California Vice (Land) Part Two
Our travels took us to farming country in northern California. Weed farming. I had an idea of what we may find there because I watch the Viceland channel. Viceland is a cable channel that offers a wide variety of documentary and reality series style programming. Their focus is on the Millennial demographic, so you have a lot of weird stuff on it. One of my favorite shows is ‘Weediquette.’ In this series, the host, a guy named Krishna, (imagine that) explores different aspects of the marijuana culture. He basically gets stoned for a living. And a lot of that takes place in northern California, as well as Colorado and Oregon.
In California, the rules of growing weed legally were codified in the 2015 Medical Marijuana Regulatory and Safety Act which went into effect Jan. 1, 2016 and is called the Medical Cannabis Regulation Safety Act. The act contains plenty of legalese and has a two year goal to put together the various regulatory agencies. And, getting a license to grow weed is costly. It can be thousands of dollars to get through the process to be cleared and obtain a marijuana grow license. But essentially, if you follow the rules the state has specified, you can grow a lot of pot. As a former police officer, the experience of seeing legal marijuana farms was bizarre.
Marijuana farming in California is an industry, just like traditional farming. Whether you are growing Sour Diesel or Soy Beans, both require land, barns, utilities, fencing, water, irrigation, fertilizer, pest/predator control and a lot of hard work. Just like traditional farmers, the pot farmers we met were responsible stewards of the land. Their land and their crop is their livelihood and they take it seriously. To successfully grow good weed, you have to be part horticulturist, geneticist, environmentalist and laborer. None of them we met were stoners. It is apparently way too difficult to prepare a 400 gallon pod of growing medium, or put up a ¼ mile of fencing while baked out of your mind. We met some retirees with medical marijuana licenses who legally grew a few pot plants in their vegetable garden. They tell me smoking a joint in the evening is no different than having a glass of wine or taking a Xanax.
Sure, there are negative aspects to the expanding weed culture. Some growers don’t go the legal route. Those who don’t own a farm often trespass on public or private land and illegally set up their grow operation. These are the folks that may be armed, place booby traps around their plants and are otherwise engaged in criminal activities. Hopefully, California law enforcement will eliminate these outliers just like they do in states where growing is not legal.
Hindsight has shown us that alcohol prohibition didn’t work and that heavy handed, federal government enforcement of a product that is generally accepted by the public, was a mistake. It is difficult to justify how the legal Cali growers, who are responsible, law abiding, environmentally friendly and, in my humble opinion, nice people, would face arrest and significant jail time in other states. The cop in me says, “If you’re growing weed in a state where it is not allowed, it may not be right or fair or what you want, but it’s still the law.” Then again, maybe John Lennon was right. “You say you want a revolution…”