I live in a small rural community in Northern California. I have a view of a pot farm out my back window. This one grew here as it did all over Humboldt County and many other rural communities in the last ten years, like mushrooms after a warm spring rain, overnight. As pot farms proliferated community standards were wiped away. The back-to-the-landers that arrived here in the 70’s and started homesteading here, got into growing a patch of weed in amongst their vegetables, found a profitable cash crop that supplemented often meager incomes.
In the 80’s and 90’s government raids with helicopter, in this part of the world called CAMP, kept a lid on things by busting and threatening to bust the more ostentatious grows. However, CAMP (campaign against marijuana production, I think) seemed to cease in the 90’s and less people were busted. With prices sky high and the risk of being busted very low people streamed into Humboldt and bought up ranches and rural properties. Greed prevailed. For many enough was never enough. Grows became bigger and bigger, community values seemed to go out the window. The environmenthal and community values, that the back to the landers so strongly held dear seemed to be unimportant to this next generation of home grown and carpetbagger pot growers.
People were making money, having good times and mostly not getting busted. Areas that didn’t have the infrastructure became major industrial pot grows. Big trucks, big fences, and huge greenhouses or plastic farms as I see them, sprung up. People brought in truckload after truckload of bagged soil, every year. It has been a disposable economy. Money was good and long term planning lacking. Trees were knocked down, tractors pushed dirt around for grow flats. For me it has been painful. The economy has benefited in many ways. People had money, but the community and ecology have suffered.
With the wave of state legalizeations from Colorado to Washington, Oregon and now as of 2018, California, pot is being grown in a lot of places, not just Humboldt County. We seem to have reached a saturation point. There is just too much of this magic plant out there. With legalization means regulation and taxation and this combined with lower prices due to saturation of the market means that the profit margins are now very thin.
However every negative seems to have a silver lining. The downturn in the pot economy is painful to Humboldt in many ways. Last year, the once great Reggae on the River festival that seemed to grow and prosper along with the pot economy was a bust and the Mateel organization lost a whopping $700,000 dollars as attendance and concession fees were way off. Also the land boom seems to have cooled dramatically and many pot farms are going out of business. This is painful to those going through it no doubt, but I have noticed a resurgence of community values that is heartening.
I am hearing anecdotal stories about people growing lettuce and other kitchen table crops in their greenhouses. People are taking time to go to farmers markets and do more community activities. People are diversifying their farms. Many more land parcels are available for purchase and though prices have yet to come down much, the signs are out there that they will, which may allow regular folks and families, not supercharged with gangster pot money, to buy land and keep the community vibrant.
It is a time of change and challenge in Humboldt County but to me and many other folks who have been through the boom, things couldn’t go on as they had. It was just too much impact on the community and ecology. Now we start the slow road back to community values and environmental healing. Hopefully we are a little wiser, though possibly a bit poorer.