For longtime readers- Hello again friends! I am back from a break creating and nurturing a seed of potential for our future. I’m going to post a few more things I’ve published recently but I just want to post a brief update on the happenings in Humboldt County, specifically Southern Humboldt.
Without a doubt it is still incredibly wild in the West. Modern cannabis business is a racket in Humboldt County and the local government (officials and agencies) are the biggest cartels in town. What some were conned into thinking legalization would offer our community, is not the reality of what most are experiencing today on the ground. In fact many experts say “cannabis cultivation has never been more illegal in Humboldt County than it is since legalization.”
Small, permaculture and heritage farmers are barley able to survive post CA’s Prop 64 (legalization), and that’s the reality for lucky farmers who had enough money to write endless checks to Humboldt County (etc) in the first place. At least 90% of farms didn’t have the funds or ability to comply and are cut out of the permit process.
The same situation is unfolding in Mendocino County where they also had a 90% non-compliance rate. However Supervisors in Mendocino are in such stark contrast to Humboldt County Supervisors. In Mendocino policy makers realized they made a mistake making the permit process unattainable for the majority and decided to help their constituents become compliant. Mendocino County Supervisors are working on amnesty program, all while Humboldt Supervisors and their Planning and Building Department helpers are inflicting dire injustices on their community of mostly small farmers daily.
We are 3 years into legalization, and only about 2,500 permits are in process (a slow, year or more long process) of an estimated once 15,000 farms countywide. This is a direct result of the complex, ever-changing, mysterious and expensive cannabis cultivation permit process. This exclusion of the majority from compliance is coupled with intense criminalization via the abatement program that is currently working to displace the majority (~12,500) of farms.
While the dust of cannabis regulations have barley settled on farmers, many are left dizzied by the ongoing changes and unthinkable enforcement tactics. Our County Supervisors and the Director of the PBD (Planning and Building Department) John Ford, created a bureaucratic cost-effective eradication effort commonly coined “the abatement program.” If you get a notice to abate the alleged “nuisance of cultivating” a plant they will threaten $10k in daily fines per violation and hundreds of thousands potentially in liens on your property. Another really important aspect of this story is that these violations on the notices to abate are often entirely erroneous (like unpermitted homes, compost toilets, older cars, living in an rv on your own land and more standard off-grid-living practices).
This systematically destroyed industry once supported much of our entire county’s economy. One HSU study at the Marijuana Research Institute found 1 in 4 dollars are related to cannabis. I suspect (at least in SoHum and other rural regions) that figure is closer to 3 in 4 dollars related to cannabis. Unless you come from wealth or property owning parents, cultivating is virtually a necessity (in Southern Humboldt particularly) because the wages are not in alignment with the cost of living, no thanks to the impact of generations of criminalization.
The consequences of these policies that disenfranchise 90% of farms, ripple out to effect workers too, in the tens of thousands annually. Local establishments where those workers once spent money and frequented are feeling the pinch. Families are fleeing, businesses and schools are closing up regularly. There are still dismal services in rural Sohum, especially for families (daycares, programs, schools) and now many families are finding that with both parents having to work outside the home (no longer cultivating from home), it leaves no time to take care of their children. Yet the average wage in Sohum is about $12, which is what private babysitters cost minimum. Wages are notably plummeting at permitted farms too, while the cost of living is still sky high.
This struggle is being felt by more than farms, families and workers, but also by those who inhabit the land and the land itself. Contrary to the propaganda, the environment is also adversely impacted as a direct consequence of legalization and for many reasons that I get into on this blog. One issue is that larger monocrop growers are inherently enabled by the insanely expensive permit process, while small farms are left buried under penalties for permaculture techniques, ridiculously complex compliance process that is seen in literally no other agricultural industry. No other agricultural crop is taxed as often of heavily either, yes including grapes for wine. In fact if you cultivate grapes without a permit in Napa County, CA you do not face 10k daily fines like we do in Humboldt, but $100 (for the first offense up to $500). Legalization is but the criminalization of farmers by another name.
The novelty of this community of consciousness cultivation techniques and inclusive community, has been sold to the highest bidder and replaced with a handful of mono-crop mega farms and a few heritage growers who are still holding on.
It’s crucial to note that it’s not larger growers fault for this paradigm, besides maybe a handful of contributors that funded local politicians to shape compliance to serve their interests. This circumstance is merely the inherent outcome in the legalization regulations which encourage major producers while stifling small farmers. It happens across the board in every industry, it’s called regulatory capture. It’s not an us v them, permit or not situation. All farmers are cultivating the same plant and dealing with immense county corruption, from various angels. Even those who bought our policy-makers will suffer.
I believe the moment we all team up is the moment we will manifest the level of political pressure required to change course for the benefit of all.