It’s time for Humboldt to come together, to support one another more than ever.
Troubled economic times are brewing. Gas and food prices have reached dizzying levels, as have the prices of many other goods and services we rely on in our daily lives. The current trajectory is unsustainable and promises to collapse the state’s economy. Inflation, or the rise in average prices for goods and services, is at its highest level in approximately forty years. Historically, inflation peaks into recessions, and the last time we had a nasty spike in inflation the economy cratered, and stocks lost nearly half of their value.
While the Federal Reserve promises that inflation will be transitory, or temporary in nature, I think that’s optimistic and misguided. An economic storm is coming and Humboldt’s best chance of weathering it is to come together, support one another in business, and attract tourism and capital investment dollars.
While a statewide or national recession will hamper consumption, tourism, and investment, we need to aggressively pursue capital inputs so our area can maintain a comfortable existence. As you might expect, troubles within the local cannabis industry only exacerbate the sobering reality of a hard economic downturn.
The first thing we can focus on is shopping local. I fully understand that some goods and services aren’t readily available in our area, so shopping out of town or online is a forced necessity. For many goods, though, local shops are convenient, well-stocked, and a pleasure to work with. Local restaurants, hair salons, barbershops, furniture stores, auto dealers, service providers, banks, credit unions, fishing and hunting suppliers, art dealers, massage therapists, and craft vendors to name a few are able to happily meet your needs.
We also have a fair amount of locally owned cannabis dispensaries offering a wide variety of products. When you shop for cannabis or any other goods and services ask two simple questions: is this business locally owned and do you sell any locally produced products?
All the time really, but especially during challenging economic times, supporting one another in business can truly make or break our region. Local dollars are the backbone of our economy and the money circulating through Humboldt versus being remitted to other areas benefits us all.
Tourism is critically important to California and to Humboldt County. According to Visit California, direct travel-related spending was estimated at $65 billion in 2020, down significantly from the prior year. With Covid restrictions, fear, and likely due to increasing inflationary pressures and mounting economic uncertainty, people are staying home and fewer are venturing to our Golden State.
We need to reverse this trend, now.
California more broadly, but Humboldt specifically needs to attract tourist dollars to support the lodging, dining, shopping, and entertainment venues our area needs to thrive economically. We know that Humboldt is a treasured destination for many reasons. The natural beauty of this place is spectacular, as are our rural, artistic, humanitarian, and environmental values. Additionally, we have a world-renowned reputation for cannabis production.
We need to unify, both cannabis and non-cannabis operators and tell the Humboldt story proudly, and in unison. Quibbling over the allocation of marketing dollars and the direction of a county-wide, all-inclusive marketing program is easy – and offers no lasting solutions. It is a function of egos, a lack of critical thinking, and a limited understanding of urgency.
The time is now.
We need a global marketing campaign, highlighting our region’s cannabis and non-cannabis attractions. Humboldt should be and need be our state’s premier travel destination. On the cannabis side, we need to boldly offer farm tours, cannabis consumption lounges, direct-to-consumer cannabis sales, and a Humboldt County Cannabis Cup that dwarfs the Emerald Cup (thanks for the idea Tree Frog Botanicals.)
As mentioned, we have a host of natural and cultural attractions for non-cannabis lovers that we also need to market boldly and creatively to the world – especially emerging regions of affluence in Europe, South America, Asia, and the Middle East.
While I am, and will always be an advocate for shopping local, we must also attract capital investment to thrive. With a highly uncertain future for Humboldt’s largest industry – cannabis – the county needs to be open to further economic developments. Sustainable industrial developments, technology, aquaculture, agriculture, R&D, commercial shipping, and other large-scale projects are needed here.
While many love and cherish our rural vibe and advocate for a semi-closed economy, such ideals are not sustainable in an economic sense – especially in light of the declining cannabis revenues that have paved the way for such comfortable lifestyles for so many residents. We need to put people to work – in high-paying jobs for the 21st century.
The county is facing the imminent loss of several billion in economic activity with the current trajectory in the cannabis space, so it’s time we act. We need to think outside the box and open ourselves to new ideas and new developments. We need to aggressively market our area as a destination hub for recreational outlets and thriving businesses. It’s time to implement policies that foster growth and development – tax incentives, more favorable zoning, streamlined environmental compliance processes, and sensible cannabis regulations namely.
Our livelihoods are at risk. Recession looms, asset prices are in serious jeopardy, business and governmental receipts are tanking, and we need change. In the words of my dear friend Natalynne DeLapp from HCGA, united we stand, divided we fall. Now more than ever, we need to stand together – one voice, one community!
In conclusion, I’d like to inform you that I will now be publishing on a bi-weekly basis. Farm season is in full swing and between working long shifts and spending my limited free time with the family, I simply don’t have as much time to write. I plan on carrying the column throughout the remainder of the year and would like your participation. If anyone has a cannabis-related topic they are dying to learn about, DM me on Instagram and I’ll consider it.
All my love to Humboldt and Beyond!
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.