California’s Emerald Cup took place between December 15th and 16th, 2018. Swirls of pot smoke hung in the air like the fog from a horror film. However, it wasn’t flesh-eating zombies shuffling through the fog at the Sonoma fairgrounds; rather, it was 28,000 red-eyed cannabis fans.
The two-day festival has become one of the most popular annual cannabis events in the country. People from all walks of life fill the fairgrounds to wade through this massive reefer gathering each year.
Vendors at the Emerald Cup have booths set up offering flower, clones, chocolates, candies, balms, oils and more. The festival is also known for hosting community and industry-related discussions. This year the festival hosted several panel discussions including cannabis-related topics such as medical research, licensing, cultivation and spirituality.
As the first Emerald Cup since the legalization of recreational marijuana in California, there wasn’t much of a noticeable change in the popular gathering. And with millions of dollars worth of cash on hand, vendors were urged to record their sales as accurately as possible to pay their taxes correctly.
Many of the 2018 Emerald Cup attendees were Northern California cannabis cultivators with broken hearts about the change of directions in California cannabis culture. California is perhaps the most legendary state in North America, as far as marijuana is concerned. It’s no secret that Americans across the country have relied on black market Californian cannabis for decades.
However, with new changes to California cannabis law (2016’s landslide approval of Proposition 64 specifically), the market is changing, and while it seems to be for the greater good, not everyone is feeling so positive about it.
Growers that supplied a huge portion of the United State’s street-level marijuana are losing their livelihoods or already have. It’s no wonder that these cultivators are upset, they sacrificed their freedom, lived with paranoia for years, served time in jail, and all due to their dedication to the underground California cannabis culture.
Decades ago, when the local timber industry, as well as local salmon fisheries, closed up shop for good, it was the local cannabis farmers who helped stabilize the failing economy. Years later, with a much more stable economy, especially where marijuana is concerned, these same people have and are now losing everything they worked for.
For years, Californians trusted in the local cannabis industry. Even more, the market thrived under their care. Now, with big business and government getting involved with laws and regulations regarding the cannabis industry, the old school farmers of California’s Emerald Triangle (Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties) are suffering like never before.
It’s safe to say that cannabis grown and developed in the Emerald Triangle will always have some level of popularity with consumers strictly due to California’s legendary reputation concerning cannabis cultivation. However, this same marijuana, once labeled as the best in the country, is quickly becoming just another niche product in a massive industry.
“There is mourning going on for all the people who were part of the industry who are not going to see the Promised Land,” said Emerald Cup founder, Tim Blake. “Our typical American capitalist society is taking it over. It’s going to be a fight for every small farm and every small cultivator to find a place at the table. I’m excited, but I am torn for all the people who have come to me and said, ‘What happened?’”
It’s painfully clear to all involved that the times have changed, and not necessarily for the better of everyone. Once upon a time, only medical marijuana was legal in the golden state, now, recreational cannabis can be bought by anyone age 21 or above.
Something else that’s become quite clear in the last couple of years is that a huge number of California cannabis growers are now suffering from the rapidly falling cannabis prices. The government’s strict new environmental regulations and the sky-high licensing fees, which are far from affordable for all, is also worsening the situation.
Dennis Hunter, a founder of more the more than successful cannabis company, CannaCraft, has a lot to say on these matters.
“I have friends who have lost their way of living,” said Hunter. “The sheriffs didn’t really shut down marijuana as well as code enforcement has. It’s really affected the small farmer that’s growing his crop on five acres. We’re losing that part of our industry to big ag.”
If anyone understands the plight of the local growers, and the losing battle they face, due to the changes in California’s cannabis culture, it’s Dennis Hunter for sure.
Hunter himself has served over half a decade in prison for the illegal cultivation of cannabis. The cannabis cultivating veteran seems to be fairing better than most, however, as he recently landed a former dean of the business school at Sonoma State University, William Silver.
When questioned about the move, Hunter said “this is a huge industry now. It attracts a lot of money and investment, so a lot of people that were there in the trenches, generations of growers that supported their families and communities, are going away. It’s inevitable.”
And it would seem that Hunter is right. Changes, for better or worse, have come and will continue to come to California’s legendary cannabis culture.