Growers Take The Profits, Trimmers Take The Risks
by Bruce McEwen, August 10, 2016
Trimming season starts early these days. For the past few years, since light deprivation grows became so widespread, growers get two, sometimes three harvests a year instead of one.
Here’s how it works:
The pot plant was traditionally germinated from seed during the winter solstice, and local hippies made a holy ceremony out of it — like they did every other aspect of growing the miracle drug. The seedlings were kept indoors on a sunny window sill or in a heated greenhouse until all threat of frost was past, usually April 15th, tax deadline to the mainstream, a day of worship for the pot phama. Male plants were then weeded out, and the female plants were transplanted outdoors in large pots or a thoroughly tilled and fertilized garden site.
Outside, the ladies were lovingly nurtured, watered daily, as the days grew longer and longer until the summer solstice when, as hours of sunlight began to wane, the plants began to bud out, and water and nitrogen were cut off to reduce leaf production, and from this point onward until the fall harvest the plant produced those great big beautiful kolas that made Mendocino marijuana the winner of so many Emerald Cups but drew top dollar in distant markets.
The idea behind the light deprivation grow is to toss out the holy ceremonies tied to the earth’s natural cycles, germinate the seeds year-round, plant them in a greenhouse in January, fool the plant into thinking the solstice started in March (by covering the greenhouse with dark tarps while the sun is still up), and get down to business — business being more important to the new generation of growers than ceremony.
At about the same time as the light-dep grows became widespread, the market became flooded and prices fell off sharply. Sure, there was always indoor pot available year-round before light-dep, but the connoisseur who preferred the inimitable Mendo outdoor had to husband his stash throughout the whole year before he could replenish it just before Halloween. For those who wonder why that kids’ holiday has always been so inordinately popular on the Northcoast, it was also the holiest of the pot pharma’s holy days. Then, suddenly, with the advent of light-dep, there were ounces and pounds of the stuff market-ready before school even started in late August.
So, trimming season is already well underway this time of year, and in little towns like Boonville scruffy young strangers are noted by year-round residents.
As a result of the increase in the amount of “product” — the term that has replaced “medicine” as the bullet heads take over the industry from the old back-to-the-landers — that comes with multiple harvests, also comes a reduction in price. Pure market forces are at work; supply goes up, prices come down.
The younger grower is a born capitalist. No holy herb for him. These things are cash-money. He’s in it purely for the do re mi. And, being the hard-headed businessman that he is he reduces his labor costs, i.e., the trimmer. No longer does the boss man pay $200 per pound. Now it’s $100 per pound, at best. We’ll get back to that, shortly.
The old hippies with their pagan ceremonies and mystic mumbo jumbo just don’t get it. We see the time capsule growers at the Not So Simple Living Fair, still idealistic but now dreading full legalization when the light dep and industrial greenhouse boys take over the whole show. The aged flower child wanders around in like Rip Van Full Moon-Boogie.
When flower power ruled, trimmers got $200 per pound — when $200 was good money for a couple of days’ work. The old hippies deplore the hard-headed business practices of their children and grandchildren, the making of profits on the backs of the friends and neighbors who used to do the trimming, one big family. The pioneer pot growers had come to Mendoland to live a better kind of life. They wouldn’t have poisoned the land and dried up blue line streams to save their lives.
Until recently, it was the Mexicans and other green card immigrants who caused havoc on public lands with guerilla grows (aka dozer grows), people who came from Third World countries and, out of ecological ignorance, trashed the land they had no association with, no regard for. The old hippies also hated hard drugs, and disassociated themselves from junkies and tweakers. In fact the highest political goal of the old hippy was to separate cannabis from the narcotic status imposed by the government’s DEA.
Not so fussy, the new growers.
Recently, I conducted an interview with a trimmer — who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons. Let’s call him Tim.
AVA: So, how’s it going?
Tim: Not so good.
AVA: How’s that?
Tim: Well, I didn’t really want to be trimming in the first place, since the pay is so lousy.
AVA: Then why are you doing it?
Tim: Look. I don’t know about your financial situation, but I’m having a hard time just paying my rent and utilities, let alone gas and insurance for the car. On top of that I just got a $200 water bill… I have no idea how I can ever pay that.
AVA: Don’t you have a regular job?
Tim: Well, I did.
AVA: What happened to it?
Tim: Well, to tell you the truth, I got fired. I was doing pretty good until I started smoking meth, and I could even get away with it at work, really blazing around impressing the boss. Then one day I came in a little burnt out and he started ragging on me, cracking mean jokes about tweakers being worthless fucks, that sort of thing — and here’s the thing, I wasn’t even blazing that day. So I didn’t get it. But he just kept it up, and the next day I didn’t even want to go, so I called in sick — and he fucking fired me! Just like that!
AVA: Did you take him to court for wrongful termination?
Tim: Nah, I blew it off and after a couple of months I got another job, and things were going good again until, well, pretty much the same thing happened. I got burned out and called sick in a couple of times and got fired again.
AVA: Then what?
Tim: After a while I got off the meth — I just couldn’t afford it any more, so I had to quit. I even sold my meth pipe to a guy — he’s a dealer and a thief, but a good thief, if you know what I mean —
AVA: I’m not sure I do…
Tim: Well, he don’t steal from anybody right around where he lives, so, like, I know he wouldn’t steal from me, for instance. So I sold him my pipe, then the next day a guy, a friend of mine, gave me some meth, and I went to get the pipe back and, well, he didn’t have it — that really pissed me off, too, ‘cause he said he’d hold on to to it for me, you know, like a pawn shop.
AVA: So you were pissed off. What did you do?
Tim: I sold the meth to somebody else and — here’s the thing — now I’m really glad I didn’t get the pipe back, see?
AVA: I do. So, now, maybe you can get a job?
Tim: I tried, but now my former employers are a problem ‘cause they tell any possible new employer that I’m an unreliable tweaker, and they never call me back.
AVA: So you took a job trimming weed?
AVA: And it’s going badly?
Tim: Ugh! Very bad. Not only does the grower only pay $100 a pound, but he’s real anal about how it’s trimmed, and deducts this and that over nitpicky little shit. Then when I get it just right, all nice and pretty, he says I have to take meth instead of money.
AVA: I thought you quit the meth?
Tim: I did.
AVA: Why don’t you tell him you want money, instead?
Tim: I did. He says if I want money I can go sell the meth.
AVA: Do you know that’s a felony?
Tim: Yeah, I know, but what can I do? It’s a take it or leave it situation.
AVA: How do you pay your bills — not with meth, I hope?
Tim: No. There is one way I can get money from him.
AVA: What’s that?
Tim: If I go and mail the product for him at the UPS.
AVA: Don’t you have to show your ID and sign your name to do that?
Tim: Of course I do.
AVA: That’s an even more serious crime than selling the meth, isn’t it?
Tim: It is. That’s why he makes me do it.
AVA: Do you hang out with this guy much — is he around when you’re trimming his weed?
Tim: Oh, sure. But I think he hangs out just to keep an eye on me. He doesn’t really trust anybody, you know.
AVA: I do. But what’s he like?
Tim: What do you mean?
AVA: What does he talk about, what are his interests?
Tim: Oh, he’s real cool, has lots of nice things he likes to show me.
AVA: Does he talk politics, at all, anything like that?
Tim: Well, he’s real down on big corporations, that kind of shit, like Monsanto and GMOs and putting all that gluten in the bread. He’s really into organic food, organic beer, organic clothes, organic everything; he even feeds his pit-bull organic dog food. But what really gets him going is calling corporations “people.” Corporations aren’t people, he says. He says corporations screw people over, and it pisses him off, big time.
AVA: Do you think he’s being ironic?
Tim: What do you mean?
AVA: Well, isn’t he screwing you over?
Tim: Huh…? I guess I never thought of it that way.
AVA: Are all the growers as bad to work for as this guy?
Tim: All the ones I know are about the same.
AVA: How ‘bout the trimmers. Are they all getting paid in meth?
Tim: Maybe not all… I mean, like if you’re family or a real good friend, maybe you get cash. But mostly, it’s meth. That way the growers make a profit on their payroll as well as on their product.
AVA: Well, Tim, it has been very informative talking to you and I wish you luck getting a better job. If there’s anything I can do to help, don’t hesitate to ask.
Tim: There is one thing.
AVA: What’s that?
Tim: Well, I heard your neighbor has a lot of tweakers coming around for meth. Do you mind if I go over there and sell ‘em this eight-ball I got paid with?
AVA: I’d rather you didn’t, actually.
Tim: Never hurts to ask. See ya.
* * *
By way of corroborating what Tim said about being paid in meth, we’d like to add that there has not been one grower busted in the recent past, of the many we see in court on a weekly basis, who was not also in possession of large amounts of methamphetamine.
So, as we’ve learned from our interview with a primary source, whatever ethical standards were once assumed to be synonymous with marijuana cultivation, are long gone. Growers nowadays are rapacious, unscrupulous and blithely unaware of their hypocrisy. What’s worse, these wolves are turning the working classes they exploit into a psychotic of underworld rabble worse than anything Hogarth ever imagined about Gin Alley in his 17th Century paintings. Add to this the impending Proposition 57, wherein Governor Brown intends to turn out some of the nastiest thugs currently in the prison system — and hang on, here we go, spinning off into chaos!
Here are some questions I asked “Tim” to pose to the grower he trims for next time the guy starts his political rant on the abuses practiced by corporations.
Is it the GMOs and gluten in the bread that drives people crazy, or is it the meth?
Since he likes everything to be organic – what about the meth? Is it organic?
How much is he getting for his “product” when he [sic] mails it out of state?
Assuming he buys his meth wholesale (or cooks it himself), how much is he really paying his trimmers?
Supposing he was to prepare a statement for the impending county tax on marijuana, could he deduct the cost of meth from his overhead?
If so, how could the county be sure of the real amount he was out-of-pocket for trimming expenses?