A long time ago…
I watched in horror as the local news excitedly reported on a “significant marijuana bust” the police had clearly staged for PR. It was my garden. My daily anxiety had been, “how long will this last?” Today that answer was, “until today.”
The horde of local sheriff deputies hacked my nearly ripe girls and unceremoniously stuffed them into black plastic body bags. They would never see the light of a stoner’s lighter. Ehem, I mean, a “patient’s lighter”. After all, these were the days of ‘medical marijuana”.
But now that’s all changed. January 1, 2018 marks the day that stoners in the largest cannabis marker no longer have to hide behind the medical argument. They are free to smoke, toke, and roll to their heart’s content, whether they have anxiety or not.
Meanwhile growers apprehensively pull tarps over their greenhouse roof wondering how long this will last. But this time their anxiety is for different reasons: competition, price collapse, regulation. Happy Fucking New Year.
Adversity, reveals who we really are. Recreational cannabis legalization is the greatest adversity that many growers have faced. Working as a rogue underground grower, flipping the bird to law enforcement under cover of darkness became almost, easy.
Popping up new grow rooms, wrapping packs tightly to hide that dankness and dealing with large amounts of tax-free cash became second nature–it’s just what we did. And now this new world of transparency, paperwork and taxes…it’s foreign. And it’s scary.
Growers: adapt or die
There is no more wild west. Well, maybe for a few more years as regulators figure out the balance between raping the industry for every spare penny, and a system that respects the various contributors while supporting government needs.
Many of my grower friends refuse to adapt. Standing strong on their sometimes multi-generational traditions of guerrilla growing, they refuse to play ball with the government. They will continue as outlaws as long as possibly until their margins are squeezed by readily available legal cannabis, or they are once again made victims of oppressive law enforcement.
But we asked for this. I remember thinking, as my garden—and my soul–was dismantled in front of me, “will I ever be able to grow without worrying about THIS?” I didn’t know how long it would take. But part of me knew it would happen. And now that it’s here, I’m not sure it’s what we wanted. Like a barking dog, confused when it actually catches the car.
The cost of Freedom
The new price growers pay for freedom from anxiety and imprisonment, is to get licensed, follow rules and pay taxes. Yeah it doesn’t sound much like freedom to me either. But this is our new world. Freedom carries a cost. The fight continues.
Our new fight is not against the government. It is WITH regulators. We need them. They need us. This new unholy alliance with government is necessary for our next evolution. To survive…to keep our passion for the plant, we must change our approach while maintaining our strength.
Growers have created an economic powerhouse that has fundamentally shifted the face of our country, our states, our cities and our society. Some through the economic boon of increased taxes and revitalize communities, as seen with Colorado schools and public spaces. Some through the rabid determination of a subculture to grow, profit and show that what we do is NOT criminal, but admirable and essential.
Growers have always pushed limits. The American West was built on rebel farmers. In 1889, thousands of hopeful farmers raced into foreign land to stake their claim. Many were escaping sordid pasts, unpayable debts, or simply the clutter of modern society.
They rushed across dangerous plains and rugged mountains to find four corners of a field, set their fenceposts and dig their weary fingers into rich earth. Freedom.
no rules. Only survival.
Harsh elements. Isolation. Unfriendly local populations. The ever present fear that a crop might not make it to harvest. For years they toiled. Many died. The adaptable survived.
Then, as it goes, the settlers came—the risk averse population, demanding structure and fairness and comfort. They wanted the wealth and freedom that the farmers had risked their lives to possess. And the farmers slowly had to concede to this new world.
Paying taxes to local governments. Asking for permission to expand their operation. Commodity prices in competitive markets. Progress?
Growers are rightly sad for losing this dramatic past. It was a wild ride. I relish the stories we tell over dim lighting and a well-cured joint. We shouldn’t forget that rush into the Wild that many cannabis pioneers made.
Growers also shouldn’t live in that past. It’s a new chapter. The modern era of big cities and smart phones is wildly different from the Wild West, just as legal cannabis is different than basement rebellions.
I hope that growers embrace this change. Instead of fighting the inevitable force of Big Money, Big Ag, and Big Government, press them to comply with our needs as much as they command us. Partner with them so we might retain the industry we love so much.
After all…we asked for this.