The Emerald Triangle starts around Ukiah and branches out west like deep primitive forest to the coast, full of steep mountains and unfriendly hills. It stretches all the way north to Oregon hiding many sins and Hippies.
More and more I am spending time up there speaking with growers, activists, writers, insurance sales-people, store keepers, cement mixers, organic farmers, resort owners, and sometimes, a conglomeration of those who do it all.
It’s a simple three hour drive from my Haight/Ashbury headquarters in San Francisco to the Triangle. Because we’re talking about an area the size, I don’t know, Rhode Island, Connecticut, it would be impossible to cover the whole northern part of the state; I mostly bounce between Humboldt and Mendocino County. This is where the action is. This is where the best dope in America is grown.
I’ve mentioned in previous columns about all the signage alongside Highway 101 going north advertising nurseries and garden centers offering the best organic fertilizer guaranteeing the biggest buds! Tractor equipment and rental places that says they’ll be your best friend when harvest time comes. It’s no secret what’s going on, but it is.
The Triangle is like the string game, Cat’s Cradle, when it comes to Dope. As kids we used to play this game with string where you grab the two outside strings, introvert the position of the string causing what was on the outside is now on the inside. Y’know just like the game, Cat’s Cradle, Pot is on the inside while at the same time, on the outside. It is everywhere, but you will never see it unless you’re a local or they trust you.
Dope is all around you. It’s never spoken about, but everyone’s talking about it. On the sidewalks outside of the hardware store, folks are complaining about needing more three quarter inch tubing than they thought. Two women while shopping in the market or in the fabric store may ask each other how many plants could one expect to get from high power sodium light. And these days, one might be able to overhear someone say to another, “Do you have your permits? Are you going to get permits?”
I can’t say this enough, it’s all happening…
Because of Proposition 19 and the impact that the Dispensaries in Cali have started, the game has been amped up. And that goes for both sides of the coin.
I’d say in the last five weeks the Highway Patrol has stepped up their operations dramatically. Driving up and down 101, asphalt is starting to look like a revenue stream. I can’t believe all those cars pulled over were for speeding.
On Tuesday of this week, the last week of July 2010, I was visiting with some friends in Laytonville, just having an ice coffee downtown when the news hit town that the usually understanding Mendo deputies shot a grower. Dead. We were stunned. Part of party had just been in the area. Silence.
Guns. Violence. It’s not new to Pot. Growers pack and may even expect their crew to strap. But Legalization seems so close. Growers are coming out of the shadows for permits issued by those same deputies, in a way, to grow Pot legally. But these days before a possible cease-fire may be enacted, it seems like both sides are trying to get their shots in.
Shooting a grower is bad business. The wave of fear and realistic paranoia has many on edge.
Number one, we’re talking about individuals who may have been growing for thirty or more years, or sons and daughters of growers. That’s a lot of sweat equity and branding to give up recklessly. There might have been second generation growers who contemplated about stepping out of their carefully crafted anonymity into the known world, are justifiably fearful now when their neighbors are being shot for growing. The grey area is very gray these days. People can’t be sure what side is up, if you know what I mean.
The Mendocino Police, scratch that, the Bureau of Equalization or something, wherever California does business, offered the growers of Mendo permits to legally grow Marijuana. They expected about three hundred of the many growers in the county to come forward. Thirty growers stepped forward. It is hard to know who to trust when property, money and lives are at stake. Not to mention, to qualify for a permit, there are about sixty hoops to jump through before you even think about coming out. Right now, the permit situation is horrible. It is unrealistic for many of the small growers financially and for the most, it’s a question of water, electricity and the luck of location, location, location. But at the same time with the advent of permits, the state is offering a way out legally for some growers.
Change is hard.
I spoke to a grower who was able to qualify to grow the permitted ninety-nine plants sanctioned by the state. He said, “Y’know I’ve been growing so long under the grid, that now that I can grow legally, I’m still planting them in the shadows and in the forest. And I don’t have to now, but…”
There’s a couple who are terrified by the story SF Weekly ran on the couple who own the store Tie Dye2 in Laytonville. “We were all set up to get our permits. Some folks had to put big expensive changes to their property or patch, but we were good to go. We had local water. Legitimate electricity right from PG & E. Everything. But after that article, we’re going to wait this out, like a lot of other people are doing too.”
What was so bad about the article?
The couple I was with, when I asked that question, the guy tried to speak. “They’re going to bring in the Feds. They said we ship product back East. That’s interstate, man. That’s not good,” the wife steamed.
“But honey, there’s writers and journalist coming to town almost every day now, looking for stories to write,” the husband said as they both looked at me.
“Still. No matter what. You don’t put in print that you grow or deal” she insisted. “Unless you want the whole world to know. And the cops.”
For most growers, to lose a crop is devastating. To lose your land is unforgettable. It can’t happen. That’s why some growers won’t come out. It means they could lose their land if they were busted. It’s that simple.
Dying over it is an entirely different thing. Most of the growers have rode shotgun for the night or nights in their patch. Growing Dope is a very personal experience. Not only because of all the dollars that goes into raising Weed (anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 large, depending), but you put your heart into it. Nobody’s gonna steal that without a fight.
Some locals whisper that if Prop. 19 did pass this November, many members of law enforcement would lose money. I can’t prove that. I’m waiting for an interview. (More later about that.)
But what I do know is starting around Willits, California, the heat is on, and I’m not talking summertime temperatures. Drive carefully and smart.