Board Chair, Trinity County Board of Supervisors
Supervisor, District 2
How do you perceive the marijuana farming industry?
In its current state? In its current unregulated state? (Chuckle) Of course, this region has a history of growing for many, many years. Out of work loggers went into that world to just supplement some of their income when it was really risky, many people did face criminal charges depending on what they were doing. So I think the community itself is aware of that history here, but it was really kept to a point where it didn’t affect too many people, it wasn’t in everybody’s face. I don’t think at the time, thirty years ago, supervisor’s phones were ringing off the hook because of the explosion of the industry at that point. And, I don’t think you saw the environmental damage either at that point.
I have been approached from some old time growers that have said ‘please make this stuff stop because it’s just so out of hand.’ And it doesn’t mean that everybody is out of hand – I’m not trying to paint a big picture of everybody. There are some who are really trying to be good neighbors, respect the environment, follow the spirit of 215.
What are your responsibilities to the marijuana farming community?
Well, you know we hope to educate them in terms of what the current law is locally, we hope various departments — if they have questions on natural resource or planning issues — we hope our departments can help educate them or help them with their questions. So, for those who are on the criminal side of it all they’re not really going to engage the county, you know, they are just going to do their thing. But I do see, even within the last five years, I do see a different (attitude) – during some meetings I recently attended I’ve seen some folks who really are looking at this to be more an industry coming out into the light, and are really trying to participate in the community, and they’ve brought some great ideas to me in the past, and had some concerns as well and they’ve asked me questions. ‘When you did this ordinance why didn’t you include this?’ And I’m like, ‘that’s a great idea, where were you four years ago?’ I think they were a little hesitant to come forward in a public forum.
Do you have the sense that there’s more of an interest in people actively participating in what regulation will look like locally?
I do. I get that sense. They (some marijuana farmers) seem to have a different attitude about it, they’re a little younger this time around, from what I experienced four or five years ago, they don’t have this sense of entitlement, they want to have this working relationship with you. In the past we [faced] this big stance–they didn’t understand land use–which is what we are charged with at the county level, the state gives us that right to handle land use. So, when we were developing our ordinance four or five years ago, through many, many planning commission meetings, it really was centered around land use.
Many people really didn’t understand what land use was about and they didn’t understand the land use aspect versus what 215 was all about. They just looked at it from a criminal side. But we can tell any type of industry what land use will be. When we were trying to go through that process folks were trying to think we were telling them what to do with their land. Some people I’ve met recently, they just have some great environmental knowledge, they understand land use and they want to be engaged which is really nice to see.
Does engagement seem like a feasible effort?
I think so. I think there is going to be those who want to be part of the solution, and those who have no desire to be part of the solution–or the community–who are either not going to participate or still kind of offer some push back to it. I had been invited to [local marijuana farming advocacy] meetings and met some of the growers that I just described. They were very knowledgeable, very much wanting to have a dialogue, and there was great info sharing between all of us.
Do you think that marijuana farmers are challenged to engage in developing regulation, because they are not in a position where they can publicly talk about it?
Maybe in the past I would say that. I think that’s changing. I think when we did our hearings on our first ordinance. I didn’t see the type of tenor I’m seeing now from them. Some of them were helpful and wanted to be part of things, but some of them were very anti-anything. This new group that I’m seeing is just a newer, different type of farmer if you will. I’m seeing they want to have some input, it seems to be productive and positive. They also know and are aware of the bad actors in the business that have caused them to have a not-so-great reputation across the board, and they don’t want to be part of that either.
Do you perceive the industry as being harmful to the community?
In this unregulated state to some degree yes.
Well, you know because in any unchecked industry you’re going to have those folks who really take it to the extreme. You can point that out in any industry and so then at some point there’s a check and balance and they get either pushed out or reeled back in and that’s where regulations come in, and where policy makers have to put some regulations in to help put some calmness into this particular one.
Why do you think so many people are participating in this industry?
Well, I think it’s attractive. I met some people when I first came in contact with (emerging activist groups), college educated, some very good schools they were coming from. I really think it is attractive to those forty and under. They’ve seen there’s not a lot of opportunity in the last eight years if you’re coming out of school. It reminds me of any really creative endeavor that is a new business. It really attracted a certain degree of a certain type of people; it’s different than the nine to five type of world.
I think they see an opportunity here, they see kind of being on the ground floor of a different industry, like probably people thought about the tech world when that was starting to boom twenty years ago. I look at this from a business standpoint, and think that this is a new industry that is in its beginning stages. I say beginning because it’s starting to come out into the light, it’s not new to any of us. It’s going to grow, come into the light, and like any industry will go through its growth cycle. At some point it will be a very mature type of industry. And maybe we’ll still have some boutique farms out there the way we have boutique vineyards out there and you’ll have the Gallos of the world. I see this too, as similar to the way the wine industry was starting to percolate in the early days.
Do you perceive the community as divided around this issue?
To some degree. I think it really becomes divided and heated from where I sit, when I see people really impacted in their neighborhoods. The neighborhood gets really grumpy about it. Upset, rightly so, and then the farmers are not paying attention to what they’re doing to their neighbors. Although, I do see some who try not to upset the neighborhood and do the right thing, but then we do have those that clearly are in it for the black market process of it all and going across state lines and whatever else they’re doing.