Do you know California's leading cash crop? Not grapes, not almonds. It's pot. Though widely grown and consumed, it is wholly illegal to do so (except when approved for medical use, for which getting a prescription is, I'm told, laughably easy). Without taxes, it has fostered a black market, is expensive, and burdens the already overstuffed state penitentiaries. A ballot measure to legalize pot (growing and/or possessing small amounts) was defeated this week 54-46%, a tantalizingly close margin. The trend however is clear, and it seems only a matter of time before pot is legal in California. Meanwhile, here are two interesting articles on the culture of pot farming in northern CA:
The Closing of the Marijuana Frontier by John Gravois
In its relatively brief 100-year career as an American intoxicant, marijuana has been cast in an alarming number of roles: first as a scourge that drives users to murder and insanity; then as a narcotic that reduces them to passivity and indolence; later as a benevolent herb that can comfort the sick; and now—in the canny propaganda advancing Proposition 19—as a harmless but popular substance whose taxation could save California from fiscal ruin. Who knows what fantasies future Americans will project onto this unsuspecting plant?
Reefer Sadness for Pot Farmers by Sheelah Kolhatkar
To reach Jason's farm you drive south out of the small town of Arcata, in Humboldt County, Calif., and plunge into the forest that gave the region its "Emerald Triangle" nickname. After passing through hilly ranch country and a stretch on a dusty dirt road, a wooden house peeks out of the fruit trees on 150 acres of land, completely off the electrical grid. Jason is in the kitchen, stuffing cannabis leaves into a juicer. "Everyone around here is involved in some way," says Jason, a professional marijuana grower.... a large percentage of people in town, and every other town for miles, is either directly or indirectly subsidized by dope, from the young parents cultivating a few seedlings in the backyard to the owner of the sushi restaurant where seemingly unemployed people eat dinner, always paying in cash.