We don’t garden much, but this year we thought we’d grow some purple carrots, garlic, chives and green onions in pots around our home. We stopped at Dazey’s garden supply store to look for some vegetable starts, because, as I recall, they used to have a pretty good selection in the spring. When we got there, the place was mobbed. All around us people were piling sacks and loading and unloading trucks in every available space. We asked about plant starts. They told us they don’t do plants anymore.

They’d happily sell me a trimming machine, bubble bags and all the soil and amendments I could ask for, but they had no plants at all in their “garden center.” They sent me to Sylvandale’s and Redway Feed, both of which, like Dazey’s, were hopping with customers, but unlike Dazey’s, actually had a few plants. Still, the selection seemed pretty slim at both locations.

Back in high school, I used to work in a garden center. We had more plants than all of the “garden centers” in SoHum put together. I mixed mountains of soil, filled thousands of flats with six-packs and soil and watered millions of tiny seedlings every year for people who grew flowers and vegetables in their gardens. That’s why they called it a “garden center.” I guess we don’t even pretend to grow anything but pot around here anymore.

A friend of mine who works at one of our local “garden centers” told me they had an order for 600 pallets of bagged soil (that’s well over 1,000 cubic yards of sterilized potting soil, packed into over 30,000 bags) for one customer. I have no idea how many tractor-trailer loads that comes out to, but the delivery driver is going to know that route well by the time it is all delivered. The garden center I worked at couldn’t move that that much soil in a decade, no matter how they sold it. Here, you could sell all the dirt on the planet to Humboldt County pot growers if you could just find enough trucks and drivers to deliver it.

Who’s got the time for a vegetable garden when you’ve got 30,000 bags of soil to open before you plant, and you pay almost as much for soil as you would for all the vegetables you could grow in it? If it doesn’t make sense to grow vegetables that way, why grow pot that way? If it weren’t for marijuana prohibition, no one would dream of cutting down trees or draining salmon streams or hauling 600 pallets of sterilized potting soil halfway across the state and ten miles up a muddy dirt road to a hole in the forest, to grow a common, hardy agricultural staple. None of this makes any sense, outside of the War on Drugs, but it looks like we’ll see more Drug War madness in 2017 than we ever saw before.

2017 promises to be the biggest soil delivery season in Humboldt County history, and our roads are in the worst shape I’ve ever seen them. Just add the cost of the road damage, both to county roads and to private roads and adjacent habitat, to the long litany of costs born by the community at large for the War on Drugs. I know you don’t want to think about that. You really don’t want to think about the millions of lives, lost and ruined, even though you know some of them. You don’t want to think about what it has done to you and your kids, and how it affects our community. You don’t want to think about what it says about our society, and what it is doing to the Earth. You don’t want to think about it, because you don’t want to know, and you don’t want to know because if you knew, you couldn’t do it. You wouldn’t do it. You wouldn’t tolerate it.

According to 2nd District Supervisor Estelle Fennell, so far Humboldt County has only granted 19 cannabis cultivation permits, and they’re holding meetings all over Humboldt County to decide how to spend the tax money they collect from these few growers who paid the fees, made the improvements and submitted to inspections, and still dare to compete with the black market. Meanwhile, the vast majority of Humboldt County’s growers have opted to remain in the shadows to serve the nationwide black market.

The county received more than 2,000 cannabis permit applications before the deadline last December. Most of those permit applications will never get approved. Growers knew that they could file a little paperwork and pay a fee that would keep the Sheriff out of their hair for a year or two. The black market has always had a cut and run attitude.

The fact that over 2,000 people filed applications for permits doesn’t mean that they intend to comply with state and county regulations, it just means that they intend to cut big this year. Instead of bringing the cannabis industry out of the shadows, Humboldt County’s cannabis permit program seems to have allowed a couple thousand growers to buy cover for all of them for one more big year in 2017. After that, we’ll see what’s left of Humboldt County.


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