Into the Emerald Triangle

Travels with OC potrepreneur B. Lucky to California's marijuana breadbasket

It has been raining steadily for days, but the evening sun now pierces the haze like a pink, flaming orb, its broken rays angling downward through a gallery of 30-foot-high windows recently carved into a towering wall of redwoods along the riverbank. The trees are maybe 30 years old, new-growth trees just a few feet wide at the base but already 60 feet tall. A century ago, the entire valley had been clear-cut by loggers, the lumber stacked like wet cordwood on the flat cars of a southbound train whose long-abandoned tracks now lay below the ridge, rusting and overgrown with weeds.

Like dragon's breath in an illustrated children's book, smoky tendrils of the after-rain mist swirl up the steep hillside on the opposite bank of a gully whose ancient creek drains into the main river below. Atop a wide swath of grassy slope stands a house with a wraparound deck. Everywhere in the sky are fine sawdust particles wafting down from the treetops, refracting the sunlight as they descend. The chain saws and wood chipper are silent now; the staccato slap of water against shoal echoes from the fast-running river, swollen from a month-long inundation.

Even though its foundation lies 100 yards or so uphill from the river, the house has a flood-compliant basement for a first floor. Twice, in the 1950s and 1960s, the river flooded out entire towns in this valley; today, few houses or cabins still stand. Below the house is a trailer, where a tree-trimming crew from Santa Cruz bunked last night, and a wooden shack near the river that has a stone fireplace on its front porch bisected by the trunk of a sturdy redwood. In the middle of the clearing, between the cabin and the main house, is a trio of 60-foot-by-30-foot greenhouses rigged with a pulley system so that the roof or walls can be rolled up or down at a moment's notice.

Inside each structure, row upon row of 5-foot-high marijuana plants—4-month-old clones of a high-end Sour Diesel strain created by graduates of UC Berkeley's botany department—sway in the breeze. The farm is one of at least a dozen outdoor growing operations in Humboldt and Mendocino counties that are either owned by B. Lucky (a pseudonym, like all of the names in this story) or by one of his associates, in which case Lucky gets a share of the profits in return for helping distribute the harvest.

In addition to the regular outdoor growing season each summer, this farm typically produces three separate indoor crops per year by using powerful lights inside the greenhouses. In a good year, the total yield is 300 pounds or more of high-grade, medical-quality marijuana that can gross anywhere from $750,000 to $1.2 million, depending on how much of it Lucky sells. In California, awash for years in a glut of pot, a pound might go for $1,500; the same buds would fetch two to three times that amount in Manhattan.

Lucky is a middle-aged man with a chiseled chin, short hair and ubiquitous facial stubble who is partial to hip-hop-style, baggy, athletic gear. As usual, he's wearing a baseball cap perched jauntily on his head. Among various other pursuits, legitimate and otherwise, he's the director of a major Orange County medical-cannabis club that boasts more than 3,000 members. On paper at least, a large portion of the marijuana grown at this farm is for his patients; the rest, he says, is destined for collectives in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

"We're really selling shit all around the nation," Lucky says, quickly explaining he's not referring to himself, but rather to people he knows, and that the same truth applies to most local growers, not to mention the Mexican cartels known to operate massive gardens in the nearby mountains. Although California boasts some 400 medical-marijuana dispensaries, Lucky says there's already so much indoor weed on the market that Northern California mostly ships its marijuana out of state.

"Sure, you maintain your collective so that you have legal validation for your distribution, even though those few collectives are ultimately just 3 percent of your business," he says. "You go to a collective in Southern California, and you might sell 5 or 10 pounds—it's just a small deal. Meanwhile, there are guys who move hundreds of thousands of pounds, in hundred-pound packs, all across the nation."

To reach those customers, whether they're college students in Cambridge or Greenwich Village, buying off the black market, or legitimate medical-cannabis smokers in San Francisco or Santa Ana, the marijuana is stashed inside trunks of cars, hidden within kayaks latched to the roofs of SUVs, or secreted away in vehicles in a dozen other ways. It must navigate a gauntlet of Highway Patrol speed traps and random encounters with drug agents who operate between Eureka and Ukiah, patrolling every road leading in and out of Humboldt, Trinity and Mendocino counties. Cops and smugglers alike have a nickname for this infamous chunk of real estate.

They call it the Emerald Triangle.

*     *     *

My journey north with B. Lucky to the heavily forested breadbasket of America's largest illicit cash crop had started at 10 a.m.—and badly. An unseasonably heavy downpour followed us from the Bay Area. B. Lucky had brought along an ounce of marijuana in his carry-on luggage after verifying via telephone calls to the airline and the local office of the Transportation Security Administration that he wouldn't be hassled so long as he had on him a valid doctor's recommendation to smoke cannabis. The aroma of his fragrant stash quickly filled up the vehicle.

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10 comments
concernedparentandtaxpayer
concernedparentandtaxpayer

Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. None of us would want our child thrown in jail with the sexual predators over marijuana. None of us would want to see an older family member’s home confiscated and sold by the police for growing a couple of marijuana plants for their aches and pains. It’s time to stop putting our own family members in jail over marijuana. The current proposal before Congress, bill HR 2306, will allow states to decide how they will regulate marijuana. Email your Congressperson and Senators at http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Ele... and ask them to sign on as a CO-SPONSOR of HR 2306. For more info, here’s the USA Today articlehttp://content.usatoday.com/co... And a big THANK YOU to the courageous, freedom-loving legislators, governors, and countless others who are working so hard to bring this through! You’re doing a great patriotic service for all of America!

concernedparentandtaxpayer
concernedparentandtaxpayer

Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. None of us would want our child thrown in jail with the sexual predators over marijuana. None of us would want to see an older family member’s home confiscated and sold by the police for growing a couple of marijuana plants for their aches and pains. It’s time to stop putting our own family members in jail over marijuana. The current proposal before Congress, bill HR 2306, will allow states to decide how they will regulate marijuana. Email your Congressperson and Senators at http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Ele... and ask them to sign on as a CO-SPONSOR of HR 2306. For more info, here’s the USA Today articlehttp://content.usatoday.com/co... And a big THANK YOU to the courageous, freedom-loving legislators, governors, and countless others who are working so hard to bring this through! You’re doing a great patriotic service for all of America!

Keiang
Keiang

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Advocate for Disability Rights
Advocate for Disability Rights

In response to Concerned Citizen's letter, this issue has become very unsettling for the naïve and willfully ignorant.

In the early days of our nation, the hemp plant (a.k.a. cannabis) proved a valuable resource for hundreds of years, instrumental in the making of fabric, paper and other necessities. It is important for citizens to understand that prior to the early 1930’s many of the medicines available to the public were sensibly based on cannabis. It was only after William Randolph Hearst demonized marijuana (because the growing of hemp was cutting into his paper-production profits), that “reefer madness” became the nouveau hysteria. To be clear, society was deprived of this relatively harmless medicinal herb to satisfy the greed of an extremely wealthy and influential newspaper magnate.

Some say they are concerned with abusers. Can anyone describe what a cancer patient or one with AIDS looks like? What about someone who suffers from multiple sclerosis, chronic pain or migraines? Has our population taken up practicing medicine without a license? The reality is that we don’t know what condition people are using medicinal cannabis for any more than we can identify why they might be filling a prescription for Prozac, Vicodin or Morphine (highly addictive drugs) at the local drug store. And, it is not up to us to decide upon medical treatment for another person—that must remain between a doctor and their patient.

Are there abuses? In fact, prescription pain killers, sleep aids and psychotrophic drugs top the list of drug abuse in this nation. Over 100,000 people die from side effects of “legitimate” prescription drugs every year in the U.S. Yet, do we ban or severely restrict pharmacies? Abuses happen in all facets of society, but to deprive people of needed a medication because of those who may misuse it is cruel and inhumane.

When Proposition 215 was passed by the compassionate voters of California in 1996, they asked the state and federal governments to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana. The government has been sorely negligent in this endeavor. The dispensaries and growers have filled in that gap. So, Concerned Citizen if you are angry, call and write to your government officials demanding that they fill this critical need and end the quagmire that they have cultivated.

The one thing that is dreadfully certain in this whole scenario is that each and every one of the readers of our letters will die someday. How they die and how much they or their loved ones will suffer may depend on their access to medical marijuana. Be very careful about what you condemn today, especially that which you may be crying for tomorrow.

Diana LejinsAdvocate for Disability Rights

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Ego
Ego

i'm studying horticulture at fullerton college and know exactly what Dave is talking about :]

Concernedcitizen
Concernedcitizen

This article is about an illegal drug trafficker who hides under the guise of medical marijuana, and "Lucky" should be prosecuted for trafficking over state lines and owning, leasing, or making a property available for the sole intent to "sell or distribute" drugs. Nick you should be ashamed of yourself for spending time with someone who violates state laws as well as federal laws. Lucky claims to be a director of a large Orange County medical marijuana club, then goes on to say that he has "140 pounds sitting in New York right now that's turning to powder because it's not the right strain. I can't move it for any price. Its a quarter of a million dollars worth of shit sitting in Manhattan that nobody can touch, and thats just so fucked up."No whats fucked up is that Nick Schou knows who this person is and won't turn him over to authorities.... (you should be subpoena to find out who is in charge of this large drug trafficking operation)This whole article seems to describe the Continuing Criminal Enterprise law.... and for those who don't know what that is, heres the definition...its a United States federal law that targets large-scale drug traffickers who are responsible for long-term and elaborate drug conspiracies...

Ego
Ego

you are the problem Nick Schou is the solution

 
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