Peter Hecht at Northtown Books in Arcata CA
Peter Hecht discussing his book "Weed Land" at Northtown Books in Arcata California on May 23, 2014

Sacramento Bee reporter Peter Hecht came to Arcata, California, on Friday to discuss his new book Weed Land: Inside America’s Marijuana Epicenter and How Pot Went Legit. Hecht described himself as “unaligned” on the issue of marijuana to about a dozen Humboldt readers who had plenty of insightful questions.

If you’ve wondered how California started the legalization movement but then fell behind states like Colorado and Washington, Hecht’s detailed account lays it out. The story explains the historical arc of the cannabis movement, from the AIDS crisis in San Francisco to the five-story dispensaries in Southern California to the bills and initiatives that attempted (and sometimes succeeded) to change the rules.

At the reading in Arcata, Hecht described how every region in California had its role to play: Oakland was the political nerve center that “wanted to be the Silicone Valley of weed,” San Francisco housed the heart of the movement, and LA took the movement to excess (like it does with everything else). In the book, he describes Humboldt and the Emerald Triangle as the “home of the finest and most readily available pot in California.”

“Legalization is a virtual certainty unless the cannabis community is divided or they write a bad initiative,” Hecht said of California.

Can the Small Cannabis Business Survive? Or Will We Get the Budweiser of Cannabis?

Hecht’s answer was “Yes and no. I do think the popularity of the marketplace is these unique strains. There will always be a boutique quality. I don’t think you’ll get R.J. Reynolds and Phillip Morris.” Entering or staying in the industry, however, will be more prohibitive for small businesses when more regulation is enacted.

Areas like Humboldt shouldn’t overlook the tourism opportunities the cannabis industry offers, he said. The “uniqueness of character” in Humboldt could add a few cannabis-tasting stops to a tourist’s road trip through Sonoma and Napa counties, for example.

“Colorado Made it Possible”

Small businesses were shut out of the Colorado cannabis industry, Hecht said, but the state took a major step. “Colorado made it possible. You can say they overdid it, but to go from illegal to legal,  you have to set a zillion rules.”

“I’m skeptical that in our lifetimes we’ll see full deregulation,” Hecht said at the reading, but then went on to say we’ll likely see the end of marijuana prohibition as we know it today. Much like when the prohibition of alcohol ended, he suggested there will be strict regulations at first, similar to the restrictive rules businesses have faced in Colorado.

Where to Get the Book

Pick up Weed Land in bookstores or online to see for yourself. Many of the folks featured in the book are the cannabis activists you’ve heard from before, including a few Humboldt voices (one of whom was in the audience that evening). It’s obvious Hecht did his homework on these figures and the history of the California cannabis movement.

Thanks to Northtown Books in Arcata for hosting the event and letting The Ganjier record.

Peter Hecht at Northtown Books in Arcata CA
Peter Hecht discussing his book “Weed Land” at Northtown Books in Arcata California on May 23, 2014


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As part of the Ganjier Media's founding team, Allison served as the first editor-in-chief of and executive producer of events like the Golden Tarp Award and the Ganjier Spring Kickoff. She owns Eris & Edrington Writing Company and has provided media consulting services for businesses and political candidates. She is also the Cannabis Editor for The Clever Root magazine. As a “recovering journalist,” she has contributed to major publications including The New York Times, The SOMM Journal, and Skunk Magazine. She has previously worked as a staff writer for daily newspapers, covering local elections, Humboldt cannabis policy, city government and criminal court cases.

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