Once, not long ago, looking behind the Emerald Triangle curtain were thousands of little gardens and mom and pop weed farms outdoors farmers digging in the soil in the sun, creating tiny economies in the shadows and margins under conditions of prohibition, to the benefit of the impoverished county and independent culture as a whole. 10,000 outlaw grows out of 90,000 total population in Mendo County, despite criminal and civil prosecutions, was enough to replace dying timber and fishing economies that had once kept the economic scene alive and ghost towns at bay. It was widely acknowledged to account for two-thirds of the local economy. Restaurants, motels, gas stations and local shops knew it, local residents, real estate agents and politicians knew it. The prohibition underground was begrudgingly appreciated though not publicly recognized. Still, the county and the culture thrived side by side.
Take a peek behind the teeming green curtain of Compassionate Use and this is what you once saw...but no more. It has been chewed up, broken down and spit out, limp and lame, a shrinking mass of the world renown plant is a fraction of its former self.
This is reflected in the Emerald Cup in its eleventh year with a skeleton of the previous lucrative businesses and fewer booths of goods and services but a crowd nonetheless that has gathered kicking and shouting to show it still exists, despite all efforts to kill it.
In 2020 the Cup was virtual, in 2021 it was real, a gathering once again, against all odds in the middle of a pandemic. The core cultivators and innovators came together into a whole cloth of small businesses, gathering in the medical purposes tent as a culture in crisis, approved by the Fairgrounds, reduced by roughly 50% by the corporate takeover of Propositions 64 & 94 but determined to survive if not thrive.
Prop 215, known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, ended the prohibition of the plant since 1937 and for the first time in 80 some odd years brought about the underground culture asserting itself as an ancient healing medicine revered in the heritage of the majority of the world’s religions, known for its remarkable safety for hundreds of years never having killed a single person. Despite the death knell of 64 and 94, whose purpose was to kill Prop 215, the culture was too big to ignore. The stewards of the plant, gathered in the medical tent for the first time in two years to preserve and protect the culture they had built, fully vaccinated as required by Santa Rosa Fairgrounds, and reasserted themselves as people with rights and drew upon their ancient heritage, despite losses in the day to day political arena.
From 1937 to 1996, the culture was underground. Scarcity and poverty, persecution and prosecution, were the norm. To counter the trend, the plant was shared to spread, preserve and protect it from those who would block it through regulation strangulation. The plan was undercut and stymied by resolve of the masses to preserve their medicine and stop the steal!
This was accomplished by putting into practice what they knew — sharing joints and smoking pipes containing their beloved medicine.
Despite concern about COVID, the issue was whether the virus would be spread in close quarters by sharing joints. Consensus was it was not passed through saliva but by particles in the air and the way to protect it was by sharing, not hoarding. Richard Jergenson, proprietor of the Cannabis Cultural Museum, put it this way. “Back in the day, scarcity of the sacred herb brought about a shared economy. We shared what we had and medicated with purpose.” Thus the tent was the place this was all put in practice. There seems to have been no spike in new cases from the practice, judging by two weeks of data and observation.
Some known aspects of the plant support this reality. Cannabis is acknowledged as a neuroprotectant. Medical studies carried out by scientists expecting to find increased lung disease due to a generation of smoking, found none, much to their surprise. Anecdotally, people shared their experiences and collectively came to the conclusion that those known to be Covid positive did not pass the virus to people sharing joints with them.
In the words of the popular African song, “Pass the kochi from the left hand side.”