Becoming involved in the democratic process has instilled in me a novel patriotism. As a farmer who has seen the heavy-handed enforcement of cannabis prohibition, it has been a great joy to gradually shed my feelings of disenfranchisement. When we chose to no longer be defined as ‘criminals,’ the world around us changed. The timing was right; many people paved the way with their time, effort, and for some, their lives.
We arrive here together, my brethren and sistren of cannabis culture. Lo, these many decades we have trudged the rocky road, and with the end of prohibition on the horizon, we must stand against a tidal wave of money. We are building the Emerald Growers Association as a bulwark to protect our communities, the environment, and our way of life; the corporate titans of the oligopoly have arisen in avarice for the industry that was created on the backs of the skilled cultivator.
I say “on the backs” because of the countless soil bags hiked into remote locations. We nestled our patches in the woods, carefully notching out the manzanita to let as much sunlight in as possible without being visible to the choppers. In a nation founded on the principle of freedom, you had to plant far from your curtilage, because the federal government would seize your land if they could tie the patch to you.
They seized the lands of farmers, in America, for cultivation of a plant that has provided nutrients, fiber, fuel, and medicine to humanity for as long as we’ve existed.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that environmental crimes shouldn’t be enforced, or that there aren’t negative elements to the current system of cultivation. I am stating that such bad policy and poor regulatory oversight are the direct consequence of cannabis prohibition.
How Winemakers Reacted to Prohibition
When the winemakers of Napa and Sonoma counties were informed that Prohibition was going into effect, they found ways around an unjust system of laws that was attempting to regulate their culture, tradition and source of economic sustenance. Like other producers in various regions of the country, many turned to bootlegging. Folks would have preferred to continue with their way of life without the oppression of the federal government, but they made do as best they could.
The parallels between the winemakers of Northern California during Prohibition and the cannabis farmers of Northern California today are direct and profound. We are a class of honorable outlaws who have been denied the rights guaranteed to us as Americans and Farmers. We need the support that the system is designed to offer small farmers.
The Best Practices Movement
The accelerating implementation of Best Management Practices in our culture is breathtaking to behold. So many of us have sought these answers for years, establishing within our neighborhoods better and better practices as we’ve become more self-aware as farmers. Land-Use Consultants are backed up for weeks, BMP’s are in full swing and SOP’s are coming into play. Cannabis farmers are doing the right thing because we now have access to a system of knowledge that provides us guidelines about what the right thing is.
We are shaking off the fear of being boot-necked. It is a slow process. When the government came for you in the 80’s, they came hard: set the chopper in the meadow and pilfer the tidy homesteads. Smash everything, break windows, ruin furniture, kick gates and doors off hinges, shoot family pets, point weapons at unarmed American citizens.
Alcohol prohibition fostered corruption, cronyism, gangsters, and violence. Cannabis prohibition has fostered corruption, cronyism, gangsters, and violence. The prison guard and police lobbies are some of the most powerful in the country, but as enforcers of the law, they must not dictate it. Police are funded in part by monies seized from cannabis farmers, a clear and direct conflict of interest.
In an attempt to address the unjustness of the current system, I find myself doing a tremendous amount of not-farming. It is a strange dichotomy to have one foot planted in the policy world while still trying to plant and maintain our farm. I am grateful for the support of Team HappyDay, without whom my forays into representing our culture would be impossible.
The old days are gone, the fear is subsiding, though it still gnaws my belly and seeks to eat away at my spirit. It is a powerful responsibility to have the tools and ability to help speak for my people; I am grateful for the many lessons instilled in me by countless teachers and mentors.
We strive to grow our cannabis without fear, in the full sun with loving intention. We stand as American patriots for our original right as farmers to produce this incredible crop for the loving spirituality that it brings to our days, to the relief it brings to our sore backs, and to the economic power it brings our simple people. We love our community and our place in the world as stewards and farmers of nourishment and medicine.