Category Archives: work

The Cannabis Casino

weed casino

Last week I wrote about how our failure to address the housing crisis will ultimately force the emerging legal cannabis industry to move elsewhere in search of a reliable workforce, and about why smart growers are getting out of the business now, while the getting is good. One commenter at LoCO, who has since deleted his comment, said he was getting out of the marijuana business, and lamented that after 20 years in the cannabis industry, he had little to show for his efforts. Another commenter expressed shock and wonder that someone could work in the black market marijuana industry for so long without making more money. This commenter obviously had no experience in the marijuana industry.

 

The truth is, most people who try to make a career of growing marijuana, fare poorly. Growing pot is more like gambling in a casino than working a job. Legal businesses rely heavily on a stable legal system that supports their activity. From criminal penalties for shoplifting to a court system that upholds and enforces contracts, legal businesses only remain reliably profitable, because the threat of government enforcement keeps everyone honest. The black market marijuana industry enjoys no such support, and is made, largely, of people who specialize in evading law enforcement. No one plays by the rules, treachery, deceit and thievery are common, and violence is trump.

trump points up

Some people hit the jackpot in casinos, but most end up losing money, or at best, breaking even. The same is true of the marijuana industry. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the same marijuana industry that brings so much money into Humboldt County, also produces unbearable poverty for far too many of the people who work in that industry. There are no stable, good paying jobs in the marijuana industry. Instead, people gamble with their lives.

marijuana gamble

Here’s something that happens every day, all day, all over the country. It happened recently to a couple of young friends of mine. They got invited to come out here to work on a pot farm, and to trim the weed at harvest time. They both put in a lot of hard work in the hot sun all Summer, weeks and weeks of 16 hour workdays spent trimming weed, and many cold November nights sleeping in soggy dome tents in the rain. By the end of last year, they had saved a good chunk of money, but they knew they could make even more, if they used the money they earned here, to buy marijuana at Humboldt County prices, take it home with them, and sell it at the prevailing price there.

selling weed why the fuck

Unfortunately, they got pulled-over by a cop in a state with less progressive marijuana laws. The cop arrested them, confiscated their weed, and took their money. They spent a week in jail, had to have their parents bail them out, and hired a lawyer. Not only did they lose a year of their lives and everything they earned, they still have to pay hefty fines, legal fees, and spend a year or more on probation, at least.

chain gang

For a while last winter, in their scissor delirium, they thought they were doing pretty well. They went out to dinner once or twice at the Benbow Inn, bought some expensive scotch at the Redway liquor store, and donated money to KMUD. Now they’re broke, in debt, and have a criminal record. This year they’re back to try again, but they are worse off than when they started.

worse off

Something like that story has happened to almost a million people every year, for almost 50 years now, including about 800,000 last year alone. Just because the marijuana industry brings a lot of money here, that doesn’t mean that most of the people in this industry do well at it. Some do, but a whole lot more have the perception that they are doing well, for a short period of time, just like gamblers in a casino, and that feeling makes gambling, and the marijuana industry, addictive.

high steaks gambling

CAMP raids ruined a lot of people’s lives, for decades, even if they never got arrested. If you managed to put together a good year or two, and used the money to put a down-payment on a piece of property, build a house and put in a grow, you probably thought you were doing pretty well. Then, just as your plants approached maturity, helicopters showed up and CAMP smashed your whole operation. As a result of the raid, you lost a whole year’s income. Because you didn’t have the income, you missed your land payment, so you lost your land, the big down-payment you made, all of the annual balloon payments you made before they busted you, and the house you just built. This has happened to hundreds of people here in Humboldt County. Some people have sold the same piece of land, four or five times, to four or five different ambitious young growers, and gotten higher prices each time they sold it because of improvements made by each successive alleged “new owner” before foreclosure.

marijuana helicopter

Cops aren’t the only hazard in this business. Mold, woodrats, mites, deer, elk, gophers and ripoffs can all ruin a crop almost as fast as CAMP. Then there’s fire. Lots of people lose their crop in wildland fires. If the plants themselves don’t burn, they might die because no one could get into the evacuation zone to water them.

fire victim

One friend of mine was doing pretty well. He had acquired land and was building a house. At harvest time, he used the unfinished house as a drying shed for his crop. While drying, some of the weed fell onto a portable propane heater which started a fire that consumed the crop and burned the house to the ground. It devastated him.

destroyed house

 

Nobody has insurance in this business, and setbacks like this can take years to recover from, if they don’t crush your spirit completely. Some people never recover from setbacks like these. Instead, they fall into alcoholism and/or hard-drug addiction, which become setbacks themselves, which lead to more setbacks. After a few such setbacks, most people are pretty well screwed.

you know youre screwed

Damn near everyone in Humboldt, it seems, is on probation, parole, or has a felony conviction in their past, and our drug addiction rates are through the roof. Far from making us more prosperous as a community, the marijuana industry has become a trap that produces gross income inequity, devastates the natural environment, and unleashes an epidemic of economic refugees while it makes us feel ever more dependent upon it.

weed and money trap

Yes, the black market marijuana industry accounts for a lot of the money that comes into Humboldt County but it also accounts for a lot of the homelessness, poverty and drug addiction we find here too. Like a casino, the War on Drugs makes a few lucky people rich, while it swindles the rest of us with games of chance where the odds are stacked against us, and like a casino, it doesn’t really produce anything, except poverty, social problems, and money. Would you care to place a bet on the future of Humboldt County?

last bets


A Proposed Cease-Fire

cease-fire 

While I’ve greatly enjoyed venting my spleen at SoHum’s Bourgeois, I realize that you don’t all fit so neatly into my broad, and broadly negative, characterizations. I know a lot of you personally, and I know that you like to think of yourselves as basically decent people. Hell, I like to think of you as basically decent people. Why else would I waste my time communicating with you, but I also happen to know that the poor in SoHum are basically decent people, as well, as are nearly all of the of seasonal workers who descend on Southern Humboldt every year to harvest and trim your marijuana.

I didn’t start the class war in Southern Humboldt. I just answered it. I got really sick of seeing the way the middle-class treat the poor and homeless around here, and I got sick of the propaganda campaign in the local media. If the poor and homeless of SoHum were black, you’d call it overt, institutional and brutally violent, racism, but it just happens to be aimed at mostly white people. It’s just as ugly as racism, and just as hateful, but it’s something different. It’s a caste system, a community segregated by class.

caste system

Which strikes me as absolutely ridiculous, because nobody around here has any class. We can’t convince doctors to move here. Why? Not because of the climate, not because we don’t have plenty of natural scenic beauty, not because of traffic, noise or air pollution. Doctors don’t want to live here because no one around here has any class. This is the most low-brow community I’ve ever lived in, and this really ugly, scapegoating attitude towards the poor is just one example of our general vulgarity.

vulgarity periodic table

I understand your frustration. This town doesn’t look the way you would like it to look. You spend a lot of money to have a storefront on Redwood Drive and you want people to see your window display, not five hippies smoking a joint, but getting mad and calling the cops will not solve the problem. The people who hang-out in town live here, work here, and pay taxes here. They have a right to dress as they see fit and carry whatever they like. They can also walk their dog, smoke their cigarette and/or stand on the sidewalk talking to their friends, for as long as they like. None of these things constitute a crime. Now we all pay a special sales tax, Measure Z, so that local merchants can use law enforcement officers as bouncers and treat our public spaces like their own private club, and they’ve passed new laws to criminalize poverty. What an ugly waste of waste and money! It’s time to face reality.

face_reality

Reality isn’t pretty. The illegal marijuana industry isn’t nearly as benign as we’d like to believe. It creates tremendous economic disparity, and we see it on the streets of Garberville. This industry ruins many times more people than succeed at it. For decades, and still today, cops arrest nearly a million people a year for marijuana. They confiscate and destroy millions of pounds of marijuana every year, and every year thousands of people have their lives turned upside-down, lose their assets, spend time in jail, and/or have their good names besmirched with felony convictions, just to keep the price of marijuana high enough to make the dope yuppie lifestyle possible.

HCCC b

For every winner in this game, there are a lot of losers. You’ve got to figure that a lot of people end up on the street because of the marijuana industry, and you ought to accept that a lot of those people are here. It’s sad, but for a lot of people around here, marijuana is the only life they know. They’re like coal miners in West Virginia. This is all they know, so they come back to it again and again, never acquiring education, never paying into social security and never getting out of Humboldt. That’s one problem, but it’s not much better for honest working people.

coal miner and son

Most jobs in town offer $9-12 an hour. You will never find a place to live in Southern Humboldt that you can afford at that wage, and who can blame people for not working their lives away, just to pay the rent on a room to sleep in. It isn’t a matter of choice. A lot of people have no good options. They are all doing the best that they can, and they all deserve a little dignity and respect.

sleeping in public

 

In addition to our year-round population, we get a massive influx of seasonal workers every Fall who need low-budget accommodations. We’re going to have hippies. They will bring guitars and drums and dogs and sell stuff on the sidewalk. They will take drugs, smoke weed and drink. This is reality. The vast majority of the people who buy marijuana, sell marijuana and make marijuana are poor. These are your customers, your distributors and your manufacturers. Without them, there would be no marijuana industry, and all of that money you’ve come to depend on, comes from them.

Trimmigrant

We need to make space for people who are not middle-class, and we need services for people who are not middle-class. I do, genuinely, find the middle-class disgusting, revolting, obnoxious and belligerent. I don’t like seeing them on the streets, and I find them intimidating. I can’t stand the way they smell and I despise the air of entitlement they carry, but If I saw one meaningful action, something I, as a member of this community, could take some civic pride in, just one meaningful action that would make life a little easier for the people who are struggling, economically, and dealing with difficult situations, in Southern Humboldt, I could put aside those petty differences, at least for a while, and talk about some of the very positive things going on here in Southern Humboldt. 10 Bonus Points if it happens before the trimmigrants get here.

homeless in garberville


SoHum Has Created a Monster

we have created a monster

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors just passed a new, unnecessary, unconstitutional and unkind ordinance to limit free speech and criminalize poverty called the “aggressive solicitation ordinance.” They might as well have passed a dress code too, for all the good it will do. This is just the latest attempt to sweep Humboldt’s poor and homeless under the rug, but the poor and homeless will not go away because poverty is systemic in our local economy.

44 million americans live in poverty

Because of prohibition, the marijuana industry breeds poverty, and the real-estate driven economy breeds homelessness. The people who complain the most about the poor and the homeless are the people doing the most to create the poverty and homelessness in our community. Rather than address our housing crisis, low wages, or the out-of-control organized crime problem, the Board of Supervisors decided to punish the victims, the honest, hard-working, low-wage workers who actually generate most of the wealth in Humboldt County.

minimum wage

This ordinance has nothing whatsoever to do with “public safety” and everything to do with greedy real-estate bloodsuckers, dope yuppies, business owners and mobsters who are making a killing right now off of the “green-rush.” The same people who sell out our forests and rivers to the highest bidders, create poverty and homelessness in our human communities too, but they hate to see it in public, so they send cops to harass the poor and create new laws that criminalize poverty, like this new ordinance.

Criminalizing-Homelessness

Greed is even uglier than poverty. Greed poisons the soul and turns decent people into degenerate monsters of consumption. I don’t know if greed makes people stupid or if stupidity makes people greedy, but stupidity and greed always go together, and together, they make ugly. That ugliness is palpable in SoHum.

greed is an ugly catalist

Even a newcomer can feel it. I noticed it the first time I came to Garberville almost two decades ago and it has only gotten worse since. The whole town loudly exudes ugly, stupid, crass, greed. You can practically see it in people’s faces and you hear it almost every time they open their mouths. That’s the kind of ugliness that makes Southern Humboldt so repulsive to decent people who might consider moving here, and that’s the kind of ugliness that undermines the quality of life for the people who do live here.

greed cant look away

Real-estate offices don’t attract tourists. Increasingly, real-estate offices provide no service at all to ordinary citizens, who were long ago priced out of the housing market. The greedy leeches lurking within those offices only value the natural beauty of this area and the uniqueness of this community to the degree to which they can turn it into money that they can stuff into their own pockets. They are the ones inviting every drug-dealing greed-bag in America to come to Humboldt County to destroy our forests and choke out the last wild salmon. They are the ones making Humboldt County unaffordable to anyone but drug-dealers and they are the ones making the people of Humboldt County poor and homeless while they make themselves filthy rich.

greedy real estate agents

Who needs them? We should have learned our lesson after the mortgage fraud collapsed the housing market. They are still the same greedy, lying, cheating bastards that wrecked the economy and made everybody homeless to begin with. Haven’t we had enough of their shit?

enough of this shit

Drug-dealers aren’t any better. If anything, drug-dealers are even greedier, dumber, and even more dishonest than real-estate leeches, and there’s a lot of crossover around here. Most of our real-estate leeches deal drugs too, and a lot of our drug dealers get into real-estate as a way to launder their drug money. Between the two of them, they’ve turned SoHum into a vortex for the greediest and the slimiest. They’ve created the perfect environment for hard-drug pushers, prostitution, human trafficking and child pornography among other things, which they welcome with open arms, so long as it has enough money.

welcome gene simmons

From the depths of this pit of depravity, and fueled by the filthy black market cash that fills it, Estelle Fennell rises like Godzilla to crush the poor, honest, working citizens of Humboldt County and all who would oppose her.

 

godzilla rises from the deep1

Stomp, new subsidies for real-estate developers.

Godzilla_stomp

Stomp, new subsidies for property owners.

godilla stomp 3

Stomp, those subsidies now get paid by Humboldt County’s poor and homeless.

godzilla_stomp 1

Stomp, this new ordinance makes it illegal to ask a stranger for help and effectively blocks grassroots organizers from building a campaign against her.

godzilla stomp 2

Stomp! What’s next?

godzilla trail of destruction

A very real monster is destroying our forests and our communities, and that monster passed this ordinance to cover it’s tracks, and dispose of the bodies of it’s victims. We have to stop it, before it’s too late!

stop fingers before it's too late


“Aggressive Solicitation”

help

It’s open season on the poor and homeless in Southern Humboldt. Vigilante gangs terrorize them on the streets. Cops abuse them and local merchants harass them for not looking prosperous enough to patronize their overpriced ripoff businesses. Now the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors intends to pass a new ordinance designed to punish this oppressed population still further, while it chokes out our civil rights and strangles the democratic process to boot. The so-called “aggressive panhandling” or “aggressive solicitation” ordinance will make it a crime to ask for help in Humboldt County.

cops harass woman

Under this proposed ordinance, a person who had just been robbed, stabbed, beaten and left laying on the sidewalk screaming for help, could be cited for “aggressive solicitation.” This ordinance could stop Ray Oakes from asking the “Question of the Week” for the Humboldt Independent, and this ordinance could certainly be used to prevent effective grassroots organizing. Unions would have never gotten started without “aggressive solicitation.” It takes a whole lot of “aggressive solicitation” to get any grassroots political movement off the ground, and here in America we have whole religions dedicated to “aggressive solicitation.”

street preacher

Here in the USA, we decided, almost 250 years ago, that we prefer “aggressive solicitation” to violence, deceit and treachery, which had long been the custom in Europe, and it was the proud American tradition of “aggressive solicitation” established by such patriots as Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry and Paul Revere that made this country a beacon for freedom and democracy. More than a civil right, the right to “aggressively solicit” is a human right, and a birthright. In fact, “aggressive solicitation” is the only thing we know how to do, instinctively, from birth.

screaming baby

Without “aggressive solicitation” we would not survive as a species, and “aggressive solicitation” has an important function within the community, as well as the family. It makes no more sense to prohibit “aggressive solicitation” within the community, than it does to punish a baby for crying in the house. If your baby won’t stop crying, you don’t punish the baby, you feed the baby. “Aggressive solicitation” is a signal, and we ignore it, or worse, prohibit it, at our own peril.

feed the baby

In another era, both past and perhaps future, with more enlightened judges, the Supreme Court would almost certainly shoot down any ordinance resembling the one the Supes currently consider, but thanks to the Scalia Court, the court that handed down “Citizens United” and declared that money is protected speech and corporations are citizens, they could probably get away with it. Who knows how constitutional this proposed ordinance, or the one Eureka and Fortuna passed, will look next year?

future of the supreme court

I did a lot of political work back in the ’90s, to legalize marijuana, and to close nuclear power plants. We would never have been able sustain those movements without a significant amount of “aggressive solicitation.” I know, because I did it. I could get a complete stranger to write me a check for $100 in two minutes.

write a check

I didn’t just approach pedestrians, or stand on street corners, malls, parks and other public spaces, although I did plenty of that too. I went even further. I raised a lot of money for a number of organizations by wandering through neighborhoods where I didn’t know anyone, onto private property, and knocking on complete strangers’ front doors. I knocked on about 50 doors every night. That’s “aggressive solicitation” no matter how you look at it. Lots of people called the cops on me.

call the cops

At the time, what I did was considered constitutionally protected free speech. We had a legal department, and when we didn’t have a legal department, we had the ACLU. Occasionally, some little uptight burg would pass an ordinance like the one the Supes are now considering, and liberal New England lawyers would swarm them like hornets, and they’d never do it again. We won every time.

ACLU

Around here, non-profit groups seem to rely more on alcohol sales and parties to fund their campaigns, than the kind of direct grassroots fund-raising that I did. I doubt any of them will recognize the threat this proposed ordinance poses, or stand up for their right to become politically relevant one day. The poor and homeless don’t have a legal team to defend their rights, and the general public has no idea what it takes to organize a grassroots movement, and I doubt many of them even care.. It seems most people in Humboldt County prefer violence, deceit and treachery to democracy anyways.

treachery and violence

But here’s the kicker. I have, never once, been “aggressively solicited” by anyone in Humboldt County. I don’t spend a lot of time in Garberville, but I usually walk from the library at the North end of town, to the thrift stores on the South side of town, right through the Garberville shopping district,, at least once or twice a week. I’ve usually got a buck for anyone who asks, but hardly ever does anyone ask. When they do ask, people usually ask very timidly, and often I can barely hear them.

shy homeless person

Even in Eureka and Arcata, I get “spanged” every once in a while. Usually by the fourth ask, I’m tapped out, but I can’t remember the last time four people asked me for spare change on the same day, anywhere in Humboldt County. Does that really constitute a problem? Once, years ago, I got hustled for $20, by the kid who used to own Nacho Mamma, when I saw him a few years later, in the parking lot of Eureka Natural Foods. Honestly, I was glad to see that at least someone around here had it together enough to concoct an effective rap, and I knew the guy. If he told me he needed $20, for anything, I’d have given it to him, once.

20 dollar quote

I don’t think we have a problem with “aggressive solicitation,” so much as we have a problem with “aggressive fascism.” We have a craven cadre of drug dealers, real-estate developers and merchants pulling the strings of our elected officials to invent new laws that criminalize poverty and stifle dissent. They all want to skim the economic cream from the injustice of the War on Drugs, while they criminalize the poverty the War on Drugs creates in this community. Does it get any uglier, greedier or more corrupt than that? No, I don’t think we have a problem with “aggressive solicitation” at all. We have a much bigger problem than that, and it’s going to take a lot of “aggressive solicitation” to solve it.

Fascism mussolini quote


An Open Letter to Willie Nelson

Dear Willie,

willie nelson norml

I write to you today on behalf of marijuana smokers across the US, of which I am one, and on behalf of my community here in Humboldt County, California. I write to you because I read recently that you intend to market, or at least license your name to, a brand of cannabis products. I’m glad to hear it. I wish you enormous success on your new endeavor, and look forward to trying your weed.

WilliesReserve-

I know that you’ve been working for legalization since at least the Carter administration.

willie nelson jimmy carter

I’ve been working for it for a long time too.

me

Now that it looks like we have finally done it, here in California, the people who profited so much from marijuana prohibition, politicians and black market drug dealers, are working together to keep marijuana expensive through excessive regulation and taxation.

babylon bucks

This policy of high taxes and anti-competitive regulation insures that the black market for cannabis remains strong because cannabis in the legal market stills costs more than it does on the street. The black market for cannabis is destroying my community, not to mention some of the last great forests in the lower 48. We have grown pot for a long time here in Humboldt County. However, the recent dramatic expansion in cannabis cultivation here, has had serious impacts on spotted owl habitat, endangered Coho salmon and the Pacific fisher, not to mention the quality of life for the people who live here.

endangered in Humboldt County

The black market economy has had a corrosive effect on my community. The black market for marijuana has the effect of devaluing all other forms of work. Kids here expect to grow up to become drug dealers, like their parents, and they start young. This creates special challenges for our public school systems. Violent crimes, like home invasion robbery, murder, and violent assault have become commonplace in our small rural community, and we have some of the highest suicide and drug overdose rates in the state. Despite the supposed “economic benefit”of the black market marijuana industry, it produces a very deep kind of poverty in this community.

get the fuck out

Sure, there’s more money around town, thanks to the black market, but that money mostly goes into the pockets of the very worst people, and the promise of black market money brings more of these greedy bottom-feeders to Humboldt County every day, where they chop down trees, poison wildlife and convert local housing into grow operations in order to coldly exploit marijuana prohibition in the rest of the country. Believe me, the money that the War on Drugs has brought to Humboldt County has done more harm than good, and the harm the black market marijuana industry does to this community is expanding at an astronomical rate.

pot farms destroys forest

 

Humboldt County became a popular place to grow marijuana because of its remoteness, and because of the cover the forest provided. Today, drug dealers from all over the country come here to grow weed, but thanks to our work to legalize cannabis, they no longer need to hide under the forest canopy. They know that here, the county government loves their money, the Sheriff will ignore them, and that we have the infrastructure to supply them with all of the soil, fertilizer and grow supplies they need. However, the land here is steep, heavily forested and very poorly suited to agriculture. Marijuana farmers use incredibly wasteful production methods, and our remote location makes everything here more expensive. There’s no reason you couldn’t grow pot that was every bit as good as we grow here, for a hell of a lot less money, somewhere else.

cannabis-farm

That’s why I’m writing to you today, Willie. We have turned the tide in the War on Drugs, and we have forced the politicians to change the laws, but politicians and drug dealers remain as greedy as ever. We can’t let them continue to rip-off pot smokers. Pot smokers deserve deserve a break after all of these years, and it’s time for the legal business community to serve cannabis consumers with safe, reliable cannabis products at prices that put black market dealers out-of-business.

drug-prohibition

Pot is not difficult to grow. I’ll bet you could grow a hell of a lot of it in Texas, and I’ll bet you could grow it cheaper there, than we can here, even if you have to haul your water all the way from Louisiana. This nation needs weed, Willie, and Americans need reliable cannabis that they can afford. Thus far, the licensed legal growers in Washington, Colorado and Oregon have not begun to quench this nations’ thirst for cannabis. As cannabis becomes more reliable and accepted, the demand will likely rise as well. Also, as the price of cannabis falls, the demand will increase as people devise imaginative new ways to use cannabis. What that means, Mr. Nelson, is that this nation needs an enormous amount of weed, and we are counting on you and your company to produce it for us.

willie_nelson_better america

I know that you might feel tempted to smoke another joint and think about this for a while, but my community needs relief today. We need to stop this disease now, before it wipes out the last wild salmon, before it drives the spotted owl to extinction and before the last Pacific fisher dies of rodenticide poison. What’s more, we need to drive this insatiable greed out of our midst before we lose any more of our community to the War on Drugs.

no drug causes the fundamental ills of society

You have the opportunity to make a LOT of money for you and your investors, create jobs for American workers, and make marijuana affordable for the people who need it most. At the same time, you would save our environment, my community, and put violent drug cartels and greedy criminal gangs out of business. We should have done this back when Carter was president, but we absolutely need this ASAP, PDQ and NOW!

asap pdq now

It shouldn’t cost as much to sit on the front porch and smoke a doobie while you strum your old guitar, as it does to go out to a bar and have a couple of beers. American workers should not have to work an extra day each week, just to pay for the pot it takes for them to enjoy a joint at the end of a long day at work. Americans need the stress relief that cannabis provides, and they don’t need the extra stress of ridiculously high, prohibition-era prices, when they can barely keep a roof over their head and food on their plate as it is.

american workers struggle

When we started fighting for the legalization of marijuana, it wasn’t because we wanted drug dealers to be able to legitimize their illegal profits. We worked to legalize marijuana because we love marijuana and we don’t think that anyone should go to jail for it. The American people deserve marijuana, and after all that marijuana smokers have been through because of prohibition, we deserve safe, reliable, high-quality marijuana at a price we can afford. I hope you can make that happen, Willie, before it’s too late for my community.

Make-it-happen-

Sincerely, John Hardin

jh at bfr crop

 


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