From a stage in the heart of America’s most important marijuana-growing region, a DJ named Eden pleaded for unity. “Yo, give me some Hum-love, ” she said. “We’ve been through tougher times than this, y’all.”
She was is president of the Golden Tarp Awards, a race to celebrate and promote the storied cannabis of Humboldt County, California. Humboldt is only one of three counties that make up the Emerald Triangle, the epicenter of the country’s cannabis production. It begins north of wine country, in northern Mendocino County, and continues up the “Lost Coast” to encompass Humboldt County and, inland, Trinity County. It’s a landscape of misty, old-growth redwood woodlands and jagged cliffs that plunge into choppy, gray seas, like something out of Tolkien.
It was mid-November, a few weeks before the sunrise of legal recreational weed in California, and for small independent growers, legalization was beginning to look like a catastrophe. California’s thousands of outlaw jackpot farmers have long been ambivalent about full legalization, given the potential disruptions to their lucrative, tax-free enterprises. Now it looked as if their worst fears had been realized.
California had just liberated emergency rules for the legal marketplace, which opened Monday, Jan. 1. In earlier iterations, the state had agreed to hold off on licensing large, industrial-scale develops until 2023, giving small farmers time to adapt. The new regulations reversed the position to immediately allow huge industrial farms to depress prices even further.
So it was under a cloud of other kinds that much of Humboldt’s cannabis community had gathered for the Golden Tarps. The award ceremony was being held at a community center in Redway, a forest township, population 1,225. After the DJ came Kevin Jodrey, the event’s impresario. “It’s people like us who constructed this industry, ” Jodrey said. “We’re getting financially thumped to death.”
Jodrey began the Golden Tarps in 2014, naming them for the coverings used to deprive jackpot flowers of sunlight and force them to flower. A self-described “career drug dealer, ” Jodrey arrived in Humboldt 27 years ago. He told me he grew up in Rhode Island in an extended family connected to organized crime, and he came to Humboldt after a stint as a diver in the Coast Guard. Now 51, he’s scruffy and compact with shoulder-length silver mane. He talks nonstop in an East-Coast-wiseguy accent unmellowed by decades in the timbers and God knows how much dope.
Jodrey has done well for himself. His farm is on top of a mountain surrounded by woodland, and he likes walking with his family beneath the redwoods. Among Humboldt growers he seems better prepared than most for the transition to a legal market. One of his dispensaries has received its district license, and his mountaintop farm, Wonderland Nurseries, has passed all its inspections. He said he hasn’t been locked up since high school.
The Golden Tarps are members of many efforts to promote small-farm, organic-style pot in a market in which larger farms will enjoy significant advantages. In Mendocino, a project is underway to create cannabis appellations, akin to the French wine category system. But bigness is coming for the Emerald Triangle. Deep-pocketed individuals — many of them Bulgarians — are buying up ground to capitalize on Humboldt’s hallowed terroir .
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