Pot Economics

Being “Marijuana Positive” isn’t just for stoners.

Edit funding update: as of this posting, we’ve got $2,273 pledged on our Kickstarter funding campaign, from 48 generous backers. While that’s a small start on the $31,000 total we need to raise in a little over two weeks, it is enough to get the ball rolling.

You don’t have to be a smoker to appreciate the ONE GOOD YEAR story. The questions of who can farm marijuana and how it is farmed raise issues of economic justice, democracy, ecology, sustainability, food and drug safety and civil rights. Allowing small farmers to grow openly in the sunshine and have access to medical and legal pot markets as they develop ensures that consumers and patients will be able to choose where their weed comes from and support those farmers who grow in an ecologically and socially sustainable manner. KEEP READING

The 18-wheel landslide

Humboldt County, especially Southern Humboldt, is hard to get to and hard to get out of. To drive anywhere requires getting from Highway 101 over into the I-5 corridor to the east or northeast or the Bay Area to the south. This is a four to five-hour drive, much of it on winding, two-lane roads. Parts of Highway 36, heading eastbound over the mountains to the Sacramento River Valley, are so narrow as to be nearly one-lane for short stretches.

Of course, more than a few people will tell you that’s why they like it here.
Read more!

If you give me wilderness, waves and wine and show me a sign, I’ll be…

If you give me wilderness, waves and wine and show me a sign, I’ll be…

…uh…in Mendocino? (Apologies to Little Feat.)

This new sign on Hwy 101 northbound (in Sonoma County) omits any mention of Mendo’s number one economic engine, “weed.” The choice of “w” words for the other three features is almost a subtle joke, since whoever commissioned the sign was obviously aware of the county’s reputation and industry. Keep reading

New draft medical marijuana ordinance proposed for Humboldt County

The Humboldt Medical Marijuana Advisory Panel has posted its latest proposal for a Humboldt County medical marijuana ordinance on its website. It’s long, but worth reading if you’re into policy wonkery around this subject.

Almost a month ago, there was a somewhat contentious meeting of the Humboldt County Planning Commission in Eureka, the county seat. The Planning Commission staff (as opposed to the Commissioners) had written a medical marijuana proposal based on City of Arcata laws written to appease opponents of marijuana cultivation, especially those who had become incensed by the proliferation of grow houses in Arcata. This proposed ordinance was very anti-pot and industry-restrictive. It was roundly trounced as unworkable, unenforceable, counter-productive to the evolution of the county-wide industry and as a throwback to the bad old days. In response, the Commissioners scrapped it and asked the community to come up with proposals in time for the next meeting on Thursday, May 12th.

The marijuana industry is undergoing a massive and rapid evolution. What Humboldt County—and California—needs is a pro-industry model ordinance that would create a grower-agency partnership to help the county’s number-one revenue generator evolve into the respected, above-ground commercial endeavor that it should be. HuMMAP has been working on this for over a year, with two of the main subjects in One Good Year being active participants in this process. There have been multiple drafts proposed, hashed-out, modified, rejected and reworked. This is the latest and best, though I should note that I have serious reservations about certain aspects of it. (I’ll do a separate commentary post tomorrow.)

Also, last year, another local group, the Humboldt Growers Association put forth their own draft. They have likewise submitted their revised draft to the Planning Commission staff, but it hasn’t been made public yet. The Planning staff had requested that all interested groups and individuals come to some agreement and submit one plan for consideration, but there are apparently some unresolvable differences between the two groups, so it will be interesting to see how it all pans out in the end. As well, we can expect the anti-pot milieu to pipe up and want their input, so the final result may not resemble anything anyone has submitted. No matter what, being Humboldt County, people will do what they want to do. I think by now the County has come to understand that if you want the honey, you don’t go swatting the hive. All it does is piss off the bees and keep them from being productive.

I should note here that I’ve been at most HuMMAP meetings, both filming and participating in the process (as well as being the webmaster). It is sometimes hard to do both, so I don’t always bring the camera. While the meetings can at times be somewhat unproductive and repetitive and will mostly not be material for the movie, the footage will provide a fascinating look back a decade or two from now. We will either be able to giggle at our earnest stumbling and fumbling or be seen as having made history. Maybe both.

All this is a huge leap from a little over a year ago, after the “What’s After Pot?” meeting at the Mateel Community Center in Redway. At that time, few politicians or county agency staff could say “marijuana” out loud. On Thursday evening, they will all be debating it in public.

What is Humboldt County’s real economic index?

Reprinted here from the Humboldt Medical Marijuana Advisory Panel‘s website:

The Humboldt Economic Index has been used as a measure of economic activity across the county for over a decade, but it has never included our county’s prinicipal economic activity—pot production. Erick Eschker, Director of the Humboldt Economic Index and Professor in the Department of Economics at Humboldt State University, is working to make the index reflect Humboldt’s real-world economy and has developed an anonymous marijuana production survey as a way to gather data while protecting the privacy of growers.

The better we can establish the importance of the marijuana industry to Humboldt County, the more credibility the grower community will have with both government officials and the non-grower general public. The marijuana economy and the community it has supported for over 30 years must become normal, matter of fact and openly discussed, not a matter for snickering, denial or wild speculation. A conspicuous perch on the monthly county economic index will not only lend credibility to what is already in place and working, but will provide a basis for identifying areas where improvement is needed.

If you’re interested in participating, see the introductory letter printed below. You can remain completely anonymous, but there needs to be a one-time verification that you are a real, local grower. You can be verified by contacting Erick Eschker directly or by going through HuMMAP. What verification means is that someone from HuMMAP whom you know would act as a one-time anonymous intermediary, telling Erick that we know someone who is willing to do the survey. He would then assign you a number which we would pass on to you. From then on, you would send in a short form directly to him each month with that number on it.

These days, that level of cloak and dagger secrecy is hardly necessary, with so many people growing very publicly under California’s medical marijuana laws. But, to get a real assessment of the economic activity in the county, it has to include as many people as possible, regardless of operation size or legal status. Erick is interested in gathering data from big and small growers, indoor and outdoor, across the county.

Charley Custer of HuMMAP can be reached at 707-923-1440 and Erick Eschker can be reached at eschker@humboldt.edu or 707-826-3216


NOTE: if you would like, I can also act as an intermediary to verify you with Professor Eschker. Contact me through the contact info on this site.


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.

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.

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