Marijuana News

More Drug War Hysteria For The North Coast–Part 2

[This is an extension of the piece I wrote last night in response to Joe Mozingo’s piece in the L.A. Times titled “Pot farms wreaking havoc on Northern California environment”.

The pot biz in Humboldt was started by hundreds, then thousands, of independent individuals, on mostly self-owned small parcels, with varying degrees of counter-cultural and ecological values, looking to find an alternative relationship with nature and people, who used some of the money from their business to support an array of community institutions. Over time, North Coast marijuana production has grown into an industry made up of tens of thousands of growers, still mostly on their own parcels, in a very heterogenous mix of motivations, values and cultivation styles. While there is no clear newcomer-bad/oldtimer-good divide (despite what some want to portray), the new arrivals seem, from my observation, to be less likely to share the older homesteaders’ values.

More Drug War Hysteria For The North Coast

Pot farms wreaking havoc on Northern California environment

“It wouldn’t matter if they were growing tomatoes, corn and squash,” he said. “It’s trespassing, it’s illegal and it borders on terrorism to the environment.”

We’ve seen this before and it doesn’t help the situation.
The above headline, from an article in the L.A. Times, December 23rd issue, details the environmental problems caused by water diversions, mega-grows, rat poison, land grading and forest clearing done by pot growers.

Or, more to the point, some pot growers in Humboldt County.


As pot becomes legal, don’t burn the family farmers.

As pot becomes legal, don’t burn the family farmers.

Governors in Colorado and Washington have signed their voter-approved marijuana legalization initiatives into law.

Vicious “gangster” guarding marijuana plant

As one smoker interviewed last week in Seattle put it (from the CNN piece linked above):

“It’s amazing. I’m not a criminal anymore. I can’t go to jail for small amounts of marijuana. I’m free to be free.”


“Truce On Drugs”

An insightful article by Benjamin Wallace-Wells in New York Magazine, titled The Truce On Drugs. He did an extensive phone interview with me, after we were connected by Kristin from Emerald Growers Association, whom he’d contacted looking for sources.

I’m busy putting the finishing touches on my Kickstarter campaign. Once things slow down a bit, I’ll reread the story and see if I can add anything to the Humboldt perspective.

It’s different up here.

It’s different up here.

By Mikal Jakubal

Times have changed, no doubt. Last week, a member of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors and a sheriff’s sergeant testified in a Santa Rosa courtroom on behalf of two men charged with transporting pot through Sonoma County. The defendants are employees of Northstone Organics, a permitted medical marijuana collective in Mendocino County. Yes, you heard that right: the sergeant testified for the defendants. These two men were stopped on two consecutive days in what was a clear case of intentional surveillance. It’s unclear why Sonoma County law enforcement would prioritize intercepting an operation that is merely passing through Sonoma County en route to its Bay Area delivery route, nor why they’d intentionally provoke neighboring Mendocino County, throwing down a de facto challenge to the validity of Mendo’s medical pot permitting ordinance.

"Purple Diesel"—a little something to spice up an otherwise all-text post.

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The Grinch Who Stole Cannabis

The Grinch Who Stole Cannabis

It started with a pot-leaf Jack-O-Lantern and a creepy tarantula showing up at a trim scene on Halloween and then for Thanksgiving we got turkey-bag jokes. Now the Grinch busted someone’s cannabis tree. Reading the words from the famous “How The Grinch Stole Christmas,” I couldn’t help but use them as line-by-line commentary on the story.

German police find pot plant adorned as Xmas tree

The Associated PressThursday, December 9, 2010

“Santy Claus, why,” “Why are you taking our Christmas tree? WHY?” –Little Cindy-Lou Who, who was not more than two.

Then he got an idea! An awful idea!

BERLIN — German police say an “old hippy” is facing possible prosecution for his version of the, ahem, highest Christmas tree – a festively decorated two-meter- (two-yard-) tall marijuana plant.

Then he slid down the chimney. A rather tight pinch.
But, if Santa could do it, then so could the Grinch

Koblenz police spokesman Ralf Schomisch says officers raided the apartment of the 58-year-old man following a tip Monday and uncovered a cache of 5.3 ounces (150 grams) of marijuana.

Then he slithered and slunk, with a smile most unpleasant,
Around the whole room, and he took every present!

Then in the living room they discovered the tree – a pot plant adorned with Christmas lights. The suspect, whose name was not released, said he had planned to decorate it further and putting presents under it at Christmas.

“And NOW!” grinned the Grinch, “I will stuff up the tree!”

But it was not to be. Schomisch said Thursday that authorities “had to destroy this pre-Christmas dream” and seize the plant as evidence.

The Grinch had been caught by this tiny Who daughter,
Who’d got out of bed for a cup of cold water.
She stared at the Grinch and said, “Santy Claus, why,”
“Why are you taking our Christmas tree? WHY?”
But, you know, that old Grinch was so smart and so slick,
He thought up a lie, and he thought it up quick!
“Why, my sweet little tot,” the fake Santy Claus lied,
“There’s a light on this tree that won’t light on one side.”
“So I’m taking it home to my workshop, my dear.”
“I’ll fix it up there. Then I’ll bring it back here.”
And his fib fooled the child. Then he patted her head,
And he got her a drink and he sent her to bed.
And when Cindy-Lou Who went to bed with her cup,
HE went to the chimney and stuffed the tree up!

(Complete “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” words here.)

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.

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.

How Much Does Weed Cost?

One of the most amusing and interesting weed websites I’ve ever seen. Amazing that no one thought of this before.
From the site: We want to crowdsource the street value of marijuana from the most accurate source possible: you, the consumer. Help by anonymously submitting data on the latest transaction you’ve made.

They have an interactive website where you can put in the price you’ve recently paid for marijuana and your location, anywhere in the world. A quick look shows that Oregon is the place for cheap weed, with an ounce of “high quality” going for about $278. On the East Coast, Midwest and South, it is running consistently over $400/oz, with ounces in West Virginia  fetching an outrageous $553.

To the extent that this is accurate—it is not terribly scientific, to say the least—it shows that despite the proliferation of medical marijuana laws in other states, their ability to supply their markets hasn’t yet caught up to the demand the way it has on the West Coast. Or maybe there is some sort of inflationary or cost-of-living pressure on the price in these other areas. I was quite surprised to see that California prices are over $300/oz, despite the massive production glut.

It is commonly assumed that most of California’s production leaves the state to supply these more profitable markets shown on the map. One take-away lesson for black-market growers is that if your dealer says, “aw, man, prices are down all over. I can only give you $-,— per pound,” you can whip out your smartphone and pull up this map and call bullshit. Not that I’m advocating interstate transport or the black market, but it is a big factor in the whole economy, like it or not.

The folks behind also have a lot of new features coming up. These people are way on to something and I can’t wait to see how this all develops.