I found this book just browsing through the ‘New Books’ shelf at the Shasta County Library in Redding. The full title is Humboldt: Life on America’s Marijuana Frontier, and I was drawn to it because the time I spent living and working in Del Norte County, just north of Humboldt County, made me feel a connection to the topic. I’ve been through many of the places described in the book. I was even there during some of the times which Brady writes about. I wasn’t in Del Norte County very long before I learned what CAMP was. (The Campaign Against Marijuana Planting was an annual Federal anti-marijuana operation. It was a multi-agency operation involving local and state law enforcement along with Army National Guard units.)
Author Emily Brady, a Northern California native, spent a year living in Humboldt County researching this book. The depth of her research shows. The people and events she writes about are believable. They resemble people and events that I knew in my time living over on the North Coast. This book is the real deal.
I think the most succinct way to describe this book is to describe the book’s four archetypes that represent the four types of people involved in the Emerald Triangle’s marijuana trade. These are not fictional characters, but they are actual people representative of the four main types of people involved, directly or indirectly, in the trade. Brady changed the names as necessary to protect the identities of some of those involved.
Mare had been involved in the Height-Ashbury counter culture of the late ‘60s. When the Summer of Love took a violent turn, she and her partner moved north to Humboldt County as part of the back-to-the-land movement. She started growing pot for personal use, and then for income as the prices rose and growing became profitable. Marijuana, for Mare, represents a culture and a simple, back to the earth lifestyle.
Emma grew up in the pot growing community. Her upbringing was filed with topics and events that did not get mentioned outside of the immediate family. She grew up dodging CAMP helicopters. She saw the effects on families when people got busted and went to jail, or got killed in deals gone bad. She left Humboldt County for college, and Emma has spent a lot of time trying to figure it all out.
Crockett represents “the younger, business minded grower who had come to Humboldt to make money.” Marijuana to Crockett is a cash crop, plain and simple. A business.
Bob “was a deputy sheriff in a town of outlaws”. Reading Bob’s story seemed to give me an understanding of what it might have been like to be a lawman in moonshine country during prohibition.
A significant part of the book describes the tension among pot growers over marijuana legalization. A large part of the Humboldt economy is built upon the high prices for black market pot. If marijuana were to be legalized in California, as it almost was with Proposition 19, people wouldn’t go to jail for it anymore and people could come up from the underground culture that has developed around illegal pot. However, experts expect the price of marijuana to crash so low that small scale farmers would not be able to sustain themselves on it anymore. Prop 19 was soundly defeated in Humboldt County.
Humboldt is less than 250 pages long and an easy read. I highly recommend this one.
I will talk about my views on marijuana legalization in a later post.