A Farmer's Perspective as Marijuana Turns a New Leaf
Before Proposition 64 (Adult Use of Marijuana Act) passed on November 8, people actually debated its nuances. Was this the best we could do, and shouldn’t we shelve it and try to do better in another four years and imprison more people? Why should we wait until 2018 to open retail sales outlets? Like, my girlfriend can’t even take a hit if I am driving? Who is going to grow it commercially, and how? The new law says only licensed vendors can sell it? Just like beer, I guess.
We are already trying to curb one smoking habit, and now we are making another one acceptable? Good point. But the edible marijuana sector has designed bite-sized dosages that are healthier, right? Maybe even cancer-preventative? Maybe now we can get some serious research money positioned on marijuana and bring it off the fringe.
The wall started coming down 20 years ago when Proposition 215, the Compassionate (Marijuana) Use Act was passed. In 2011, possession of one ounce or less was reduced from a misdemeanor to an infraction. The new law attempts to level the field for growers, consumers and law enforcement.
This cat has been so out of the bag, these horses so out of the barn for so long, it’s nearly laughable that regulation will pretend to manage the production and sale of marijuana.
Ten years ago, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff explained to a friend that if he found more than 12 marijuana plants in your back yard you would go to jail. He was tired of chasing down teenagers growing a few plants, locking them up, and crowding the courts with them because they got arrested with a joint in their pocket.
People will grow marijuana commercially in confined environments, greenhouses or hoop houses, chiefly for enhanced security. There is a reason why every avocado grove in California has a 10-foot-high fence around it lined with barbed wire on top. Oranges? Help yourself.
In Carpinteria, professional growers have been producing for the medical marijuana trade for years and the burly guards make no pretense of hiding their little machine pistols.
The new “legislation” provides county and municipal jurisdictions the privilege of creating their own production parameters, be it indoor, outdoor or none at all. But you will not go to jail anywhere just because you had a bag of weed in your jacket pocket. Local constabularies imagine that there won’t be any pot grown under their watch, but that bird has flown. They would have better luck enforcing seatbelt laws. Give the drug police a chance to hunt down the methamphetamine distilleries.
The seed is planted, and one can only hope that soon there will be so much marijuana growing everywhere—once a goodly supply of seed can be had—that no one wants to steal it, grow it commercially or truck it across the state line. In 1969 I grew 25 Colombian plants and I had so much grass I had to give it away. It filled up a three-car garage.
The entire West Coast is now legalized. Other states that passed a recreational use law in 2016 were Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine, while Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas passed medical marijuana measures. Twenty-eight states, and Washington DC, now have legalized marijuana in one form or another.
In 2015, the Demeter Association, a biodynamic certifier, agreed to certify marijuana grown in compliance with their exceptional standards. A lot of marijuana growers ignorantly use pesticides without consulting the already-sketchy restrictions placed on them by industry-fed government regulators.
Other than people in jail serving time for a pot offense, the most important beneficiary of the new law has never had the opportunity to vote and never will because it depends on a few of us to represent its interests: nature.
Most illegal pot is produced in wild areas, chiefly state and federal parks and forests. Satellite-based time-lapse photography of the phenomenon from 2000 to 2015 is a picture of environmental insanity.
Passage of Proposition 64 will make such illegal cultivation unprofi table. State biologists can now return to the forest to conduct research without getting shot at by the mob. Hikers and mountain bikers can now venture up into canyons previously off-limits because of the presence of criminal “grows” where the growers have damned up streams and eradicated wildlife indiscriminately to protect their product.
Salmon and trout were prevented from traveling into traditional spawning areas. Mice ate the pot, so the goons spread rodent poison in the forest. The owls, hawks, foxes, coyotes and bobcats ate the poisoned rodents and died, and then the eagles and turkey vultures that came to clean up the mess died too.
The outlaw growers are not terribly interested in the common good, so vast quantities of prohibited but smuggled agricultural materials were allowed to contaminate streams and rivers that contribute to drinking water supplies and the aquatic world inhabited by waterfowl, fish, crustaceans, mollusks, plants and microbes.
These are the “end users” of our resources, but we depend upon them in intricately woven ways. Prop 64 is a natural solution to another manmade disaster.