The federal government’s crackdown on medical marijuana in California is causing some unanticipated changes in the cannabis marketplace. The pot market is crashing in California’s legendary Emerald Triangle. The closure of hundreds of marijuana dispensaries across California and a federal crackdown on licensing programs for medical-pot cultivation are leaving growers in the North Coast redwoods with harvested stashes many can’t sell. Purportedly legal medical cultivators are fleeing to the black market. So much cheap weed is getting dumped in the California college town of Arcata, some local dispensaries say business is down 75 percent. Even the region’s itinerant and colorful bud trimmers are going broke.
People have long trekked into the marijuana fields and indoor greenhouses of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties. Workers used to earn as much as $200 a pound meticulously cutting leaves from marijuana buds, prepping them for display at dispensaries or for sale in a purely illicit market. These days, a 47-year-old man called Mover, a dreadlocked migrant from Ohio who is a fixture in downtown Arcata, says the tedious work isn’t worth his trouble as the per-pound pay rate has dropped to $100 or often just a few nuggets of pot. “I got paid in weed,” Mover, who refused to give his real name, said of his last trimming job. “It’s worthless here. You can’t give it away. And I’m not going to transport anything. I’m too old, and I don’t want to go to jail.”
The region’s pot pilgrimage had accelerated in recent years as people were drawn by local cannabis traditions and dreams of cashing in on the medical-marijuana market. They planted marijuana in the backwoods and in rewired houses with high-intensity grow lights. But the saturation of pot growers set off a price tumble by 2010, as a pound of prime Emerald weed slipped from $5,000 to the $3,000 range for marijuana grown indoors to the $2,000 range for product grown outdoors. Lately, prices are in free fall. “Last I heard, a pound of marijuana is $800 for outdoor grown,” said Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman in Ukiah. “That’s plummeting. You might do better with tomatoes.”
“Many people distributing in the medical-marijuana market didn’t get into it for the risk situation,” Kevin Jordy, a local cultivator, said. “The people who were formerly in the black market were able to stay functioning. People who were not criminals can’t move their product.” Meanwhile, many worry the Emerald Triangle will go back to being the hub of California’s illegal marijuana trade.
With a federal crackdown and a shrinking market, Sheriff Allman said, many out-of-towners may leave, and “everything is going to go underground.”
So, Greenies, lower prices are a plus if you are a consumer, but the devil is always in the details. Still, cheap Cali cannabis? I call dibs on behalf of HMJ! There’s lots more to this story at The Seattle Times.
[images: Google images California state flag]
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