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California Cannabis: The Uphill Push

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California Cannabis: The Uphill Push

A longtime cannabis farmer discusses operating under new cannabis regulations.

Sometimes I feel like Sisyphus. The ball gets heavier every day, yet I keep pushing it uphill, determined and exhausted. I remain convinced it is all worth it, for the sake of cannabis, but it’s hard work. I can almost feel my muscles growing stronger.

But why is this our karma? We have tried our level best to cultivate her with full consciousness and love. We have always respected the plant and imbibed with full intention. Sisyphus’ eternal pushing of the boulder uphill was a punishment for being a deceitful and murderous man. So why do we, the small farmers, deserve this? All I can figure is we are being punished for all those years of being outlaws. They seem to think that it’s our turn to pay back. Really? The cannabis pioneers have been the economic support and tax base of the Emerald Triangle for decades, even though it was illegal.

The good news is that unlike the evil King of Greek mythology, I do not believe we are consigned to an eternity of useless efforts. I have faith a few of us will actually be able to get the giant ball of paperwork, permits, rules and regulations all the way to the top of the hill, and place it there. If I were to continue the mythology in a modern fashion, we would then create a perfect Cannabis Kingdom where love, peace and equality rule. Unfortunately, though, it would probably be a very small village, as so many people are being pushed back downhill every day. It’s just not fair.

Seriously, every week there is another hurdle, or three, to surmount. I hear the same lament from every farmer who is attempting the legal route. It seems like a set-up by the Officials of the Universe, but I actually don’t think it is intentional or pre-meditated. This permit process has been going on for over three years already — which is not unusual for obtaining certain types of business permits here in California, the most regulated place on earth. Yet it’s the way we have been steered through the process which is irritating.

Obtaining costly building permits and all the engineering consultations and architectural drawings to bring all structures up to county code was one of the first large expenses, followed by permit fees for cultivation licenses. We were told that commercially permitted buildings will be required for drying and processing, including ADA toilets, and that will be a huge expense. As a result of the new taxes and transport costs, business has shrunk at the retail outlets in the cities — long-time users just don’t want to pay the 40 percent higher cost.

The Black Market is thriving. With expenses and taxes mounting, rules changing weekly, each new revelation causes more farmers to drop out of the legal market. They do the math, and it just doesn’t make sense. There is no way to make a profit.

The final decision on a cultivation permit comes from The Department of Fish and Wildlife and the State Water Resource Control Board. It would have saved some farmers a lot of time and money if they had got their water permit first, before paying for all the other permits and doing the required work.  After years of work, they come to find out their lake can’t be used for commercial cannabis crops due to seasonal streams which cut through it, which means their pond is “in stream.” They even go so far as to say you can’t take water from a spring which might enter into a subterranean water course in any rain year.  So what is a subterranean water course? The entire planet is connected, right? That basically means that the state owns all of the water in the whole state. Previously, all the water from one’s spring belonged to the land owner.

Times are changing quickly in these hills. A lot of things that farmers have taken for granted for years don’t fly any longer. For example, compost toilets/outhouses, when properly maintained, are 100 percent superior to chemical-laden Port-a-Potties, yet they are now illegal. This is one of those many times Sisyphus gets confused and feels the weight of the boulder rolling back onto him. While outhouses have worked ecologically for years, the folks at Environmental Resources claim plastic Port-a-Potties, which require heavy pumping trucks to travel rough mountain roads, are preferable. It just doesn’t make sense.

If someone were to ask me in years to come, “What have you learned from the experience of being a pioneer craft cannabis cultivator in the legal era?” I would have to simply reply, “Patience.” Honestly, I don’t think I would have the patience required without the help of cannabis! And so it is a full circle, like Ouroboros, the snake that bites its own tail. The cannabis feeds one’s soul, so one can continue facing the obstacles and barriers with courage, determination and a sense of humor.

Which reminds me not to complain so much, to chill out, go with the flow, and count my blessings. It is a privilege to have worked with this sacred plant for so many years, to promote Her greatness and cultivate Her in the most beneficial ways possible. How can I complain when one of the perks of the job is sampling her flowers and getting to know each plant intimately? No government agency can take that away from me, no matter how much time I must now devote to keeping proper books, paying taxes on time and welcoming inspectors.

And so we go forward, determined to survive into the future along with the craft cannabis we lovingly cultivate. I certainly wish more farmers were pushing that heavy ball of responsibilities uphill alongside of us. The weight of it makes lifting bags of soil seem like feathers. My heart prays that those who don’t reach the top of the hill get out of the way before being smothered by the boulder rolling backward. Legal or not, we care about all of Ganja Ma’s protectors. May She guide us all to our blessed destiny.

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