SACRAMENTO, CA - When California voters cast their ballots on Proposition 19 on Nov. 2, they will be setting in motion plans years in the making.
Organic gardeners, entrepreneurs and cannabis researchers are lining up with capital, promising jobs and tax revenue should the measure be approved by voters. Others are growing as much as they can this year in preparation for the price of pot tanking.
In Humboldt County, organic cannabis growers are working together to market marijuana grown in a sustainable way with minimal impact on water supplies and no reliance on pesticide.
"When we talked early on about branding Humboldt, it was a no- brainer to me that the Humboldt brand is about the environment," said Liz Davidson of the Tea House Collective. "The 'back to the land' community that created the cannabis culture was all about sustainability."
Growers in Humboldt, Trinity and Mendocino counties are within what federal law enforcement has dubbed "The Emerald Triangle." Many growers there are depending on marketing their sustainably grown pot as a way of differentiating themselves from chemically reliant indoor grows or the sterility of an industrial grown plant.
"There is an increasing drive to pharmaceuticalize an herb," said Davidson. "I find that as a big conflict, an intellectual disconnect, because you can grow it for free without an environmental impact, in the sun."
It may be free to grow but cultivators in the Emerald Triangle are still looking to make money.
"When you buy our pot, you are supporting communities," said Kym Kemp, a Garberville blogger and community activist. "It's the specialized knowledge of this place. Just like the Silicon Valley because a place of huge technical knowledge, Humboldt County has a workforce of people who really know their stuff."
The drive to market and sell pot statewide is not universal among growers in the Emerald Triangle. One pot grower, identified only as "Mary" expects small economies to suffer if Prop 19 is approved.
"If it gets legalized, the economy around here is going to go down the tubes. A lot of people won't have jobs and not just growers. I'm talking about the town. It will look like a ghost town because it is an industry where there is a lot of money coming in. If enough people start growing their own, they won't be buying," Mary said.
Filmmaker Mikal Jakubal is documenting the year leading up to the Prop 19 vote in his movie "One Good Year." He said the growers he is following are harvesting double or triple their normal crop.
"They think this will be their last good year if it's legalized. They are afraid they won't be able to sell it or that the price will drop by half," said Jakubal.
Whether Prop 19 passes or fails, Jakubal will release his movie next year. He says the measure has given growers once hidden in the hills the courage to talk about their crops and express opinions on public policy.
"There is a good chunk of the community that is actively coming out of the woods and saying, 'You know what? I'm a pot grower. I've been doing this for years. I'm proud of being a pot grower and I want to tell the world my story,'" Jakubal said.
By Cristina Mendonsa, firstname.lastname@example.org