John Hardin / @ 7:44 a.m. / Op-Ed

HARDIN: New Ordinance or Not, Consumers Will Decide


With almost no compliance from growers on our current cannabis cultivation ordinance, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors is looking into crafting a new ordinance which would undo the few environmental protections that made it into the current ordinance. For instance, the proposed new ordinance allows for more new grows in forest habitat. The last thing we need in Humboldt County is more new grows in forest habitat. Destroying forest habitat to grow pot is like killing whales to make Greenpeace stickers. There’s something wrong with this picture, folks.

I don’t like the sound of it either. The new proposal would allow growers to use generators to power lights in rural greenhouses, so long as they get 80 percent of their power from renewable sources. This cuts no mustard with me. If I can hear your generator, you’re an asshole who should be run out of town on a rail. I don’t give a damn how many solar panels you have, you are still an asshole.

You don’t need electricity to grow weed. If you do need electricity to grow weed, there are plenty of places with flat land and convenient grid power, and you should move there, because the people who grow pot on flat, fertile land, convenient to public utilities, will put you out of business if you don’t. Most growers, who want to stay in the game post-legalization probably should think about moving somewhere flat and sunny, with grid electricity, on a major highway.

Now is the time to decide whether you want to be a rich pot farmer, or a poor forest gnome. If you want to be a rich pot farmer, find some land that’s suitable for agriculture, preferably in some other county, and go big. If you want to live here in the forest, then make that your priority, and realize that you’ll probably need to find some other way to make a living. Unless you’ve been spoiled rotten by your drug-dealing parents and have grossly unrealistic expectations, that shouldn’t be too hard.

On the other hand, I like some aspects of this proposed new ordinance. I especially like the idea to license businesses for on-site cannabis consumption. I think it’s about time that Humboldt County growers start catering to cannabis consumers instead of drug dealers. Growing and dealing cannabis is all about money, which is boring and banal, like most growers and dealers, but cannabis culture really flourishes when cannabis consumers come together, express themselves, and interact with each other in public places. I think we need on-site consumption in Humboldt County, and I think we would do it well.

Humboldt County culture has been largely shaped by cannabis consumption. Our heritage of alternative energy and building technologies, raising money by throwing wild parties instead of through taxes, and our hedonistic history of free love and running naked through the woods testify to the kind of free-thinking creative ingenuity that cannabis use inspires. Who better than us would know how to design the kind of environment that enhances the cannabis experience?

On-site consumption opens up the whole world of cannabis culture and lifestyle. On-site consumption brings food, decor, art, music, entertainment and fashion into the cannabis industry, creating a lot more economic diversity in our community than a simple agricultural commodity ever could. This kind of direct connection makes the Humboldt brand tangible to consumers. We need on-site consumption for cannabis tourism too. We have a lot to offer cannabis tourists, and I think cannabis consumer tourism will look a lot different from the drug dealer business trips that we see today.

Drug dealers don’t like adjoining rooms in hotels, but don’t complain about the quality of overpriced food. Cannabis users care more about the quality and price of the food, and would rather camp than stay in a hotel. Drug dealers keep a low profile and spend liberally, while cannabis consumers don’t mind looking a little freaky, or complaining about being overcharged. We get plenty of both here, but we should make sure to remember that cannabis consumers, not drug dealers, drive the cannabis market. The less time we spend catering to drug dealers, and the more time we spend with people who work real jobs and buy cannabis with their hard-earned cash, the better we will understand what customers want in a cannabis product, and the more opportunity we have to connect with customers in a way that builds brand loyalty.

Of course, to earn that kind of loyalty, cannabis consumers have to like us. To make them like us, we need to make sure that cannabis consumers have a good time while they are here, whether they show up for Reggae on the River or blow into town around harvest season. If we want cannabis consumers to patronize our product for the rest of their lives, we had better treat them right while they are here.

That’s an important lesson we need to learn as we step out of prohibition and into the free market. We’ve gotten used to the black market, where government policy props up prices and limits competition, but in the free market, consumer choice, not government policy makes the difference between success and failure. 

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John Hardin writes at Like You’ve Got Something Better to Do.


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