In a beautiful central California valley, the redwood trees line the stomach wrenching curves of the two lane road before opening up to the vast Pacific Ocean. In the mornings, fog hides the treetops, until at midday, it collects itself and drifts away. Once the home of Marilyn Manson and eerily reminiscent of many a horror film while driving the curves on a misty night, the Mendicino Valley is battling economic woes in a unique way.
Just beyond the redwoods that line the highway, the mist hides more than treetops. If you smell a skunk, you’ve found someone’s secret garden. Up to 99 plants of Maurijuana can be grown in Mendicino County by any licensed farm. It can sell from $2600 to $4000 per pound. Each plant, if well taken care of, yields a pound. Perhaps no legal cash crop in American history has such a harvest value per plant, so it comes no surprise that most anyone with a tract of land is growing weed.
The problem is, so are the people who have none. “Don’t go walking into the forests here” says my newly discovered cousin/aunt/relative Mary Pat, an Herbalist with seventeen acres of dense redwoods. It turns out that the drug cartels are in on it too, and they use whatever spots they can find—public, private, or deserted—to grow their crop. Then they put armed guards in charge
of the clearings.
The forests of Mendicino are beautiful, but dangerous. Trespassersare shot at regularly, and there’s no telling when a walk in the woods could lead to a shootout. Recently before my arrival, a local conservationist—famous for his love of the redwoods—was gunned down when he accidently uncovered a poppy farm. He didn’t survive, and the killer was eventually caught, but the all too unnecessary death illustrates the contradictions of Mendocino well.
It will be interesting to see what happens in central california, especially as places around the country consider legalizing Mary Jane. Just a year of growing the plant would pay for all of college, so its hard to imagine the issue won’t remain contentious, and deadly.
On a more personal note, we stayed for two nights and a day with Mary Pat, head of the Philo School of Herbal Energetics. Her land, covered mostly by redwoods, is also used to grow her many herbs. She would be the first of several rarely visited family members I’d get to see this trip, a special rarity since I had no idea she existed. Aside from her all natural and entirely effective
toothache cure, I also enjoyed spending hours talking with her, getting a perspective on my family and my future.