Now that cannabis consumers have easier access to cannabis from a variety of sources, they no longer depend so much on Humboldt County’s professional black market growers. Concurrently, state and federal governments have de-prioritized cannabis eradication programs that once funneled money into local law-enforcement agencies, drying up a major source of funding for them. As the War on Drugs slowly dies of attrition, I find it amusing to watch career criminals and corrupt county bureaucrats attempt to cannibalize each other through the regulatory process. It’s like watching two ticks suck each other dry while the dog enjoys some welcome relief. As these two hopelessly linked pests whither away together in the bright sunlight of a new day, we should marvel at how creatures with such small minds and myopic vision ever became so bloated and powerful, and we should vow to never let it happen again.
Do you remember all of those meetings where growers told the county what they wanted in a cannabis cultivation ordinance? I remember that it seemed to be very important to all of the growers that Humboldt County be the first county in California to adopt cannabis farming regulations, and I remember the county being very eager to give growers what they wanted. Our county government made crafting a cannabis farming ordinance a top priority for about a solid year. Every other issue facing the county got pushed out of the way so that these two parasites, the marijuana industry and county government, could find a new way to divide the blood they had worked together suck so effectively for so many years.
For all of those years, however, the key to their success was their enmity. Growers hated cops, and cops hated growers, and the War on Drugs made that hate profitable for both of them. Now that they’re in bed together, they seem totally incapable of making each other happy, and both seem to harbor unrealistic expectations. Since neither of them have any idea how to be of service to anyone but themselves, they suck each other dry. Of course there’s a lawsuit. Lawyers are the piercing mouth-parts of the social parasite.
On one hand, the county wants to bring an underground industry, that has long operated in the shadows, into compliance with a lot of other stupid and oppressive laws that have nothing to do with cannabis, like our building codes, which were specifically designed to make housing unaffordable and prevent people from starting cottage industries, of any sort, in their own homes. They’ve also got a whole new set of regulations aimed at mitigating the impacts of commercial cannabis cultivation by employing an army of bureaucrats.
The county wants to do this for all 10,000 of our newly liberated cannabis entrepreneurs, but it wants to get paid, and so does every one of those bureaucrats who keeps a file on your pot farm. With cannabis farms spread all over the county and concentrated in the most remote and inaccessible parts of it, it gets expensive and time consuming to conduct inspections to verify compliance. The county is happy to do it, so long as everyone gets paid, but it’s going to be expensive.
On the other hand, we have the cannabis industry, who’s skills at deception, camouflage, and obfuscation have been honed to a fine art after decades of playing cat and mouse with law enforcement in the War on Drugs. They have a relentless and highly skilled legal team that will spare no expense to find every possible technicality and loophole for their clients to slide through. For them, the law is a game, and to them, the value of any law is how much money you can make by breaking it. Taxes and penalties only apply to people who get caught. That makes regulating them even more expensive and time consuming.
Growers would prefer it if the county didn’t worry so much about inspections or verification. They want the law to say that they do all of this eco-groovy stuff to protect the environment, but they know that nobody obeys the law in this county. Growers wanted regulations they could be proud of, not that they would necessarily adhere to. They want the county to be their cheerleader and promote their product, not regulate them out of existence.
Today, as the county scales up its bureaucracies to count all of the money they expect to make by licensing thousands of new cannabis businesses, the price of commercial cannabis continues to plummet, and mountains of weed go unsold. The dynamics of the legal cannabis market make the future profitability of most Humboldt County cannabis farms questionable at best. The real cost of regulating Humboldt County cannabis growers may already eclipse the value of Humboldt County’s cannabis crop.
We should have seen this coming, at least 10 if not 20 years ago. We’ve had plenty of time to prepare, as a county, and in our personal lives, for the inevitable legalization of cannabis, and its subsequent devaluation as a cash crop. Instead of bending over backwards to fuel the fantasies of thousands of growers who have no chance of remaining competitive in the legal cannabis market, the county should have put resources into social programs, affordable housing, adult education, and economic diversity to help people prepare for what is happening now.
Instead of lobbying the state for regulations to limit the size of pot farms in other counties, our county government should tell the state how much prohibition has cost us, and demand a share of of state cannabis taxes to compensate Humboldt County for the poverty, homelessness, violent crime, drug addiction and PTSD that the War on Drugs inflicted on this community. Instead of bragging about the alleged prosperity that the black market cannabis industry brought to Humboldt County, we should have told the world about the high cost of hosting an underground industry.
If we would have measured the social and environmental costs of prohibition, instead of just the number of dollars it put into our economy, we would have known that the War on Drugs was no bargain, and we would know that the economic costs of a multi-generational culture of prohibition-dependence will affect us for decades to come. We could have known. We should have known, and we should have prepared.