Note: This is the third part in a trilogy on the topic of Cannabis cultivation in northern California. Previously published: How Green Is Your Pot? Questions for Conscientious Cannabis Consumers and The Mark of Malice in California’s “Emerald Triangle”
2017 was my fourth season in a row working in the Cannabis industry in California, and it might well turn out to be my last, considering how rapidly the industry is changing, especially since the 2016 passage of Proposition 64 for adult recreational use.
My employment has always been hourly, arranged with handshake contracts, and “at will” for all parties. Never been a boss and haven’t wanted to be. I’d already had my days of running-the-whole-show when I was farmer in Oregon growing vegetables, seeds and herbs (but never pot) for the ten seasons up ’til 2014. Since then, I’ve been perfectly content as a helper for somebody else‘s headaches. Though not elevated in the hierarchy, and certainly not privy to all matters of the trade, I’ve appreciated the “inside” vantage point I’ve had to observe the transitions in the industry, at least as they’ve been playing out in northern California.
I’ve always been strongly in favor of the complete decriminalization and legalization of marijuana for a few reasons. First and foremost, there’s the racist, classist drug war and its unjust imprisonment (an entirely redundant phrase, I know), which must end. Secondly, its ridiculous to outlaw either a plant (no matter its qualities) or a state of mind (no matter how altered). Thirdly, Cannabis has impressive potential as a source of fiber, food and medicine. Cultivating it widely could reduce more destructive practices such as logging, cotton-farming and prescribing pharmaceuticals.
I am thrilled that, as laws are relaxed, fewer people are being jailed and previous sentences are being reduced or dropped. This is non-negotiable. At the same time, I have been keeping my eye on other effects, which have been mixed. Watchdogging is needed; the pot industry is a force to be reckoned with, especially in Calaifornia.
Though still a sector of “the informal economy” (as it is properly called, the “black market” existing only in other countries) marijuana is the biggest cash crop in California. The exact annual take is a matter of debate but what’s not is the burgeoning economic size of the industry itself, in a state that, were it an independent nation, would rank as the sixth largest economy in the world.
The sins of pot farming are many, as is the case with all agriculture. As an historical wave it represents the third (and likely final) ecologically extractive economic boom in the area, the first being gold and the second timber. Indeed, the rapid expansion of the Cannabis industry in northern California has been dubbed the “Green Rush,” an unfortunate moniker considering the genocide and ecocide of the “Gold Rush.” To put it coldly but factually, Cannabis is the financial engine of the current generation of settler colonialism in northern California, and thereby enables the ongoing occupation of stolen native lands.
So what? you might say. That’s how it is everywhere in the US.
Sure, and that’s why it matters everywhere in the US. The widespread nature of our collective crime doesn’t make it less criminal. Here are my observations of the shape of oppression in this place.