“Before legalization, people grew cannabis however they could and developed methods to avoid getting caught by law enforcement,” writes Emily Witt. “Regulation demands a different set of skills. Instead of loading their crop into duffel bags and sending it out of state, they have to learn branding and marketing. Legalization brings with it the costs of taxes, permitting, compliance and new competitors. It has also occasioned a rapid drop in price. Now Humboldt County is experiencing not only an economic crisis but also an existential one. What happens to a group of people whose anti-government ethos was sustained by an illegal plant that is now the most regulated crop in California?”It’s a good question.
“Garberville, the supply hub of southern Humboldt County, is perched on the south fork of the Eel River. The town’s main street, Redwood Drive, can be walked in five minutes. Garberville has the rough edges of a gold-rush town, but with peace flags and hemp lattes. It’s a place where min in Carhartt jackets and hunting camo drink ginger Yogi tea and park muddied Dodge Rams outside the Woodrose Café, where they eat organic buckwheat pancakes. The town has a natural-food store where you can buy locally sourced Humboldt Fog cheese, and a home-goods stores where you can buy a wool mattress or a composting toilet. When I visited in February, the marquee of a shuttered movie theatre in town bore the slogan of a newly formed visitors’ bureau: “Elevate the Magic.” But Garberville did not seem entirely ready to make itself over as a place for a romantic getaway — forty years of paranoia and chosen seclusion are not easily dispelled.”