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.

Just last night, at a solstice party attended by many local enviro activists and many pot growers and many who are both, one of the main topics of our discussion around the fire pit was how the hell to deal with exactly the problems L.A.T. author Joe Mozingo details. We have, at best, a few suggested directions to explore and develop. These include various means of education, community pressure and enforcement, in that order of importance. It’s a huge problem, requiring a far more sophisticated understanding of the culture, economics and legalities of growing than most reporters or policy makers will ever be able to come to grips with. Any effective solution will most likely have to originate from within the grower community and marijuana industry, with agencies and organizations following the lead.

But, that’s a separate post. I’m going to take this opportunity to give you all a reason to support my film and to challenge reporters to put their J-school degrees to use.

In the L.A.T. story, Mozingo hints that not all growers are “terrorizing the environment”:

Some farmers on private land avoid pesticides and poisons, get their water legally, keep their crops small and try to minimize their runoff.

That line, from the top of Page 2, is buried in a paragraph detailing yet more environmental horrors of pot growing.

To make it worse, like a slap in the face to those trying to make a difference, the article contains this quote from Scott Bauer, Dept. of Fish and Game biologist: “I started talking to this [grower], and he says he used to be an Earth First! tree-sitter, saving the trees,” Bauer said. “I told him everything he was doing here negates everything he did as an environmentalist.” Seriously, Scott, did this really happen? It sounds so unlikely in reality, but dovetails with the tone of the story. Not only are pot growers greedy, violent and destructive but, in this narrative, environmentalists are as well. In the event that it is a true story, including it does nothing to further public understanding. Oh, but it helps sell papers.

And, so, once again, the public gets an awful picture of marijuana farming on the North Coast, stripped of any nuance or subtlety. When it comes to medical use, legalization, crafting regulations and so on, that is the picture that citizens and officials will have in mind. The subsequent regulations will then sound like they were written to regulate the asbestos or methamphetamine industry.

[late edit] And guess what? They won’t work.

In this sense, Mozingo’s article fits neatly into the Drug War narrative, but with an eco-twist. Pot is not just an illicit drug, it’s un-green as well.

All of us living on the North Coast know that there is a long-established community of responsible growers, from those with a-few-plants-in-the-yard to family farmers to “large” growers (i.e. anyone growing more than you) who are community-oriented and environmentally responsible; who farm organically and improve the private land they’re living and farming on; who don’t use poisons; and who store water (with or without a permit) in the winter for use during the dry months instead of sucking it from dwindling creek flows.

My film is about these people. You can see the trailer by clicking here. They exemplify the heart of the Humboldt pot culture and the family farmer lifestyle. Many people here are afraid of legalization or efforts to regulate medical marijuana growing because those laws will likely be written with the destructive operators in mind, not family farmers.

By showing another side of the grower community here—and, I’d argue, the more traditional side, the one that made Humboldt famous—ONE GOOD YEAR will help undermine the Drug War ideology, the first step to undermining the Drug War itself. This is where I’d like to challenge journalists to pass up the low-hanging, sensational fruit and look for the alternative stories, the ones that don’t fit the Drug War formula; the ones that challenge the dominant narrative and look for solutions.

There is a great story to be written about the segment of the pot-growing community that does it right. Another to be written about how local growers helped turn the tide on out-of-control diesel spills from generators powering indoor grow light systems. There are also the environmentalist/growers, like the ones at the solstice party, actively working out ways to combat the environmental problems caused by greedy, unscrupulous operators.

Everyone who is paying attention knows that it is a complex problem with complex solutions. My film will help break the discussion out of the Drug War rut. Hopefully mainstream journalists will start getting the picture as well. I’m currently raising money for the film’s editing expenses. If you’d like to help with that, contact me. Thank you.

(P.S., the irony of a journalist from Los Angeles writing about environmentally destructive water withdrawals in Humboldt has been duly noted.)

Be sure to read my follow-up to this in the next post “More Drug War Hysteria For The North Coast Part 2”