The marijuana growers of Calaveras County

The Gold Country of California is an economic backwater.  Young people leave to look for work.  The population is steady, but only because it’s a relatively inexpensive place to retire.  Commercially, there’s really nothing happening.

Except in Calaveras County, where marijuana farmers are injecting new life.  There may be as many as a thousand of them, half legal, half illegal.  The legal ones welcome taxation and regulation.  The illegals are, of course, uninterested.

A couple years ago three thieves were on an illegal grow, and they were shot and killed.  The first degree murder trial is underway, and it’s, let us say, bad PR for the whole industry.  The timing of County Measure M, which would put the legal growers out of business, couldn’t be worse.

The legal farmers already pay substantial taxes, and they’re going to pay more, $12 million a year more, and they don’t mind.  The Sheriff’s office has expanded, with new equipment.  But they publicly acknowledge they don’t have the resources to take out the illegal growers.  There are just too many of them.  Taking out the legal growers won’t solve the problem.  It will reduce revenue to the County, which will have to cut back on enforcement.

Public opinion is against the growers, as shown in the recent election.  The new Board of Supervisors was elected on a wave of anti-grower sentiment. Thus, Measure M.

It just so happens that the Gold Country has an ideal marijuana growing climate.  If you’ve got a southern exposure on your land, that’s all you need.  Special soils are imported for the growing pots, and the plants need to be watered daily.  Farming marijuana is similar to farming tobacco, just like the first English-Americans did in Virginia.  It is very labor intensive, but the rewards are huge.   If you’re willing to put in the work, for a fairly small investment you can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A lot of this money is circulated in the local economy, since most of the growers live and are raising their families there.  Little towns like Mountain Ranch are bustling, and you see a lot of new pickups.  This is the first real money a lot of these people have ever seen.

I’m with the growers, since some of them are my friends.  And, of course, I’m a libertarian.  I found out about Measure M over the weekend, and I got the impression that the growers weren’t organized for the fight of their lives.  I got a call from someone heavily involved, and it turns out I was wrong.  They are organized, they have professionals working for them, and they seem to know what they’re doing.  I’ll stay involved from the sidelines, since I naturally have a lot of amazing ideas, but lack the ability and means to implement them.

Working on campaigns is the one thing I’ve done in my life that I was best at.

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