One of Garberville’s two weeklies, The Independent, printed a public service announcement sponsored by the Garberville/Redway Chamber of Commerce, and “supported by” the Humboldt County Sheriff, advising pot growers to only hire locals and people they know and trust for harvest work. The PSA also recommends asking for I.D. and checking references. While nowhere in the ad does it actually mention marijuana or trimming, the headline directed at “ALL HOME BUSINESS OWNERS” leaves no doubt as to whom they’re speaking.
In more extensive comments to local blogger Kym Kemp, Humboldt Sheriff Sergeant Steve Knight said, “I’m concerned for the trimmers and for their employers. Both need to exercise caution and common sense.”
“The Sheriff’s office doesn’t want to see anyone hurt or ripped off…Our standpoint is that marijuana is illegal but we surely don’t want people hurt….People aren’t replaceable. Things are….We wish people did not cultivate. They do. Next, we don’t want anyone to get hurt [or] become crime victims.”
Fall brings an influx of travelers to the area hoping for jobs harvesting the plants or trimming the bud or even cooking for the teams of workers. “Our area is known for cultivation and people come from all over the world,” says Lt. Knight. And, he adds, that growers need to be cautious when hiring them. “When you hire someone that just walks into town, you are taking a significant risk. Don’t go blindly. There are people in the world who are predators….When someone has money, someone wants to take it.”
Sgt. Knight goes on to list a series of steps growers and would-be trimmers can take to protect themselves while working in this underground economy. I recommend reading the entire post, since it’s indicative of the “normalness” of the marijuana industry in Southern Humboldt.
It’s just what we do here.
Calling all journalists looking for a story!
If I were in my 20s, here is what I would do. I would go to Willits or Laytonville, in Mendocino County, where I’m not very well known and do what many young travelers do here in Garberville: sit on the street with a “work wanted” sign. Many of these folks either have scissors taped to their signs or make snipping motions with their fingers to passers-by. Many find harvest work and I want to know their stories.
For whom do they work? For how long? Under what conditions? Do they get properly paid? Are they blindfolded or otherwise held to secrecy? Are they allowed to leave and come back? Is it scary getting in a stranger’s truck and being taken down some unfamiliar back road? Was it a good experience, a bad one? Would they do it again?
Like I said, if I were that age (presently at 49, I’m unlikely to be picked up), I’d do it for the experience and story material. Instead, I’ve considered approaching hopeful harvest workers and asking for an interview now, with payment if they contact me for a follow-up interview before they leave the area. I bet there would be some fascinating stories to be told. My time this fall will be taken up with fundraising for my film’s completion, but anyone is welcome to run with this idea. I’d love to hear about it if you pursue it.