Hayfork is waiting to see what happens next. In 2015 a new state regulatory framework for medical marijuana was introduced, and recreational marijuana legalization is forecasted in the future. The local government is contending with these new state policies while revising their cannabis cultivation ordinances, adding an additional layer to rules that will decide the legal size and scale of farming.
As these new regulatory systems are ushered into the county, it’s hard to know what it will mean. The haphazard explosions of regulation, fees and permitting are difficult to predict. For Trinity County, the outcomes will link to the ability to adequately enforce the existing codes, and to tier local policy with state policy in a way that is sustainable.
The unique conditions of Hayfork’s rural context will shape the future of it’s marijuana boom. Rural communities witness firsthand the irrevocable marks natural resource economies make on the land; the ravages to landscape, the clear cutting, the overuse of land and water. They house the actors of industry, are observers of the accumulation of damage. They live the perilous nature of reactive land management, always arriving late without having the tools to clean up.
For Hayfork, the twin unknowns of economy and environment are the central questions that will shape the future of the community. The marijuana industry has the potential to alter the economy of the town in a positive and sustainable way, or to follow a pattern of boom and bust economics, leaving the community in an aftermath of environmental damage and economic collapse.
The town, divided and in flux, is in an era of questions. Will marijuana stay, or will the droves of farmers slowly leave, seeking out other places, exiting as the market becomes less viable, or simply turning to other avenues? What will the community and the economy look like, with or without them? Regulation and policy will set the terms for the immensely hard task of pairing economic viability with sustainable land use. But the social and cultural outcomes will be generated locally, as community members sort out their places in a changing context. Hayfork is truly in a time of transition. The outcomes of marijuana, and its role in this rural town, are unknown.