The Underground Review

photo copy 2In our current epoch the cannabis plant resides at a unique crossroad. Agriculture, nutrition, religion, resource management, medicine, art, fashion, gastronomy, academics, law, politics, athletics, and alternative lifestyles all intersect with the plant. From Miles Davis to Michael Phelps to President Obama, we all smoke weed – even Newt Gingrich said it’s the thing to do! The plant can ease sore bones, cultivate creativity, be processed into fuel, stimulate conversation, symbolize a culture, or simply make dinner more enjoyable. The vast utility of the plant is still unknown due to years of culture war – stigmatizing, scapegoating, and excluding the plants supporters. Now mainstream – TIME dedicated a special edition to cannabis legalization – consumers want to devour Northern California’s normalizing cannabis industry and culture, McDonaldizing and Disneyfying as they go – everything in neat tidy boxes. Will Humboldt’s cannabis farming forefathers go the way of Burt of Burt’s Bees? What role do younger generations play with cannabis legalization looming? How do we walk the line between saving Humboldt’s cannabis industry and staying true to our community, values, and culture: our elders? We’re all standing on the shoulders of giants (unknown and otherwise) and due credit is deserved. HU is dedicated to this end and as the Underground Review trudges on to its inevitable fate – legalization – HU will continue to unearth the people of our emerging cannabis industry.

After meeting with Humboldt NORML at Humbrews, HU staff collected back at headquarters for a spliff and a thoughtful conversation, contemplating all the different view points…

The meetings’ members – from all walks of life – seemed to be generally concerned with the future of the industry and the way in which future legislation might affect livelihoods. The “boogie men” in the room, as always, were Monsanto and the narcs, but also special interest groups influencing language and data used by lawmakers. At issue was the data – provided by California’s Fish and Game – being used by our government to create law and influence public perception. This data states that all cannabis plants require five to ten gallons of water per day through all stages of growth. These figures were lifted from research provided by Humboldt Growers Association back in 2011 in order to promote best practices in Humboldt County – encouraging farmers to install water tanks as to not draw from watersheds during peak summer months. Now, during drought, this data is being used by law enforcement to stigmatize Northern California’s cannabis industry. Law enforcement is now using our good faith data – provided by our community to help educate our farmers – against us.

Is it just us… or does this sound like that old broken record stuck on a new track?

Max Weber theorized that power only becomes authority when it is legitimized. In order to legitimize the criminal justice systems power over cannabis enforcement – and the gains associated with it – law enforcement stigmatizes Northern California’s cannabis industry by tying our regions growers to criminal activity.

Police PR machines – existing in every sizeable department – fulfill this function. And the latest of this long tale of criminalizing cannabis providers is… (drum role…): water.

Expounding cannabis as a culprit in California’s water scarcity, California NORML has demonstrated that law enforcement is tying a 5-10 gal/per day price tag to each 2 to 3 foot plant they “eradicate.” By tallying eradicated plant numbers with grossly exaggerated water usage figures, police simultaneously stigmatize cannabis farmers and legitimize their current enforcement function. This is similar to holding up a pound (modestly estimated at about $1,600 value these days) and saying it’s street value is $9,000 – 454 grams multiplied by $20 per gram (the price of weed in 1998). We all know this is BS! It’s the same for water usage: inflated numbers to make fear-mongering politicians feel all bubbly inside.

Stigmatizing scare tactics employed by our “protecting and serving” police and politicians are nothing new. The list of scare tactics used in the last half century reads like the string of villains our favorite comic book hero must stave off: marijuana menace, communism, amotivational syndrome, gateway drug, Mexican drug cartels, home invasions, fires, and, now, drought (The Joker, Penguin, Two Face, Bane, Poison Ivy; you get it…). Each has a grain of truth and can be tied to greater societal fears but all are short sited (cited?) and self-serving tools for police and politicians.

When it comes to cannabis and water, law enforcements claims are in vain. Casey O’Neil from The Ganjier has a better estimate; his article How Much Water Does It Take To Grow Cannabis gives us a more accurate depiction of a cannabis plants’ water usage. He uses a 1:1:1 ratio – that’s 1 gallon of water: per 1 day of peak growth: per 1 pound produced by the particular plant in question.

Delving deeper, when comparing water usage and serving sizes, cannabis uses far less water. Compared with the desired outcome of grapevines and almond tree’s, cannabis plants use (max) half a gallon per serving (½ gram joint). Almond trees need an entire gallon of water per nut according to research provided by Emerald Growers Association. Call a serving size ten nuts and that’s ten gallons!

As the Humboldt NORML meeting meandered, the usual conversation came up comparing Humboldt County with Napa Valley, but with a water twist. Many agreed that Humboldt’s water is one of the main reasons for the potential of the region. This is why cannabis was cultivated here in the first place. Nowadays, no other region in California can tolerate new cannabis ag industry. Humboldt, the Emerald Triangle, and Northern California watersheds already support the cannabis industry; therefore, with some oversight and education Humboldt’s cannabis industry can exist side by side with salmon and the redwoods. What thoughtful reflections!

All in all, the meeting was quality and enjoyable. It felt good to be in the presence of like-minded people with similar concerns. They meet 6pm at Humbrews the last Wednesday of every month (thumbs up). Check them out!

Here at HU we sometimes wonder why pro-cannabis groups take the time to give lip service to law enforcement claims… Old ways die-hard and just like right wing crazies, maybe its just time to ignore their PR machine. Like Cesar Millan ignores aggressive dogs, we just have to be calm assertive.

Tphoto copy 5his addition of the Underground Review will shake your boots right off. If you ask, the universe will answer, and some of HU questions have been answered by highly credible sources. Yes, Frenchy Cannoli is in the house once again, also, Japhy Rider will make a guest appearance, Judge Lastreto will give us her verdict, Bill Maher is with us, and, last but not least, we must not forget about the Hemperor Jack Herer.

  • Napa, Humboldt, Napa, Humboldt, Napa, Humboldt, Bordeaux? Wine and weed… Grapes… Cabernet… Purple Urkle… HU has been working on a three part series comparing Humboldt’s cannabis industry to Napa Valley’s wine industry and Silicon Valley’s tech industry (check ‘em out – Part 1: Silicon Valley, Part 2: Napa Valley, and Part 3: Soon to come!). Some interesting questions have been raised but no answers, that is… until now. How Cannabis Can Learn From Wine by Frenchy Cannoli sheds light on this topic. Specifically, questions about (1) varietal expression, (2) leadership, and (3) the history of our region. According to Frenchy’s expert opinion, cannabis varieties express different characteristics when grown in different regions with different combinations of climate, geology, and geography: terroir. Much like wine, cannabis will express characteristics from the area in which it is grown. This is the cornerstone of the “Bordeaux Classification” in the wine industry; the system that makes highly classified wine from prestigious regions more expensive. The Bordeaux chamber of commerce and the Vintners Association created this classification system. As HU has pointed out, in Napa, the Napa chamber of commerce along with Napa Valley Vintners organization have created a similar system of quality classifications and controls. On the North Coast, Mr. Cannoli calls on the Emerald Growers Association (EGA) to set similar standards and quality controls for our cannabis industry. This is following the Bordeaux region in France where, in order to be classified, wine producers must embody long-standing quality, consistency of defining characteristics, and continuity of a quality public image. For Frenchy, in order to protect our small cannabis farmers, EGA must set standards that cannot be met by large-scale producers. It’s these standards, along with the premium price of highly classified products that make small family farms viable. As Frenchy puts it himself, “the chance to create your own quality standards in any industry comes once in a lifetime; we have today the opportunity to do just that in the cannabis industry, basing our standards on the best genetics ever grown in the country.” So where does your weed come from? Our nugs are high quality Humboldt, conscious clear, the best weed in the world!
  • “Japhy was in high spirits, ‘Goddammit it feels good to get away from dissipation and go in the woods… Alaska to Klamath a solid forest of fir to bhikku in… Woo! You know what woo means in Chinese? … Fog. These woods are great here in Marin… but up north is all that real old Pacific Coast mountain and ocean land, the future home of the Dharma body.’” Japhy Ryder – Jack Kerouac’s famous monk-like character based on poet and essayist Gary Snider in his book The Dharma Bums. He knew that the North Coast’s forests, rivers, coast lands, and mountains were healing magical places. He knew that leaving the bustle of The Bay and spending a few days centering your chi in the woods is important for city folk. In the book Japhy takes Kerouac’s character Ray backing packing, they head for the hills and Jack writes it all down in his marvelous style. Nowadays backpacking and outdoor trips are big business. In the September addition of Backpacker Magazine, Prairie Creek was featured with a full-page photo of Fern Canyon, truly a magical place, definitely the home of the Dharma body… Many-a-person comes to Humboldt to mend bruised souls and achy hearts. Humboldt is a place people come to reflect, slowdown, and relax. Arcata’s prestigious soup kitchen is even named after the bhikku Japhy(‘s). Cannabis fits right into this fold. A hike in Humboldt’s magical redwoods, a well-timed joint, and a quality meal will make the stubbornness stress melt away from city-shocked bones. No? Still feel stressed? Maybe a float down one of our beautiful rivers, an edible, and a night under the stars… Still can’t take your mind off work? Maybe a fishing trip, a blunt, and beers to celebrate your catch… So what are we trying to get at? HU sees the connection between Humboldt’s complimentary industries as vital to Humboldt future economic success. Smoking really good strong weed all day just isn’t going to work, tourists can, and would rather, do that at home. To have tourists keep coming back, Humboldt needs to integrate the great outdoors with quality cannabis (and everything else Humboldt has to offer) in order to create a memorable experience.
  • Don’t Judge me! So how do we judge if wine is quality or not? HU staff is more of a beer drinking crew, so what do we do if we are on a date, at a fancy restaurant, and want to have a nice bottle of wine with our meal? We ask the sommelier of course… A good somm, as their called in the restaurant industry, is considered on the same level as top chefs nowadays. They recommend and pair wines for those of us who haven’t put in the time or research. When we look at the cannabis industry… we see bud tenders taking on this role. But how does one judge the world best buds? Part of a somm’s job is to educate the public about what makes quality wine quality… Smell The Truth from SF Weekly has us covered. As a part of their new podcast – The Hash – Emerald Cup Judge Nikki Lastreto was interviewed about judging quality cannabis by Smell the Truth’s David Downs. She outlines four judging categories: (1) look, (2) smell, (3) feel, and (4) taste. She says not to be fooled by the look of a nug, sometimes chemy nugs bling… Under the microscope she checks for evidence of infestation, infection, and trim machines. After a good look, one should smell the cannabis. A well-cured cannabis bud should smell sharp, it’s gonna stink, which makes smell difficult for newbs, but a quality nug will have a distinct nose – it will smell more like your armpit then the locker room. It’s a musk you recognize and are almost drawn to, like the smell of your significant other (note: this is HU’s elution and not Nikki’s, she’s way too classy). Sorry, that’s the only way to describe it though… Next feel and pinch the nug. Don’t be scared… Spread the nug to make it look like it has gills, feel inside for stickiness. Feel is also highly dependent on the curing process, to dry and a nug will crumble, too wet and it may be moldy or won’t burn, eventually becoming water damaged like an old newspaper clipping. Taste is next. Taste is synonymous with smell, take a dry hit and try to decipher the flavors you experience. A good somm memorizes the flavor wheel. They will taste dirt, dry and wet lavender, and leather in order to decipher the flavors in wine. Cannabis has just as many if not more flavonoids than wine. Lastly, part of taste is effect according to Nikki. The effect of cannabis seems to be hard to judge because of the subjectivity of being “high” but try to note the “entourage effect” – as its known. This term is used to describe the totality of the experience; the way in which the THC, CBD, terpines and flavonoids coalesce. As Nikki puts it, “it’s not just ‘I wanna get fucked up,’ be conscious of your high.” Does it achieve the desired effect? Did you want to watch a movie, go on a hike, or sleep? Did the cannabis help as advertised?
  • Oh you’re so funny Bill? Gavin Newsome was on Real Time with Bill Maher this month and he named dropped the Emerald Triangle! “$12 billion wholesale a year,” bam! And Bill is proud of us (thumbs up)! But Gavin is also worried about our kids and our economy… he’s even got the right wing crazies on his side. He’s so amazing… check out the clip provided by NORML.

  • Last but not least: HEMP! We can’t forget about hemp… Jack Herer would turn in his grave if we forgot about hemp. CannabisNow out of Berkeley devoted the better part of issue number ten to the subject, and, as we all know from reading the Emperor Wears No Clothes, cannabis can be used to make just about anything – including bio-degradable plastic, bio-diesel and bio-mass fuels, textile, and a number of nutritional food products. It balances soil and makes an excellent cover crop. Here in Humboldt, we are afraid of hemp due to its pollinating males and, although this can be a problem, modern agriculture practices have already mitigated this issue for us. Look for Humboldt’s very own Hempstead Project Heart to address this is issue in the near future. Check out their website (! They’re also interested in using the stalks of outdoor medicinal cannabis plants to create products (thumbs up)!


One response to “The Underground Review

  1. Pingback: Truth and Change in Northern Cali as Cannabis Goes Mainstream | The Humboldt Underground

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