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 presiding over the Golden Tarp Awards, a contest to celebrate and promote the storied cannabis of Humboldt County, California. Humboldt is 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 forests and jagged cliffs that plunge into choppy, gray seas, like something out of Tolkien.
It was mid-November, a few weeks before the dawn of legal recreational weed in California, and for small independent growers, legalization was beginning to look like a disaster. California’s thousands of outlaw pot farmers have long been ambivalent about full legalization, given the potential disruptions to their lucrative, tax-free businesses. Now it looked as if their worst fears had been realized.
California had just released emergency rules for the legal market, which opened Monday, Jan. 1. In earlier iterations, the state had agreed to hold off on licensing large, industrial-scale grows until 2023, giving small farmers time to adapt. The new rules reversed the position to immediately allow huge industrial farms to depress prices even further.
So it was under a cloud of another kind 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 town, population 1,225. After the DJ came Kevin Jodrey, the event’s impresario. “It’s people like us who built this industry,” Jodrey said. “We’re getting financially beaten to death.”