief is this is why Americans are frustrated with our governmental system — because these last-minute backroom deals are consummated.”
One longtime once-larger farmer who bought-in to legalization and followed all the rules explained with a sarcastic tone, “Yeah, when I spent my life savings to go legal, it was under the premise that the government would maintain the cap on production size to 1 acre so I could hope to stay competitive. Now I have to swallow the fact that I just wasted over 100k for a permit, which will likely never pay itself off, while I watch any major corporations move in, who could very easily wipe us all off the map.”
Imagine investing your entire life savings to do business with the government, (your enemy, you know, last year) to pay taxes (for war not The People which you are staunchly against), to function in capitalist model (which you are likely also against), all under the premise that you would be “protected by your government with caps on production size of other permits” which “regulate the market.” To then find out your trusty politicians sold you out and so you are now up against major industry and all other corporations. This is a HUGE deal.
7. The government rarely brings sustainability to any industry, but rather an influx of environmental degradation fueled by profit motivations. This is the most conflicting rouse I see cultivators falling for today- that the government would protect them and the planet from the “bad growers.” The reality is that it is yet to be determined, whether they deem you one of them. In addition to this irony, regulation always ends the same way, since the very first regulatory industry began in the states for railroads, then to big pharma, banking and tobacco etc.- the big money interests in that industry wind up doing all the regulating. Big pharma spends upwards of 300 billion annually on lobbying, ask yourselves how this is impacting pharmaceutical overdose, addiction and abuse? This too will exacerbate environmental damage, as is always the case throughout time. Sings of this lay plainly in the 1 acre cap change, the taxes being owed regardless of cultivation activities (pushing people to grow every year instead of intermittently), and the fact that the county has not deemed measuring environmental effects of legalization at all, proving their actual interests do not reside in protecting the land.
ED explains, “People who are trying to get licenses spent several million dollars of their own money for bio-remediation, cleaning up the land and correcting problems, and when I asked the water board if anyone was measuring the effect this had on the streams and the fisheries, which is the reason it’s all being done, and the answer in short was- no. Adonna White said they had metrics, which I believe means they were measuring what is written on the application, but that’s not the same thing as getting in the water and seeing if the temperature has changed.”
In 2018 remember while most in our community suffers in and out of industry due to the collapse of the main source of revenue in Humboldt County, there are some who are making out huge and that is salivating county officials and police, not surprisingly, the orchestrators of the drug war and it’s most recent manifested chaos of “the war on drugs,” or rather “the war on the poor.”
Weed For Warriors President Sean Kiernan, makes an industry gu-estimation based on his lifetime of experience in the military, in addition to big pharma board rooms, now to organizing around freely giving weed to those most in need including veterans and other victims of violence,
“Whole plant cannabis will now become a recreational vice, that they [government] can tax the shit out of. Now that they are taxing the shit out of it, what happens? Prices go through the roof, and that means you price out the sick the disabled, the poor the working classes- They cant afford to medicate at a dispensary. My vets go through over 1/8th [a pound] of flower every day easily. So now what do those people do who are most vulnerable in our society? They go to black market or they go without. If they go without, that means suicides go up, overdoses go up, because the only acceptable alternative for that escape or need pain relief or self medication is are the other a-listed drugs by big pharma. So you’ve got a predatory policy that has legalized cannabis for upper middle class trust-fund kids, and yet you’ve kept prohibition for poor and needy people so the police can justify much of what they do. Prohibitions create economies; police, politicians and their financiers know this very well. The war on drugs is and always has been a war against the poor.”
This may be news to you but the government lies, legalization is a farce, it is but more criminalization and provides economic hurdles for those who need it. It puts an organic product and the entire community in an unnatural environment, a government controlled capitalist market, where sure some are legitimized but how many, who exactly, and at what cost to the community? I do not share this story to rain on your legalization parade oh no; I write today because I want to warn other states that are considering legalization, to stop, JUST STOP. Decriminalize, or at the very most set up a medical program akin to CA Prop 215 and leave it at that. Legalization is criminalization in a fancy corporate plastic package. Do not be fooled like CA and other states were. Peter Tosh is undoubtedly rolling in his grave to change his lyrics to “decriminalize it.”