The subject of cannabis is something I care deeply about.
I am a Humboldt County native, a former caregiver for a dying parent and other terminally ill cancer patients, a commercial grower, and a private financial consultant serving the cannabis community thru a no-cost educational platform.
It seems the current literature on weed is far too compartmentalized. As we continue to stumble over the moral underpinnings of cannabis and continue to silo ourselves into a staunch “for” or “against” mentality, the ability for true and meaningful debate is impacted. Like in our political discourse, grandstanding only goes so far and it doesn’t solve problems…kind of a cop-out, really. A more thoughtful and meaningful dive into the issues is harder and takes more time. That’s what The Cannabis Conversation is about.
It’s about moving past the same type of compartmentalization that stifles thinking and creativity. It’s about exploring the issues around cannabis and about offering lasting policy and community solutions to improve lives, better society, and create ongoing economic opportunity for ourselves and our children. To be clear, this column will not be a disingenuous rag that solely pimps the benefits of using cannabis. Nor will it be a feeble attempt to prop up or redefine an industry that has a lot of skeletons in the closet. My hope is that it will be a spirited platform for furthering the cannabis conversation here and abroad.
As someone who suffered from physical addiction to cannabis as a younger man, someone whose wife thinks cannabis is of the Devil and as someone whose life has been threatened because of my participation in this industry, I understand the negatives associated with cannabis. On one hand, I’ve seen the rampant lawlessness and environmental destruction occurring in the hills of Humboldt County and it’s repulsive. On the other, I’ve seen a loving, conscious cannabis community that cares about protecting and nurturing the environment while providing high-quality, clean products to consumers. I’ve also seen how cannabis can help the terminally ill ween off of heavy narcotics and die with relative comfort and dignity.
Pretending that cannabis (though pure and life-improving herself) is something akin to a bouquet of roses is disingenuous and will not serve the debate well. With a more balanced critique acknowledging both the positives and negatives associated with use and production, we can make more meaningful strides in educating the public, ensuring safe access for all people worldwide, and reclaiming the superiority of the Humboldt Brand.
Over the coming weeks and months, this column will discuss a multitude of issues including cannabis and the local economy, industrial hemp, cannabis as medicine, cannabis addiction, Legacy Farmers, the unregulated market and many others. It is my hope that The Cannabis Conversation will spur debate and help normalize cannabis as not only a valid economic driver of our county and state, but also as a tool for personal health and wellness.
At 43 years old, I’ve been using cannabis for nearly three decades now. I’m one of the approximately 9 percent of cannabis users who gets physically addicted to the substance with habitual use, so I only partake occasionally nowadays. I, like many, have seen the darker side of the cannabis industry. My life was put at risk through a home invasion robbery and one of the neighbors on a farm I managed was killed one night during a deal gone bad. I’ve seen firsthand the criminality and wanton environmental destruction occurring by some bad actors in our hills, and my Central American wife of 23 years believes that I’m taking the family to hell given my participation in the industry.
That said, I’ve met hundreds of farmers locally who love the environment and care deeply about the plant, their community, and their consumers. I view cannabis as God-given and life-giving when used responsibly, and have made farming, helping farmers financially, creating cannabis awareness, and ensuring safe access for all people worldwide my professional pursuit.
I am an ardent supporter of medicinal cannabis for the seriously ill, be they adult, child or infant. While I would prefer that medicinal efforts for kids focus mainly on the non-psychoactive side of the plant like CBD, I strongly prefer the use of cannabis over heavy narcotics for minors facing life-threatening or serious health complications. As a father of six, I empathize with parents facing the terrifyingly painful reality of a sick baby or child. The thought that a child would be denied life-saving and life-improving medicine because of an outdated statute, policy-driven restrictions on cannabis research and development, someone’s own imposed morality, or misinterpreted social externalities is simply unacceptable.
I started using cannabis in my teen years because it was fun – weed made me laugh and feel good and that was enough. Humboldt-grown cannabis is very potent, though, and was disruptive for me in my early years. For these reasons I strongly support legislation that restricts the use of recreational cannabis till the age of 21, a time when individuals have completed secondary education and reached sexual maturity.
Over the years, my use became more centered around emotional and spiritual connectedness, enhanced sensory experiences like sex, wellness issues like stress relief and harm reduction and health. After being diagnosed with acute gastritis, dislocating both hips, and suffering from persistent tears to the posterior iliac with regularly slipping SI Joints, cannabis also became a sleep aid and my preferred pain management tool. Because bottles kill people like me, the conscious choice is clearly cannabis, not alcohol or opiates.
I actively engage my children in conversations around my use and have made it abundantly clear that the kids will not indulge while under our roof unless, God forbid, they fall seriously ill or are seriously injured. Because we are a family that suffers from addiction and believes that addiction is genetic at some level, we have shared that recreational use of any intoxicant is dangerous for our kids. This is not a conversation my parents had with me and I didn’t acquire a vocabulary for addiction until after a deferral program in my early 20s. Because cannabis alters the developing mind and the sexual function of males specifically, exploring in one’s later years seems healthful and prudent. I also believe in not consuming in front of the children as I think it normalizes use and increases the likelihood they will use as well.
I retired from financial advising in 2014 to caregive for my dying mom and came to fully appreciate cannabis as medicine as I watched her body get ravaged from radiation, chemotherapy and a failing immune system. After her death, I decided that farming professionally and improving lives with cannabis would be my next professional pursuit. I studied and farmed rigorously and am now a practicing “clean rusher,” fighting to solidify Humboldt County family farms’ place in the global cannabis supply chain. If Canada can ship weed internationally and establish production facilities in Latin America, then on a local and state level we can assuredly grapple with issues of on-site consumption, cannabis tourism, cannabis for seriously ill children, less discriminatory land use ordinances, and formalizing the interstate or national marketplace that currently exists in robust and illicit form.
I am also a member of the Humboldt County Growers Alliance (HCGA) through a pro bono offering, NorCal Financial & Cannabis Consulting. This educational platform is designed to help farmers improve their cultivation, business, and financial skills so they can continue to compete in the marketplace and continue to drive the economic success of Humboldt.
I am a people person, a lifelong learner, and enjoy the spectacular array of outdoor activities our area provides.
All the best,
Jesse Duncan is a lifelong Humboldt County resident, a father of six, a retired financial advisor, and a full-time commercial cannabis grower. He is also the creator of NorCal Financial and Cannabis Consulting, a no-cost platform that helps small farmers improve their cultivation, business, and financial skills. Please check out his blog at, his Instagram at jesse_duncann, and connect with him on Linkedin.