Sam, Age 35
How did you get into the marijuana growing industry?
By accident I guess. I just happened to know somebody that was out here, and I happened to need an opportunity. I wasn’t happy where I was, and my friend came out of nowhere and he was like ‘I need some help would you want to come out?’ And I was at crossroads in life, so I came out (to Hayfork).
What sounded appealing?
Well, […] not doing furniture and mattress deliveries and doing delivery stuff for people. It was really, really grueling and very low pay.
And you were doing this after you graduated college?
Yes, after I graduated college.
Did you feel like there were alternate options available to you?
Well, I was studying for the LSATs and I was going to try and get into law school. I was also studying for a GRE to have a backup. I was thinking of going for a master’s in architecture and I was trying to do a lot, and you know, I wasn’t really motivated. I wasn’t really motivated because right now the job market is so terrible. Right now, I could go back to school for architecture, for example, and get a degree and pay thousands upon thousands of dollars for a degree, and not get a job, and still be delivering furniture, mattresses. And you know it might take a long time to get a job in that field and it’s like that for a lot for people right now, college graduates.
What did you get paid for moving mattresses and furniture?
I averaged about $800 a month.
How did you live? How did you survive on that?
Very cheaply. I had a good in on an apartment, in (a city in Florida), which is insane (for rent rates). I paid $400 a month for my apartment, and I biked everywhere–no car, I biked or walked and the rest was just basically food money. And survival money.
Were you working full time?
Yeah, essentially. It could be anywhere between 30 hours a week to 60 hours a week depending on how busy we were, but it averaged about 40 hours a week.
And so you heard you could come work on a grow, and thought you would come and do it?
I figured I would try it. I only planned to help for that one time, for that season, and I was going to be in and out, you know, and save some money for whatever I did next.
And then what happened?
“I got stuck in the honey trap, the magnet.”
What’s the magnet?
The magnet is the money. Because, and I know I’m not the only one, you come off of a really low salary, and you’re living hand to mouth, and you come out here and for relative–you know you work hard, don’t get me wrong—but the compensation relative to the work is amazing. You would go from making $800 a month to $3,000 a month. Which is insane, it’s an insane jump. I mean, you don’t even know what to do with it at first. It’s like ‘I guess I’ll just eat more pizza or drink more beer.’ I mean, you don’t even know what to do at first because you calibrated yourself to living as poor. And suddenly there is just like all this extra money pouring in.
Do you mind telling me what you made after you had your own set-up?
Well, you have to work out the kinks. So the first year I was […] on my own I assumed I would make a lot more. But after I paid my debts in order to run the place I came out with less than I expected, and I had to buy a vehicle and have living money. So I had even less left over to run the farm next year, which is a whole adventure of its own. But it gave me independence to do things on my own and once I did that, you know, (it took a few years) but I finally see the payoff. Every year is different.
Do you think the industry offers you long-term financial stability?
Not the way I’m doing it right now. […] The way this is happening, the way growing is happening now–in Trinity County and in the Triangle (Emerald Triangle)—is about to become obsolete. It’s essentially a bunch of quasi-independent states, its like this feudal system, and there’s people who are gearing up like its going to last forever. But once law comes in […] all they have to do is put in roadblocks. The government has the power to do stuff and the government tends to increase itself, get bigger, put in more regulations, so I see this… I don’t know how long, but doing it this way is not going to last forever. I believe people can draw it out, but as far as a long term thing, no. As far as growing and the black market and big companies coming in, I think that there will probably be a few people it will work for, but the warring states model is on its way out.
What would you be doing as an alternative if you weren’t growing?
Either be teaching, or delivering mattresses, or serving food. My mom calls it a ‘lack of vision’ that I can’t find a steady office job or something. But to be honest, at this point and time and even then, its just not me. And even if that was something I still wanted, there are fewer and fewer of those jobs. And you get paid less and less. And are working more and more.