Framework

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Tom Evans, a small-time grower in northern Mendocino County, is framed by some of his marijuana plants in the backyard of his small rental home. "It used to be a contest to see who could drive the oldest pickup truck, " he said. "There's just been this huge influx of folks who have money on their mind, instead of love of the land."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Longtime marijuana growers Andrew, left, and Anna plant their year's first crop on a small terraced slope near their home in northern Mendocino. They asked to be identified only by their middle names. "It used to be families all around us here," said Anna, 52. "Now it's seasonal people from the city."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Marijuana grower Andrew, 56, tends to a freshly planted plant on his property in northern Mendocino. Though he and Anna are not complete back-to-the-landers -- they have a nice car, satellite TV and Internet access -- they keep their gardens relatively small, tucked in the trees throughout their property.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Andrew, left, and Anna stand next to several potted marijuana plants. The plants will be transplanted into beds on a terraced slope near their home.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Anna waters a marijuana plant that is part of this year's first crop. "Every night we hear helicopters now," she said. "It’s people moving big greenhouses and generators into the mountains."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Pot smoke billows around Anna's head. Among their plants, she and Andrew post their own medical marijuana cards so that if they’re raided, it looks as though they’re growing under the aegis of state law.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Anna tends to the marijuana plants in the backyard of her home in northern Mendocino County. "These big commercial growers have really ruined our business," she said.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Andrew and Anna walk down a trail to a small terraced slope to plant the first of the year's marijuana crop. Until recently, life in the hills of Mendocino and Humboldt counties had changed little in the decades since hippies from the Bay Area began homesteading here. The pioneers initially grew marijuana for themselves and to make a little money.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

An early-morning mist settles over the hills of Garberville, Calif., where many marijuana growers have been raising their crops for years.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Grower George Unsworth opens the gate to his property in Covelo, Calif. In 2010, Mendocino County tried to regulate the marijuana industry and dole out permits. Residents could grow 25 plants if they bought a $25 zip tie for each one and let a sheriff's deputy inspect their gardens. Unsworth was one of 12 people to sign up the first year.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

George Unsworth makes sure that his marijuana hothouse in Covelo, Calif., is sealed properly.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

George Unsworth prepares to place marijuana plants inside one of the hothouses on his property.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

George Unsworth, left, places pot plants inside one of his hothouses. In the 1980s, cultivation of high-grade seedless marijuana opened the possibility for big money as it brought a higher premium. Many of the farmers cashed in. But many remained small and discreet to avoid attracting the attention of state and federal agents.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

George Unsworth walks down a dirt road on his property in Covelo. As competition drives marijuana prices down, even chamber of commerce types acknowledge that the North Coast economy is at risk.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

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Up in smoke: Old-school marijuana cultivators feeling squeeze from commercial entities

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Up in smoke: Old-school marijuana cultivators feeling squeeze from commercial entities

By Joe Mozingo

LAYTONVILLE, CALIF. — In the mountains of Mendocino County, a middle-aged couple stroll into the cool morning air to plant the year’s crop. Andrew grabs a shovel and begins to dig up rich black garden beds while Anna waters the seedlings, beginning a hallowed annual ritual here in marijuana’s Emerald Triangle.

In the past, planting day was a time of great expectations, maybe for a vacation in Hawaii or Mexico during the rainy months or a new motor home to make deliveries around the country.

But this year, Andrew and Anna are hoping only that their 50 or so marijuana plants will cover the bills. Since the mid-1990s, the price of outdoor-grown marijuana has plummeted from more than $5,000 a pound to less than $2,000, and even as low as $800.

Battered by competition from indoor cultivators around the state and industrial-size operations that have invaded the North Coast counties, many of the small-time pot farmers who created the Emerald Triangle fear that their way of life of the last 40 years is coming to an end.

Their once-quiet communities, with their back-to-nature ethos, are being overrun by outsiders carving massive farms out of the forest. Robberies are commonplace now, and the mountains reverberate with the sounds of chain saws and heavy equipment.

“Every night we hear helicopters now,” Anna said. “It’s people moving big greenhouses and generators into the mountains.”

Andrew, 56, and Anna, 52, who agreed to be interviewed only if they would be identified by their middle names, live in a rambling house down a trail through tanoaks and Douglas firs. Their electricity comes from a windmill and solar panels, their water from a spring. They cook on a wood stove and use an outhouse with a composting toilet to conserve water for their crop.

Though they are not complete back-to-the-landers — they have a nice car, satellite TV and Internet access — they keep their gardens relatively small, tucked in the trees throughout their property.

Among their plants, they post their own medical marijuana cards so that if they’re raided, it looks as though they’re growing under the aegis of state law. But because dispensaries generally prefer the more potent weed grown indoors, they still sell mostly to the black market, where mom-and-pop growers now struggle to compete.

“These big commercial growers have really ruined our business,” Anna said.

Read the full story: “Veteran Emerald Triangle pot growers see their way of life ending”

16 Comments

  1. October 1, 2012, 10:56 am

    Gee let's see. $50 for 1/8 of an oz. I wonder who had a hand in raising prices to THIS level ??? This product shouldn't cost more than cotton to produce. Look how much more money will be in peoples pockets when the price goes back to 70's prices.

    By: posterdog
  2. October 3, 2012, 10:42 am

    As the price drops, use increases. Marijuana use has skyrocketed since the dispensaries opened. Teen use has more than doubled since it low point. Plus you see related issues. I just read a story in a Colorado newspaper saying that since dispensaries opened there, emergency room visits for kids and pets due to marijuana are through the roof. The veterinarians used to see two or three pets a year who were in comas from weed. Now they see ten every week with many of the pets dying.

    Recent studies show that marijuana significant lowers IQ and hastens the onset of dimentia; not to mention the lung and respiratory problems lifelong smokers have. People like to pretend that cheap, legal high-potency marijuana has no bad side effects, but it does. Putting mom and pop growers out of business in favor of Walmart superstores is minor compared to the other effects.

    By: Mike
  3. October 3, 2012, 1:04 pm

    This was obviously made by someone who doesn't smoke. They said 5,000 a pound and even 800? Yeah right. 5,000 for some really good chronic, 800 for a pound of crappy mids.

    By: zpaavola@gmail.com
  4. October 3, 2012, 6:51 pm

    The price right now is $80 an oz, right now. sorry…

  5. October 3, 2012, 9:43 pm

    You have the drug war to thank for the high price of pot.

    By: mn2mx
  6. October 4, 2012, 6:22 am

    What did I come here to say? oh yeah. Dude, that so bogus.

    By: digitald00d
  7. October 6, 2012, 10:08 pm

    No one believes your propaganda and lies. Please go away.

    By: Desert Dude
  8. October 8, 2012, 10:58 am

    What part of the country do you live in ??? In the mid-80's in LA mid level was $100 an oz. You either know a grower or you smoke BUNK.

    By: posterdog
  9. October 9, 2012, 10:02 pm

    No it is not. What dispensary is selling marijuana for $80 an oz? Are you smoking dirt?

    By: thedumbatheist
  10. October 9, 2012, 10:07 pm

    Mike is a lobbiest working for private prison systems that make their money from the use of slave labor, inmates in prison for small drug offenses make them millions of dollars a year.

    By: zaiger
  11. October 10, 2012, 11:05 am

    ha gotta love cali<3 best green at the bestest prices

    By: socalstoner_420
  12. October 15, 2012, 12:40 pm

    hey posterdog u shouldn’t complain about da price if ur not ganna stop smoking it anyways its pathetic

    By: joseluis acosta jr
  13. October 21, 2012, 10:30 am

    I wasn't going to comment I'm a hard working 'when I can find work" dude who knows good marijuana has been my biggest hurdle because my main employ is case sensitive every time people mention the justice departments the anger boils inside me nope I'm not going on any rampage the prison/court houses & are living off every back bone in america with penalties from the way you walk & talk sure but they are failing in more ways then they are even close to understanding of course your right some thing small with an impact that ruins for a entire life the justice system.

    By: Captain Buyus
  14. December 24, 2012, 12:34 am

    Hey there! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with us so

    I came to look it over. I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers!

    Great blog and superb design and style.

    By: aficionado.sk
  15. November 11, 2013, 11:47 pm

    According to Dr. Sanjay Gupta and various studies, in which it was discovered that the cannabinoids in cannabis "cleanse" damaged brain cells & promotes the growth of healthy new cells, cannabis DOES NOT cause dementia, in fact, it is used in hospitals in Jerusalem to treat dementia. Additionally, due to these findings, it is currently being studied to see if it can actually repair brain damage, which the medical community is very excited about. On the subject of IQ, it was only found to decrease IQ in those who consumed cannabis before the age of 15, once the brain has developed, no diminishing of IQ was found. These findings and many more can be found in CNN's documentary, "Weed" (aired August 2013) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3IMfIQ_K6U

    By: jjjj
  16. November 12, 2013, 7:34 am

    Mike I would really love to see these so called studies you are talking about because the reports I read say the exact opposite. As a matter of fact in Jan. of 2012 a 20 year study was completed on the effects of marijuana smoke on 5,115 people & the smokers of marijuana only had better lung function than any other group including the group that don't smoke anything. Have a look here as I can support what I say. How about you?
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/1201

    By: real@nolies.com

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