Monthly Archives: November 2010

On Thanksgiving in Humboldt, the turkeys run wild and the people get baked.

I’m busy with family over the holiday, so won’t be posting a whole lot, but I had to share this from Kym Kemp. For those who don’t live in pot-growing country, the standard unit of trade is one pound of weed and pounds conveniently fit in Reynolds turkey bags—which are also reputedly smell-proof, even to drug dogs. See some of my previous posts about how many bags our local grocery stores (and garden stores and music store, etc.) sell. We also have flocks of wild turkeys roaming the hills here, introduced for sport hunting over a hundred years ago. So, Kym says that the turkeys will be glad to know that,

“in the Emerald Triangle, the bags are stuffed with vegetables and the people get baked.”

Happy Thanksgiving y’all.

(By the way, I actually saw a turkey bag used to cook a turkey today. How very odd.)

One Good Year covered in Eureka Times-Standard

(Note: this story was from a week and a half ago! I was originally going to add some commentary based on some feedback I got from various people, so I held off posting it for a day. Then, between shoots and a major veterinary emergency with one of my pets that distracted me for a week, I spaced-out that I hadn’t publicized the story. Duh. It’s what happens when I try to be director/producer/cinematographer/social media coordinator and everything else on top of trying to keep the rest of my life together.  Thanks to Donna Tam for making the trip all the way to Southern Humboldt.)

Spotlight on the marijuana industry: Local filmmaker working on a documentary to capture the spirit of the pot trade
Donna Tam/The Times-Standard
Posted: 11/09/2010 01:27:13 AM PST

Five young trimmers sit out on the deck, surrounded by buds, sunlight and the open air of Southern Humboldt.

The scene is set nicely for local filmmaker Mikal Jakubal, who is intent on capturing a slice of life within Humboldt County’s marijuana industry.

One trimmer, a seasoned hand who has a sunny disposition and no shoes on, talks as her fingers nimbly pluck buds and trim them with Fiskars, a brand of scissors.

She said she isn’t a pot smoker and had no position on the recently failed Proposition 19 — which aimed to legalize and regulate pot for recreational use — but she thinks the work is fun.

”We get to hang out in the sun, listen to rad music and hang out with cool people,” she said, with the camera rolling.

Jakubal said the trimmer — who does not live in California but travels to Humboldt for seasonal work — is a part of an industry spawned in Humboldt, just as much as the small pot farmers eking out a living or the big growers who are making plenty of money.

The story he hopes to tell with a documentary he has worked on since March is the underlying culture that attracted many of the older growers in the first place — going back to the land.

”It’s not about dope growing. It’s about what Southern Humboldt is about,” Jakubal said. “You can’t talk about it without talking about weed.”

In his film, Jakubal follows four growers throughout the course of a year.

One of the growers, a woman
who referred to herself as “J,” said she was drawn to the Emerald Triangle during the 1970s because of its lifestyle, not its pot.

”I’m a Bay Area girl that migrated to the hills to raise a family and go back to the land,” she said. “We didn’t come to grow marijuana — I didn’t. It just happened.”

A single mom who raised her children in the area and now has her grandchildren growing up in the area, J is a medical marijuana patient as well. She chooses to smoke pot rather than take pharmaceuticals for her anxiety disorder because of the side effects that kind of medication has on her.

One of the themes of Jakubal’s film is the effect of Proposition 19 on the industry. He said what the film will best depict is how much doesn’t change, even with legalization front and center for the nation to watch.

J said she voted for Proposition 19 despite being wary of its lack of protection for small farmers. She said that ultimately, she’s glad it didn’t pass, but she very much would like to see a legitimate marijuana industry.

Both she and Jakubal agree that Prop. 19’s lack of success was not just because of some greedy pot growers but fear of the unknown.

J said she has watched the price of pot cut in half in the last 15 years. But there is fear that if big industry takes over marijuana, the plant will “lose some of its sacredness, its specialness.”

She said a lot of her friends are not happy that she is in a documentary. They are concerned the industry will be glorified or that it may not be safe for her to be so “out” about it.

J said she wanted to tell her story and help the world see that she is just a grandmother trying to keep her modest middle-class lifestyle and positively contribute to her community any way she can.

”I think the rest of the people in the world have a misconception of marijuana growers — that we’re a wild bunch, and we’re rich and we drive big trucks.”

Jakubal aims to have something produced by next winter, but that will depend on funding. Jakubal said he hopes that the chance for the outside world to access the Humboldt County grow scene in a manner more intimate than what the recent media attention has produced will attract funders.

”It’s such a unique, amazing place,” he said. “It’s this secret little subculture that no one gets to see.”

Weed growers blow up busses and threaten to…”Um…what were we gonna do again?”

By Mikal Jakubal

Last Wednesday, as part of the Bureau Of Land Management’s Critical Infrastructure Crisis Response Exercise Program, authorities staged a mock terrorist attack on the Shasta Dam. According to an article in the Redding, California Record Searchlight, the exercise started with…

…two mock bomb blasts followed by the “Red Cell” terrorist group taking over the dam in an effort to free one of their fellow marijuana growers from prison. Holding three people hostage, they threatened to flood the Sacramento River by rolling open the drum gates atop the dam. Those gates hold back the nearly full lake.

Wait, marijuana growers as terrorists threatening to flood the Sacramento Valley? Whoever thought that one up was smoking something, but it wasn’t pot.

The all-day exercise involved 250 people from 20 agencies, took 18 months of planning and cost the BLM alone half a million dollars. Multi-agency drills are fairly common. They allow agencies with different jurisdictions and different, possibly conflicting agendas—such as local and federal law enforcement, fire fighters and ambulance crews—to practice working together efficiently on large incidents. All emergency response agencies, from local volunteer fire departments to FEMA, do these sorts of drills regularly.

Many commenters on various blogs have mistakenly assumed that the whole purpose of the training was driven by the highly-likely scenario of pot-grower terrorists, making it therefore a gross waste of resources. They’re mistakenly seeing the tail wagging the dog. Such training is necessary and valuable, with the specific mock disaster being irrelevant to the utility of the drill for the personnel involved.

Still, while this particular scenario is laughable on the face of it, you have to wonder why they picked pot growers. Imagine the (appropriate) outcry about racial stereotyping if the hypothetical attack had involved Muslim terrorists? Imagine the storms of protest if the mock terrorists had been modeled as Christian anti-abortion crusaders threatening to flood the valley to stop abortion clinics. How about Tea Partiers mad about…something or other? Don’t want to slap that hive! Native Americans mad about loss of their salmon and traditional lands? Nope, better to just keep that subject out of sight, out of mind. Communist terrorists? So last-century.

What surprises me most is that they didn’t use “ecoterrorists” as the boogeyman. It is especially odd, since Eric McDavid is now spending 20 years in prison for a bogus scheme after an FBI informant set him and a couple friends up in a conspiracy to blow up the Nimbus Dam on the American River near Sacramento. So, again, why pot growers?

All I can think of is that it is part of a Prop 19 backlash or a last-gasp of reefer-madness designed to further marginalize and demonize a group unlikely to garner any sympathy when portrayed in a ridiculously negative light. Or, maybe it was just a snap choice a couple planners thought up over beers one night. Opinions?

Local blogger Kym Kemp also reported on this, as did a blogger on the Washington Post

Hemp Fest Forum: drawing targets on the side of a barn.

By Mikal Jakubal

I spent the afternoon filming the marijuana policy forum at the annual Hemp Fest. This was one of the most consistently good events on the subject of legalization and regulation of the cannabis industry, both medical and recreational, that I’ve seen yet. For an overview of the event, see Kym Kemp’s blog post. I Tweeted highlights, which should give you an idea of who the speakers were and some of their interesting points. You can see my Tweets on the sidebar to the right of this page or go to Twitter and search for #Hempfest forum. KMUD local news will be doing a program on it Monday or Tuesday night and I’ll link to any other stories that others write about it. In the meantime, I would like to editorialize a bit on this process of ordinance writing for an industry trying to find its way forward into the uncertain world of legalization.

Virtually all discussions today had to do with the coming regulation of the cannabis industry statewide, whether that happens via another recreational-use ballot initiative in 2012 (a seeming certainty) or whether it begins with counties setting examples for the State legislature to follow or whether the State legislature itself initiates the process. Everyone who is paying attention understands that change is coming and that those who step up to the plate will be the ones who get to play ball. While writing regulations is something that legislators and their staff are paid to be good at, the cannabis industry demands an unconventional approach.

Best as I can tell, people who write regulations are used to a legislative-push format where rules of conduct are handed down from above and citizens are expected to comply—whether they like it or not. That approach simply won’t work here, partly because of the ingrained feistiness of the citizenry and partly because the existing black market is a familiar and profitable alternative that is not going away as long as there is Federal cannabis prohibition.

What is required is an industry-pull model, whereby lawmakers look at what already works and write laws that encourage it to continue—whether lawmakers like it or not. This is usually how it works when big corporations buy politicians to write laws around their particular industry. In this case, though, the pull is coming from an economically independent, grassroots band of scofflaws—the last people on earth most politicians would want to have to write laws for. It will take some education and political pressure, to say the least, before those at the top figure out that they don’t really have a choice.

I liken the process to “Texas sharpshooting,” where you fire repeatedly at the side of a barn and then draw a target around the biggest cluster of holes. The holes here are in the ground, fertilized with chicken manure, scattered around on the thousands of small pot farms throughout the hills of the Emerald Triangle. The best ordinance is the one that works for the most people and will therefore generate the most compliance. Locate the most holes and draw a target—or in this case, a commercial marijuana ordinance—around them and you’ve got a good start. In other words, legalize and legitimize what is already working for the greatest number of people and they will comply. Make it difficult to comply or attempt to force them into doing something that they don’t want to do or that doesn’t work for them—agriculturally, culturally, socially or economically—and they will ignore it.

This is all hard to do if you can’t find the side of a barn in the first place. The black market is notoriously difficult to pin down, with most assessments being wild speculation and the best being informed wild speculation. How many holes full of pot plants does the average farm grow? What exactly does work for people here? What is a family farm? How much weed are most people growing? How much do people pay trimmers and how many do they hire? How much is required to make a living? To this end, Humboldt Medical Marijuana Advisory Panel will be circulating an anonymous survey that aims to collect data on the black market economy.  The results should be fascinating. I’ll post a link to it once they get it out.

“Mr. postman, won’t you bring me a letter, the sooner the better.”

“Mr. postman, won’t you bring me a letter, the sooner the better.”

Thanks to local blogger Kym Kemp for tipping me off to this story from the New York Times Opinion Pages.

Quite a lot of postage due on this package.

Seems someone mailed a package of pot out of state and put a local bookstore as the (fake) return address in order to make it look legit. Perhaps the sender had partaken in a bit of her or his own produce and wasn’t paying attention, because the parcel was sent without adequate postage, causing it to be “returned” to the bookstore. The bookstore owners, not wanting to be inadvertently caught in someone else’s deal or a potential sting, turned the weed over to local law enforcement—who were reluctant to even deal with such a small amount (under a pound).

For a stoner, having a bag of trimmed pot arrive unexpectedly in the mail would be an even better catch than my earlier post about bags of untrimmed weed causing a traffic hazard in the middle of Highway 101. In both cases, the cops ended up with the marijuana, which is the only reason we were able to hear about these events. It makes you wonder how frequently someone’s misplaced product is found by a smoker who gleefully—and quietly—accepts it as a groundscore from heaven. Probably more often than anyone realizes.

The Emerald Triangle would be a difficult location a fiction writer to set a story in, since truth is so much less believable than anything you could make up. If someone from St. Louis or Tampa or Fargo heard these tales from some random pothead, their response would probably be, “dude, you’re smoking way too much dope to believe things like that!” It’s just like that here.

With all the local and national publicity this story has garnered, one thing can be sure: there won’t be any accusations by either the sender or intended receiver of the parcel that the other is lying about what happened to it.

Hemp Fest Forum today at The Mateel in Redway

Hemp Fest Forum today at The Mateel in Redway

The 20th annual Hemp Festival continues today with some interesting policy forums starting at 2:30pm. Worth checking out if you want to keep up on where the industry is heading in Humboldt County and statewide.

Hemp Fest 2010 – Day 3 – Interactive Forum & Panel Discussion

What: An Interactive (Hemp) Forum and Panel Discussion
When: Sunday, November 14th, 2010 / Doors 2pm / Discusion 2:30pm – 6pm / Q&A Community Workshop 4pm
Where: Mateel Community Center
Tickets: Free

Hemp Fest ForumJoin celebrity guests, informed speakers, law experts, and involved members of the community for and interactive and informative day of discussion and exploration of cannabis related issues and current events….

Guests and speakers will include:

John Trudell (Artist/ activist)
Mark Lovelace (Humboldt County Supervisor)
Chris Van Hook (Attorney; Clean Green Certification)
Tony Turner (Humboldt Co-Op)
Julia Carrera (Licensed acupuncturist)
Robert Sutherland (Activist)
Max Del Real & Joey Burger (Humboldt Growers Association)
Omar Figueroa (Attorney)
Elvy Musikka (Federal recipient of government marijuana)
Haylee Corliss (Legislative lobbyist/ HUMMAP)

… Plus More To Be Announced!

Doors- 2pm
Panel discussion begins at 2:30pm
Q&A/community workshop begins at approximately 4pm

Snack foods and light refreshments available from the Mateel kitchen.
For more info call 923-3368.

What is a family-sized cannabis farm?

A local, grassroots cannabis policy group representing ma and pa cannabis growers in Humboldt wants to get growers’ opinions on what they think of when they think of “small scale” cannabis farming. Humboldt Medical Marijuana Advisory Panel has a new post soliciting input. If you were writing an ordinance governing marijuana policy for California or Humboldt County, how much pot would you allow, what would it cost and how would it be inspected?

With the failure of Prop 19, everyone who has been attempting to write cannabis policy—for medical or recreational use—has gone back to the drawing board. I’ve been following many of these discussions closely and one of the constant sticking points is the question of size. Should the County permit unlimited sized grows or should there be a limit? What is that limit? Is it defined by square feet of dirt growing area, square feet of canopy area, number of plants or quantity of finished product? Should there be a permit fee? How much? Should it increase proportionally to the size of the grow or should the cost increase per unit area as size increases? Should there be different permits for industrial grows and family farms? And that gets back to the original question: how does anyone define what a family farm is in the cannabis business?

These are all questions that people have been grappling with. There are no easy answers, since any regulation has to try and contort itself around the reality of Federal prohibition and the falsity of reefer madness. It truly is an impossible situation to which there is no solution that everyone will like. At best, the inevitable regulations will be a huge compromise and at worst will be ignored by the black market. Either way, the more that people get active and let their opinions be known, the better the coming regulations will be.

Breaking news: Prop 19 passes/fails (circle one) and life goes on as usual!

By Mikal Jakubal

I’ve been working on a post-election story for a while now, but haven’t been able to get my thoughts together on it due to work, filming and the OMG-winter-is-here-and-I’m-not-ready hecticness that comes with country living. Since the Times-Standard story came out today and many people have been asking me how I feel about Prop 19, the election overall and the next steps for the film, I thought I’d do a quick update.

For those who don’t know already, I was very pro-Prop 19 and voted unequivocally “yes.” Was it the dream legalization initiative? Of course not, but I’ve been following the issue closely enough—including some of the behind-the-scenes organizing at the local and state levels—to know that it was workable and that most of the negative aspects could easily be mitigated with active, grass-roots organizing. I’ll explain that soon in a longer post.

In my opinion, the biggest election threats to the pot industry and the legalization movement—medical or otherwise—were the Humboldt District Attorney’s race and the State Attorney General’s race. Progressive, pot-tolerant Gallegos is secure as Humboldt County D.A., but as of this morning, Republican Steve Cooley is still edging-out Kamala Harris in a very close State A.G. race. Cooley has said he’ll shut down dispensaries and will probably try to do a whole lot more if elected A.G. I can only hope that all the pro-weed people who put so much energy into opposing Prop 19 also realized the greater importance of the A.G. race and convinced friends to vote Democrat on that one.

I’ve always been pro-legalization. The whole thing seems like such a ridiculous waste of time and energy for everyone and society as a whole. It was never an issue I cared that much about until the first time I smoked weed at about age 32, during my first year here in SoHum. I remember the evening well. It was at a potluck “up the hill” as we say. My first thought, after I stopped coughing, was, “now I understand ‘getting the munchies!'” The second was, “so this is what all the fuss is about?” I had expected something much stronger. The thought that billions of dollars had been spent and countless lives ruined over something so harmless cemented an already deep-seated skepticism about any moral ground the government or society would ever lay claim to.

As for the documentary, I’m still shooting, but now have the end in sight. I was up filming the election night mayhem at KMUD until after 2 a.m. On the drive home, with Prop 19 a clear failure at the polls, I realized that my film was done. Though the production work is far from finished, the story now has a logical conclusion. I’ll be shooting wrap up material and a bit of settling-in-for-winter-on-the-homesteaad footage and then probably follow up in the spring with the new planting season.

I’ll keep shooting sporadically over the next two years since a 2012 ballot initiative is virtually guaranteed and local organizing efforts will continue. There is also the possibility that the State and County governments will pass some sort of new regulations in the interim and I’ll want to keep up on that for the historical record—or the sequel.

Along with the wrap-up shooting, the next step in the film involves getting funding for post-production. I do not plan to edit ONE GOOD YEAR myself. I’ll need to raise a serious budget to be able to hire a top-notch professional editor.

I’m constantly asked when the film will be out. The answer depends on my ability to raise said budget. With a full professional budget, the film could be done by late summer 2011. If I have to raise money $20 at a time, it might take years. My tentative goal is to have it completed by late September 2011, in time for the Sundance Film Festival submission deadline. If accepted into Sundance (which is VERY competitive), it would premier there in January of 2012.

There is also the possibility that I may choose a self-distribution model and release it the minute it is done, not waiting for festival or broadcast deadlines years from now. No matter what, it is important that it be out in the world in time for the 2012 election season organizing efforts, as it will dramatically change the perception and the story of who “pot growers” are, what the values and farming lifestyle of rural pot-dependent communities are really all about and why Prop 19 was such an emotional issue for those who feared their way of life was being threatened. (More on this will also be in near-future posts. Hint: it ain’t about the money.)

Everyone—growers, legislators, economists,the DEA, RAND Corporation—has predictions about the pot economy and what will happen next, with or without Prop 19. Most of this is wild speculation, with the best of it being informed wild speculation. There is one thing and one thing only that can be predicted with any certainty: next spring, farmers in cannabis-dependent rural counties in California will plant seeds and, in October, harvest high-quality weed that will be sold to willing and happy buyers. You can put money on it—for at least a couple more years.

Day Of The Living-Dead Marijuana

Day Of The Living-Dead Marijuana

By Mikal Jakubal

It's just a few brown leaves...

After yesterday’s tarantula in the trim scene photo, I thought I’d share these much more gruesome (to growers) images of pot-farm terror. Powdery mildew, mold and stretching buds are three end-of-season demons that rival thieves and law enforcement as the stuff of grower nightmares and B-grade slasher movie plots. Well, if anyone made B-grade slasher movies about growing weed.

The photo at right is Botrytis bud mold or stem mold. It kills the plant as it grows, feeding on the dead plant matter like the giant space amoeba in that old movie THE BLOB. I freakin’ loved that movie as a kid!

Mold first shows as brown leaves on the outside of the bud. This entire bud, including all the way to the bottom of the photo (above), is trashed. Compost. Once you cut into something like this, you find the stems rotten well beyond the surface indicators. If you catch it when you see one teeny, tiny brown leaflet, you can often save most of the bud. Within one or two more days at most, this entire bud would have been brown. It happens faster than the bite of a zombie leaves you undead.

Powdery mildew. No, that is not frosty with hash crystals, it's fungus.

Powdery mildew is caused by another, parasitic, fungus that feeds on the living plant juices like a vampire and spreads by wind-blown spores to infect other healthy leaves and plants. A wooden stake wouldn’t do much, but potassium bicarbonate or hydrogen peroxide foliar spray helps.

The plant pictured above was left untreated for far, far too long. Once it gets this bad, it is very hard to eliminate, especially this close to harvest.

Like one of those beanie caps with the little propeller on top.

This bud (right) was left on the plant well past optimal harvest time. Note how the tip has elongated into a central stalk circled by leaflets and calyxes. It’s the marijuana-plant equivalent of being put on the rack.

Growers call this “stretching” or “helicoptering” because of the way the leaflets protrude in alternating pairs like the blades of a helicopter. I’m a volunteer firefighter/EMT, so I usually consider helicopters a blessing, but they get a bad rap in this town.

Once this bud is harvested and dried, that tip will be cut off, leaving a little snipped off stump-end on the tip of the bud instead of a nice, round, groomed top. This sort of stretching takes place throughout the entire bud structure, decreasing the density and increasing difficulty in trimming. I’m told that leaving them on the plant this long also makes the smoke more “stoney” as opposed to giving a more “up” high had it been harvested earlier. (Opinions on this anyone?)

Leaving a bud on the plant this long also increases the risk of mold, as evidenced by the stretch-out tip on the moldy bud in the first photo.

Happy Day Of The Undead!