Mendo Marijuana: The Time of Reckoning Has Come

Outdoor Cannabis Mendocino Cannabis Now Magazine

A report on the state of cannabis from a ganja farmer at the heart of the Emerald Triangle.


The tension in the air up here in the heart of the Emerald Triangle is as thick as dripping rosin. The time has come to put up or shut up. In other words, to choose to be legal and in the system or to continue to hide in the hills from hungry helicopters. Both have their benefits as well as their drawbacks. To go legal requires money and the time to understand all the current requirements, with the risk that it could all change tomorrow. The hope is that it will provide security from the powers that be and allow us to continue to grow this plant we love so much for deserving patients.

However, several farmers are choosing to stay outside of the system, attempting to survive by selling on the black market as they always have. Many are frightened by all the hoops that one needs to jump through for the proper permits. But prices are plummeting as other states begin to grow their own crops, indoor mostly, and middle men who have been in the biz for decades are suddenly out of a job. Plus there is a glut on the market due to so many people moving up here to grow “world class cannabis” with zilch experience but lots of energy. They come from Eastern Europe, south of the border, and every state in America, all convinced they can grow top-shelf weed their first year.

The story going around right now via reliable sources is that Mendocino County political leaders are beginning to realize that approximately nine out of 10 growers here will not make it. Surprise, surprise! At last they have discovered that costly permits, taxes and new regulations are driving people out of the cannabis business, and this will severely effect the economy. Just this past week alone I have heard of four longtime farmers who are throwing in the trowel. One man who was considering going through the official permit process reported, “I did the math and figure I made more selling vegetables than cannabis last year, so I’m quitting the cannabis.”

The buyers aren’t around like they were in the old days, when they’d show up with suitcases of cash to buy cannabis at four times the price of what it is now. Just last week I was told of a total of 2,000 pounds, one ton, of unsold cannabis from last season, that’s just sitting somewhere in these hills, because of the glut. And that is just from a handful of growers I happened upon. Many well-seasoned farmers simply refuse to sell for such egregiously low prices. While this cannabis crash has been predicted for several years, it has become fully evident just the past couple of months as farmers realize it’s time for the next crop, but they never got rid of last year’s harvest.

Likewise, property values in the Emerald Triangle are plummeting. A year ago, there were maybe two listings available in the area where we live in northern Mendocino County. Lately, a new place is listed every other day it seems. So many fully outfitted ranches and farms are hitting the market that there are already several listed as “price drops.” I’ve heard that Bay Area people are looking this way for their country retreats as the prices are right. They had better check the zoning codes if they plan on growing any cannabis though — not being able to grow may well be the reason the land is for sale. It seems now that if a person purchases property in rangeland zone, for example, they will never be able to get a cannabis permit to grow there. If it’s upland residential or ag land, they can get one after 2020. It’s all in the fine print, and not clear legally yet, so beware.

The latest scuttlebutt around the county is concerning the power struggle between the agricultural commissioner and the sheriff. We’ve been told that 650 applicant fees were needed for the county cannabis cultivation program to cover the costs of the expanded work load. Yet last count is approximately only 450 applicants who have materialized out of who knows how many farmers who actually grow in this county? Is it 10 percent – assuming there are 4,500 growers in Mendo? Sounds like a very low estimate to me, but the message clearly is: not enough people signed up. Ironically, applications were first accepted almost two moths ago, yet so far only one farm has been fully permitted. They simple do not have the necessary amount of inspectors to get to 450 farms, most at the end of a long dirt road.

Mendocino may return to a logging-fishing-hunting economy once again after all, if the craft farmers are pushed out. It’s the classic feud of hippie vs. redneck all over again, just more refined in the 21st Century. A competitive atmosphere is seeping into the county, as those of us who have submitted the permit application to the ag commission are a step ahead of the game, but only because we have been participating in the practice sessions for years. For those who are thinking ahead, such as cooperatives across the county who have formed to hold strong in numbers, there is a chance of survival.

My faith in the future of the small farmer does remain strong, however, even considering all the limitations and restrictions. The large commercial grows that are already springing up across the state do not scare me. We are the rare birds, the farmers who only cultivate clean and pure cannabis with love and devotion, to offer to patients who realize we even exist. We simply need to get the word out. The same people who insist on buying organic vegetables will soon be requesting our sungrown with organic methods cannabis flowers and products. We just need to get over this hump and we’ll be gliding into an expanding market, for the good of all. That is my prayer and I am sticking to it!

TELL US, is then cannabis climate changing in your neck of the woods?

Nikki Lastreto has been a judge in The Emerald Cup since it started in 2003 and is co-founder of Swami Select cannabis brand and educational website: www.swamiselect.com

6 Comments

  1. Thad Horner

    August 3, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    I agree with the 90% decimation figure for small growers in the hills that was mentioned earlier. The 10% who survive will have their land paid off, their houses built, and will be nearing retirement on social security. The rest will just not be able to compete with the big grows on flat land. $500 a unit is a fairytale we tell ourselves. Welcome to $50 a unit when real flatland farmers start growing it by the hundreds of acres in open fields with Mexican labor and full on agricultural machinery. And please lose the other fairytale that our Humboldt product will be so much more magical that it will command 10X the price. Get real, the bottom line here is that the “sacred herb” is just a weed that can be grown easily like any other medicinal herb. Joe Farmer on “Thousand Acre Farm” in Colorado will quickly figure out how to grow a “pretty good” product that satisfies the average consumer. Check out Echinacea. It has a 4 year grow cycle. Sells for $35/lb for organic. American Ginseng Root, grows very slowly, has to grow under shade, farmers get $60/lb. Sorry to say, with these prices, get ready for the death of our beloved hill culture.

  2. Richie Rich

    August 2, 2017 at 5:00 am

    And until then crazy young kids like we all were at a certain age will be always rambling through the hills of Emerald Triangle and other grow areas feeling empowered by the freedom and the ease of dollar in this still very much burgeoning economy. Even with the price reductions as long as there is a grey market and prices are still better than other types of jobs and or prices are low enough to still attract the migrant worker or low-wage worker or uneducated or green card status or other there will always be crazy wild growers in the Hills of cannabis rich California.

  3. Richie Rich

    August 2, 2017 at 4:10 am

    To add to my first comment, this all hinges on whether or not interstate commerce law somehow switches the gates on the agricultural Gates of California’s borders to other states. If they were smart they already have the Manpower to regulate interstate commerce export. They could very easily with new Backscatter technology measure the gases in each vehicle passing through the agricultural Gates obviously this would have to be done as cars exit this state. If they do this then there will be a severe bottleneck and glut of commercial cannabis in the state of California. This will only make property values plummet further and gross County product numbers dwindle as The Exodus of all growing counties and communities will finally be upon the state of California and only the biggist of our states Growers will profit with of course no real economic growth to the County’s or communities they are producing in.

    Though no one did this in Colorado or in Washington State and even though they did not stop the shipping or sending of State grown cannabis to other states and possibly other regions of the country, they still had produced so much product that the prices have plummeted to all-time record lows and it is not over yet. This price drop is in direct correlation to Too Much Surplus Nationwide by either way of export from the major producing states in the country and/or production mostly indoor clandestine or indoor legally approved for medical production. The main thing that domestic production has done has taken away the import of Mexican and Colombian and South American cannabis.

    I hope this opinion gives people a real Keen vision of where the whole cannabis industry is going and allows people to adjust and morph in order to save there own destinies.

    I am a consultant and a cannabis analyst. Anybody that would like to ask questions please email me thank you.

  4. Richie Rich

    August 2, 2017 at 2:58 am

    Jerry Brown knew exactly what he was doing pertaining to regulation in the state of California.

    He basically made it a free-for-all for any County to have as much growing as they wanted. Obviously allowed large-scale growing three million-square-foot grows which have spotted different counties in California. With this of course are different counties that have been charging large amounts of dollars for square-foot taxation for these production allowances of commercial cannabis coming up in 2018.

    I don’t really think that the small Growers are going to withstand what they claim they can although I have a Mom and Pop’s growers association that supports the small grower.

    But based on the fact that large scale growers in these three million square foot plus facilities are starting to pop up in more places and I don’t really think there will be a limit to it as long as Taxation and Licensing fees help support the general political County coffers.

    Looking forward into the green crystal ball we can rest assure that millions of Growers will lose their opportunity to support their lives as they have for the last 20 to 40 years in this grey market industry. And California politicians could not be happier. With the proliferation over the next couple years of 3 million plus square foot grows producing over 2,000 units of prime light deprivation flowers per month, it is very easy to regulate these guys and even if the price sinks which it will to probably $500 per unit over the next year or two because of this over-saturation of small mom-and-pop still trying to grow enough to offset the low cost of sales of each unit obviously the bigger players will be the only ones with the fortitude and the money and the large scale sales from these three million square foot plus facilities to eventually surplant all the mom and pops of thos once upon a time burgeoning momand pop industry.

    It is nice to think that the little groovy Mom and Pops will be able to grow such connoisseur and select flower that the model for them will stay as intact as microbreweries have, but it is a different animal. I believe that large-scale Growers will be able to have select small-scale microbrewery type productions for The Connoisseur quality levels and still produce their Mass scale commercial levels.

    County economies are going to plummet the Rednecks in these counties that think that hunting and fishing game and Timber is going to somehow come back to the economic levels that will support the economies in these counties really need to look at history now and before.
    As the green Rush of the Leeds type of construction moves forward recycled Building Products will surplant the need for Timber and hunting is out because most people are turning vegan and it’s healthier for you to eat that way fishing the same thing. So good luck to the old rednecks. Their property values will plummet just as they did before the 1970s and 80s and 90s when cannabis production became the Mainstay of dying towns and dying economies in Emerald Triangle and other growing regions.

    No more will there be a supporting economy that was based on 5,000 $4,000 and $3,000 per unit where crazy Growers could spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in supporting these otherwise dying/dead towns based on the old history of fishing and hunting and temper and logging.

    Essence we have a tremendous problem for all Emerald Triangle and other cannabis growing communities within California. With other states in the United States coming online with legal and commercial production facilities it will only be a matter of time before these California communities and counties are basically belly-up.

    It’s too bad that the County Supervisors that were voted into place did not see through the green crystal ball sooner for if they did maybe they could have been ahead of the rush and somehow balanced the actual Taxation and Licensing fees with the rapid decline in product pricing.

    Overall anybody that wants to survive that are in the Cannabis business for some time should look at other Countries that are just starting to come online to move to although I’m sure there are people already in place in these Countries that want to keep the Lion’s Share of what they’ve been doing in a grey market sense.

    I believe economically and globally we have a problem with too high a population rate and too little in industry or new industry rate that has created a widespread Division and too much competition because we all need to survive and that is all likely what’s going on in a global economic since.

    Thank you for listening

  5. LJ

    July 30, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    Yes, some folks are bailing out & selling…but are land prices in the LONG run going to fall or remain stagnent..? Uh, no…so besides the Bay Area folks looking for retirement property, there are the Green Rusher’s, the uninformed with no spiritual connection to the plant, and use quick & dirty growing methods.

    Some newbies will be in for a shock & reality check when they discover you can’t just toss a few seeds out a window and 6 months later they’re rolling on a pile pf cash. The new quick & dirty growers are the ones that have crashed the market with a glut.

    While some folks will fold & move away, many folks are locked in to their lives here…land is paid off, and social security retirement most expenses (but not all). It will be a game of hunkering down and surviving. The old timers can produce the high quality the newbies haven’t even seen first hand.

    There are other impacts of these newbies…carloads of guys driving recklessly on mtn dirt roads … city folks are totally CLUELESS about staying to the far right side of the road on turns, that by law uphill traffic has the right of way, and that you should tippy toe around blind corners. Old timers KNOW to treat each and every turn as having a big truck just around the corner…because there often is, and not just bobtail water trucks,,,I’ve seen increased truck traffic of doubles hauling soil.

    Several times a large white new looking lifted truck pulling a black dump trailer with high side came withing inches of wiping me out & putting me in a ditch & same thing with my partner, almost hitting her several times…these are the new punk ass 20 & 30 year old newbies that think they can do whatever they want with no consequence, that the rules (written in blood because somebody got hurt or killed) just don’t apply to them…a stupid outlaw mentality with a 3 ton truck coming at you at 35 mph…and one of these days somebody is going to get seriously hurt or killed by these big truck jerks on Spyrock & Bell Springs roads.

    Yeah, the 20 & 30 year old punks are not only ruining things, they are ENDANGERING us in a very real way, because they envision themselves as some kind of macho marijuana cowboy…

    • Richie Rich

      August 2, 2017 at 4:48 am

      LJ

      I don’t think you seem to realize that even with a few people from the Bay Area buying second homes there’s no way that all of the properties that have been used for the last 30 years or so to support the Cannabis industry coming out of the black into the gray and now into the white will ever have any value even close to what it is today. All these values of these homes are super inflated based on the 30 years of productivity within the Cannabis industry in these Emerald Triangle counties and others

      Let’s face it, how many people in the Bay Area really would have the intellectual and artistic fortitude to embrace a dirty little cardboard box in the middle of a drought-ridden Hayfield with a couple of trees in it. I can see these people moving to Redwood tree communities or something very fantasy for the Bay City buyers, but as we all know cannabis does not grow in the shade very well so certainly the majority of the Cannabis or full sun as they say areas for cannabis production probably will not be the most romantic properties for the most part for interested retirees or second home buyers from the Bay Area Etc.

      And your comment about hunters and fishing and Timber is a vision from old economies that new culture and recycling culture and vegan culture does not have the market share to support.

      Some saving grace for the County’s is the large-scale commercial production that will definitely have restrictions pertaining to placement but certainly no restrictions as far as Square footages. And of course the County’s love this because it allows them to regulate without driving over and around millions of different small farms down long Country Roads which yes would take more manpower but no, will not be the Mainstay based on the vision of the County’s. Obviously the taxation of these large grows will support some of the county coffers but certainly the land tax base will be reduced significantly because of the reduction in prices based on the demand of Cracker Jack box type houses in empty burnt out under aquacultured fields of dried out tall grass.

      And it’s the blind vision of politicians and the county and Boards of Supervisors that are afraid of voting in what was best for the county and have overpriced taxation toward cannabis and limited the expansion in the proper way because of their paranoia of upsetting their constituents although most of them are dying off as life progresses and everything eventually changes.

      I for one feel that it is very sad that Big Industry will eventually be the model for politicians to easily regulate. I also feel that Google technology will definitely be in play as it will identify the licensed Farms that in Humboldt County and in other counties that have a lot of producers living in. This software satellite tracking will simply be able to identify the legal ones from the not legal ones. You can hide in the Hills but you cannot hide from satellite mapping. Take heed all those that read this that are still growing without licensing, because certainly it’s only a matter of time before the wood chipper is at your front gate.

      If the County Board of Supervisors were smart they would disallow large-scale production and put a cap on large-scale production which would encourage small-scale production and microbrewery type connoisseur fairytale throughout Mendocino County which it would obviously spread out the money within the economy in a very equal and widespread way there by allowing for economies National County product to bloom instead of fade because of large-scale production being the dominant focus of these counties .

      Of course there is a provision for medical Growers on a small scale and if it was manipulated right all the small Growers across California would actually grow simply enough patches to support a local small consumption that still will offset the commercial production supply and demand.

      Now if interstate commerce laws are removed then there might be a saving factor for these counties as well… although I still feel it will be dominated by the large 3 million square foot 1 to 2,000 unit a month production facilities. Now if the counties were smart they would not allow these large-scale Productions to be in place. They would be much smarter to spread out the production to small mama and Pops this would create absolute support for otherwise fledgling County coffers.

      It may not be too late for Mendocino to make the change but Board of Supervisors and County politicians need to really look at what I’m saying. For if they don’t even their jobs and their livelihoods will be in Jeopardy as there will be no money in the coffers to even give them enough of a salary to sustain their lives in those coddled country regions that they all call a quiet nice home.

      Change in life is always imminent. My father would always say change is nothing but progress and without progress there is no change.

      This is truly ozzmosis in motion.

      Any questions you can write me at
      [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *