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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

California: The birthplace of ‘Big Sur Holy Weed’ can’t sell cannabis, and growers are crying foul

Chivis Martinez Borderland Beat-Republished from Mercury News

Why is Big Sur’s weed legendary but still not legal?

Click on any image to enlarge
BIG SUR — For decades, hidden in creases of the wild and rugged Santa Lucia Mountains, farmers have eked out a living growing some of the nation’s most esteemed cannabis, hanging onto the hope that someday they wouldn’t fear arrest.

Marijuana in California is now legal. Yet the fate of farmers in Big Sur — the birthplace of legendary “Big Sur Holy Weed” in the Golden State’s storied cannabis culture — remains more precarious than ever.

As springtime approaches, county officials are issuing licenses to high-tech greenhouse growers, mostly owned by well-funded outsiders, on the edge of urban Salinas — but are rebuffing small traditional farmers on parcels in the more remote reaches of Monterey County such as Big Sur.

It’s a pattern seen throughout the 13 counties that make up the state’s prime cannabis real estate, according to the California Growers Association.

 “It’s heartbreaking,” said association director Hezekiah Allen, who warns that the trend could confound efforts to bring once-outlawed businesses into compliance with state law following the November 2016 passage of Proposition 64.

“The state passed legalization,” Allen said. “But most small and mid-sized growers are still living in the shadow of prohibition.”

Regulators say monitoring far-flung fields is just too hard. Of the 55 permits issued in Monterey County, all have gone to greenhouse growers. Sonoma County has banned all commercial cultivation at rural residences, a move that outlaws about 3,500 small growers. Calaveras County initially allowed outdoor growers, but just reversed course.

“They promised us Proposition 64 could rejuvenate the farming industry and upgrade agriculture and bring this great thing,” said Big Sur grower Oliver Bates, who’s seeking approval for 50 plants at his mountain home, six miles up a road almost as treacherous as the frigid sea.

” We feel shut out , betrayed. They are only listening to the interests of commercial agriculture,” said Bates, president of the newly formed Big Sur Farmers Association. “Meanwhile, the sheriff’s department is dying to get in here. It’s not better. It is worse.”

Until now, they could grow cannabis under the “collective” model of medical marijuana, on parcels that are zoned for farming, said Big Sur attorney Michael Linder. But the county’s new marijuana ordinance doesn’t allow rural cannabis growing. So the farmers have suddenly lost their livelihoods.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the moment of conception for “Big Sur Holy Weed,” but local lore credits a reclusive monk named Perry, who in 1965 planted some seeds from a rare Mexican strain. In the early 1970s, on isolated tracts of land with no electricity, plumbing or roads, growers perfected a new horticultural technique that produced seedless marijuana, called sinsemilla.

Resinous and sticky, the region’s cannabis gained a reputation as powerful as its potency. Old-timers recall raucous “harvest parties” on bluffs overlooking the Pacific, hosted by the outlaw grower and artist Patrick Cassidy. The largest plant was sacrificed — thrown into a bonfire — in a bacchanalia that didn’t end until daybreak.
“Holy Weed was a magical strain, brought here to the coast and it thrived beautifully in the mountains,” said Chris Buonocore, who frequented the parties. “It was healing for the body and soul.”

Cannabis wasn’t worth much in those days, but it helped sustain a region that had yet to become a pricey global tourism destination, he said.

“We could trade it for food, trade it for materials, trade it for logging supplies, like chainsaws,” Buonocore said.

The war on drugs brought fear to Big Sur, but also higher prices. “It was crazy,” said one 76-year-old grower, whose home was the site of a raid. “They came with helicopters and nets. You’d hear them coming — the chop chop chop, chop. Then they’d land with chainsaws.”

More recently, the devastating Basin Complex and Soberanes wildfires claimed dozens of homes, farms and cannabis fields. Last winter’s rains, delivering almost 10 feet of water in some spots, sent muck down mountains and blew out roads.

Passage of Proposition 64 had promised legal and economic relief after so many woes.

The growers live a world apart far from the elegant $1,700 rooms at the Post Ranch Inn, the spa at Ventana and the grilled scallops of Nepenthe. They cultivate a land of rattlesnakes and mountain lions, on private parcels scattered among the fir, redwoods and chaparral of the Santa Lucia Range. Some are multi-generation growers; others are members of the local Fire Brigade.

To reach his property — off the grid, supported by solar panels, filtered water and a satellite dish — Bates, 40, weaves around broken asphalt in his old Chevy 4×4, joined by his border collie, Phoebe, and Australian cattle dog, Pepper. Then he hikes up a steep dirt trail, climbing under a downed tree.

His terraces look out on a majestic landscape that is desolate and forbidding, hushed and enchanting.

“My plants have a sunset view to die for,” he said.

Ancestral “Holy Weed” has vanished, so Bates now specializes in three other strains: Khyber Afghani, native to high-altitude Afghanistan, planted in his field’s most brilliant sunshine; Haze, where there’s shelter from wind and sun; and Blue Dream, grown in the shade. Plants grow 6- to 10-feet tall — and almost as wide.

He doesn’t use fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides or rodent killer. Water is delivered by a narrow black PVC pipe, from a spring. Plants are sprayed with “wild plant ferment,” a brew concocted from stinging nettle, milk thistle and horsetails. A narrow path encircles the field.

For September’s harvest, a crew arrives to help cut and then pack the plants into plastic storage bins, then carry them down the hill to a cool dark barn, where they are suspended from rafters to cure.

“It is the hardest way to grow on Earth. We walk everything in — and walk everything out,” said Bates. “But it’s peaceful work. Every nugget looks like a piece of art.”

But such small distant fields pose big challenges for regulators, said Simón Salinas, a Monterey County supervisor and former state assemblyman. They’re on land that is inappropriate for commercial agriculture — steep and forested with poor access and little infrastructure. In the towns of Lockwood and Jolon, neighbors complained.
“How do you monitor it — to make sure we can provide the services that are needed?” Salinas said. “We need the personnel. We don’t have enough sheriff’s department or code enforcement teams to get people up there.”

It will take time to see how the current license approvals shake out, but the restrictive ordinance probably will be revisited in the future, said Supervisor Mary Adams, who represents Big Sur.

So far, permits are only being issued to the “ganja-preneurs” in Salinas, where an acre that sold for $55,000 to $60,000 in 2014 is now fetching between $200,000 and $300,000. Once the heart of the nation’s flower-growing business, collapsing greenhouses are being replaced by tall and gleaming high-tech European structures guarded by gates, barbed wire and cameras.

“We will become one of the most sophisticated greenhouse operations anywhere in California, harvesting every week, like an assembly line,” vowed Oakland-based Steve DeAngelo, CEO of Harborside Farms.

Unlike Monterey County, Humboldt County has created a “Retirement, Remediation, and Relocation” program, which encourages those growing on land not zoned for cultivation to move their operations elsewhere. Mendocino County has gone still further, choosing to support the small, organic grows that are the backbone of its cannabis culture.

“We know it’s not your typical farming,” said Ondine Gorton, 44, of the Big Sur Farmers Association. “It’s goat country. But with time, all of these properties will be very accessible. We have things to work on. We know there are challenges. But the county has to meet us halfway.”

Meanwhile, new state regulations have spurred fears of a corporate takeover of the market by large growers. The reason is that the rules don’t limit the total acreage of a cannabis farm, so a well-funded grower can obtain many cultivation licenses, giving them a competitive advantage.  Last month, the Growers Association filed suit against the state.
The rural Monterey County growers say the Salinas Valley is a poor place for top-shelf cannabis.

“It’s the ‘salad bowl’ and grows amazing produce. But it’s a cool and humid climate, with coastal fog” and a history of pesticide and herbicide use, said one Carmel Valley grower. In the Santa Lucia Mountains, “you’re closer to the sun.”

Rural growers say they’re losing a livelihood in a place with few other options, on land too steep to support greenhouses. They say they’re proud they contribute to the local economy.

But they face a stark choice: Move, or stay in the illicit market.
The small growers are proposing a “pilot project,” working with local regulators, to allow fields of only 25 or 50 plants, along with food crops. The combined yield of every grower in the Big Sur Farming Association would fit in a single one-acre Salinas greenhouse, they say.
As the days lengthen and the soil warms, farmers’ frustrations grow. In a few weeks, the season will start.

They wonder: Should they plant, or not? Stay in Big Sur, or leave to find work in a distant greenhouse?

“All we have ever been told by the county is: ‘We’ll get to you,’ Bates said. “But they never get to us. We’re in limbo.

“We’re just asking to preserve what we have.”


  1. Mexico can better and cheap.smoke mexico mota. Its Good

    1. You must be be strung out on smack. Mota is usually of mediocre quality.

    2. Mexican weed is garbage...I'm a Chicano, originally from the bay area. The NorCal weed is ok...Same as Oregon Coast...if you have good Dutch hybrid strains, you can do ok in these places outdoors. I know the NorCal scene is legendary, but only because they grew better weed than Mexicans. My family moved in 1980 from Bay Area to the Seattle Tacoma area. I was about 14. I noticed immediately the weed here was 1000x better than any Mexican, Thai, Afghan, or even the NorCal Sinsemilla. At a young age I leaned indoor pot farming from an older friend. We grew some of the finest shit ever in the 90's We took third in the High Times Cannibas Cup..won't say year, or you'll know who I am....I used to grow 50-75 plants indoors in dirt, not hydro. I made about 40k every 3 months, for 20+ yrs. Legalization killed me. I just bought a ounce at a legal store in Tacoma for $90....all tax included. Needless to say I quit growing for money. I keep a handful going legally ( medical card), but can't make any money. The big $$$ guys are buying up all the licenses, and the small guys are being hunted down like the Jewish in Nazi Germany. Mexico should just quit with weed, not worth trouble. Awhile back I traded a kid at a tire shop in Tacoma "Llantas y Sinaloa" a 1/4oz of my stuff for a 2oz's of "Some of the best in Mexico" to the guy there. He and I went out and shared a j while his boys changed my tires. He said he was so high compared to his stuff he gave one tire free. Calls every week. I trade him. He smokes mine. I make treats and mexiweed coconut oil rub for my old arthritic dog. But weed is nothing. I can't believe Americans smoke that mexi, Afghani, or Thai shit. All garbage..nothing but a headache. My state, Oregon, an Colorado are taking in huge tax revenues, so it's not going away, but unfortunately the big corps will use their pull and $$ to corner the market. Meanwhile the poor Wa, Or, NorCal farmer is being hunted again. And the IRS is the one pushing the buttons. They want their cut. The taxes are very lucrative. Legalize it ALL...that will minimalize the violence. Tax the hell out of it. Quit wasting resources chasing drug addicts. Legalize, tax. Tax hard. People will still buy, but let's take the power away from the cartels. Sorry for ramble, but this hits home. Tax it Tax it Tax it......

    3. Great comment bro..enjoyed reading it

    4. I disagree with the tax it, tax it, tax it... arguement respectfully. The gov't doesn't need to put its hands in my other pocket. California is proof it's not about freedom it's about gov't greed. Prop 64 & it's 34% tax simply screw every entrepreneur, farmer or small business person. The gov't can't manage to show a return or even a zero sum on the programs already in place. Fed legalization will just allow Fed regulation to squeeze the producer further. Stay out of my pockets, stay out of my fields & be a better steward with the billions already taken in as tax revenue.

    5. Mexico has some OK weed sometimes, some places but it dosn't compare to the stuff in dispensaries.

      Good MX weed is usually about 12% THC dispensary herbs usually about 18%-24%. The majority of weed I have gotten in MX is basically weed full of seeds and dried in the sun cough.. cough..

      At dispensaries you get to choose from 10-20 strains from all over the world even MX strains, I have a great Acapulco Gold in my jar right now Their is also some great strains from MX+Afghan like Golden Goat.

      It is such a better experience to go into a store and choose from 10-20 kinds of seedless crystally buds, instead of meeting someone in a parking lot to buy 1 bags a weed from who knows where.

    6. Colorado bud is best? Nonsense; shit breaks up like sawdust because of the altitude. And saying indoor Oregon is better than indoor Cali makes no sense; the altitude is the same, oxygen is the same, the only difference is the ability of the growers, and I’d bet Cali growers have more experience than anyone in the US.

    7. pinchis mariguanos mamones, chupenle a esta,
      --because of taxes the government keeps illegal alive and getting higher all tha time, but soon the government intrusions to collect taxes will drive the legal businessmen to promote and enforce consumption to make ends meet, paying "taxes" is not what grifa is all about, that is a snobbish pendejos hobby.

    8. Cali indoor is relatively new...the weather there is great for outdoor. But in Or, and Wa, we've been doing high grade 26-32% for decades. Cali catching up.

    9. When I say tax it, in the bill it had to say exactly where the money is to go. Here 70% of the tax collected has to go to education. Colorado had a 64 million dollar tax surplus after 1yr. I'm all for "sin" taxes. It's America you should be able to do what you want provided you're not hurting anyone and PAY YOUR TAX.....same as piso, only it's the biggest cartel in history after you.....Uncle Sam

    10. @elgranderojo I need your contact info.. Lmao.. Down here in Texas we get the stuff that they don't want over there... mid grade shit Smh :(

    11. yeah I don't think so ElGrandeRojo. I been up there and tried for myself not the best. There are great growers everywhere just depends who you get it from.

  2. As much as I hate it for these boutique growers, I’d prefer if growing became “like an assembly line”. That’s the fastest route to federal legalization; once these cannabis businesses become corporatized and can lobby Congress (pay the bastards off) to de-schedule, things will move very quickly.

    1. 5:20 Grifa only needs poison ivy, rattlesnakes and scorpions, flies and lice and nits and bug bears, and never needed is lectins or their mother facking services, but counties want money to waste on pork barrel projects and have sold out to the greenhouse snobs...TOLD YOU! what poor broke as grifa farmers nedd is to find their own heaven somewhere else, I hear broke as Kansas is giving farm land for free to volunteers to repopulate their abandkned farms, the KOCH BROTHERS promises of success by giving tax breaks to the rich in exchange for all the trickle down promises in the world have not worked...
      but Kansas ain't no Cawliforniya, Dorothy.

  3. Posted at 4:20 PM? Coincidence?

    1. Synchronicity. - Sol Prendido

    2. 5:20 you are a corrupt mariguano,
      pasa el toke o las tres aunque sea.

    3. You remembered that, sol, from a comment a while back. Jung's remark is more of an observation rather than a principal.

    4. High Five, El Grande Rojo..........that’s a funny story about the llanteras too.

    5. 9:43 i remember people have great words, 'many great words', even people not so great...
      i remember Chole too, she is getting born again as a reasonable educated person, i hope she makes it alive.

    6. 7:31...'s funny up here..lot of Mexican businesses, a d all have their state name in it. But it's almost all Sinaloa up here.

  4. I dunno about yall but i live in a super conservative state in the south and although we may be far from the west coast, i can assure its coming in like crazy cuz the prices just dropped a good bit and its everywhere. All of this despite it being illegal. Only cannabis laws in ga allow only cbd oils for medicinal use and even then its your problem getting it here.

    1. It's been known since the beginning that as soon as one state legalized they would become an export site for the rest of the country. Weed from Colorado is caught on interstates outside of the state on a daily basis (and the money going back).

      People can yell and scream about States' Rights all they want, but when those states can't prevent product from leaving their own state and entering another that still considers weed illegal, those "legal" states can take a hike. We don't even have to get to the three international Senate ratified treaties (which trump States' Rights btw) to point out how hypocritical it is. Washington State NWHIDTA has a Marijuana Impact Report from March 2016 that includes a portion on the amount of marijuana they confiscated which was on its way out of the state.

      On the other hand, these actions and the lack of federal response, sets a legal precedent on the off chance the Senate ever ratifies a UN treaty which prevents civilian ownership of firearms (there were rumors about such a treaty from back in 2006 that resurfaced in 2013, but that treaty only deals with international import/export) or any other item from the international community that people disagree with; so there is a positive to it at least.


  5. That shit Oliver Bates has growing in the picture looks kinda runty and brown . I think he needs some growing lessons .

    1. 2:43 you have earned a weekend at the Bates Motel, FREE!

  6. Here in Oregon, the Attorney general has begun a campaign to crackdown on growers who import their bud to eastern states. Oregon washington not Cali is the epicenter of a growing "problem" across the US. I for one dont suppprt the boutique or "legit" growers who never fought for legalization in the past, they just had money when the licenses and permits were being granted. Im all for undercutting them.

    1. BOUTIQUE LEGIT GROWERS WORK IT FOR THE INVESTOR CLASS THAT LEGITIMITIZED the pinchi mariguana beibi, they say nobody knows who they work for, until it's too late and now you can say it too, GOD is punishing you por andar ahi de caliente.

  7. The old myths that this “legendary” pot from back in the hills is so awesome is just about dead, except for a few old folks who do not give up their own urban legions of years ago.
    Compared to good indoor grows the outdoor grown, strains from ?? Bo, Duke and Earl just doesn't hold up to the level of growing indoors these days.

    Good indoor MJ is just better these days. You can get 18hr sunlight, controlled temperature, genetics from professional horticulturists with access to a global library of strains.

  8. How long till Cannabis starts getting smuggled from the North to the South lol..

    And to all those that dont know. CBD is legal EVERYWHERE within the United States.. People have bred CBD heavy plants for so long now they are able to produce CBD that contains less THC then DEA's legal threshold. I'd recommend (that's not an advertisement, just a resource for those that can truly benefit from CBD)


  9. So sad too bad . Contraband dealers everywhere are feeling the sting because of the "legal weed" . The old contraband dealers feel like they are being disenfranchised by the Johnny Come Latelys . So so sad for them. LOL .

  10. I got one for you . Weather you want to believe this or not , it is true . Statistics show that the worse baby beaters are pot heads . Ok your all either pissed or laughing . One of my best friends wife is high up in child protective services here in a large area in Texas . She confirmed it to me day ago .
    A thinking person would try and understand why . All you pot heads are denying it as you read it . Myself , I don't think pot would cause most people to act like that . Maybe it will some . don't know . My final opinion is that lots of assholes are pot smokers and they were just asshole in the beginning . Maybe it does cause it . would take a lot of research . Maybe the old movie Refer Madness wast so far off . Whats your thoughts ?

    1. send in a link or you are lying

    2. Your argument is based of one family and a old movie demonizing pot. Let me guess your a ratchet wyno or your pro liquor and pro cigarettes and your overweight full of high fructose corn syrup. Fyi im not talking shit either if u believe what you post you must be a genius(& im procrastinating)

    3. Chivis : I really got a hard comeback from 8:54 Pm . Did my post sound like I was demonizing his first love or was it his imagination ? I just simply ask for the general opinion , why CPS here in Texas says they worst baby beaters always turn out to be pot smokers ? I smoked a helofalot of weed when I was younger (about 11 years) . Made a choice when I was 26 years old that I was done . I had some alcohol in 1987 . All of my old friends still smoke it day and night . Addictive ? Only a fool or denying addict would say no . Don't get me wrong , never been a pacifist . Still I cannot imagine from my experience with weed that it could cause child abuse in a person that would not do it otherwise . In my almost six decades of living , I have seen child molesters and all sorts of deviants that were pot smokers . The arm of the government that deals with it, CPS, blames it . I think back on my experience with it and try to think if there is anything . Being high , no , not being high , not me . Does it contribute to it in some people or like I said ,DOES IT JUST PROVES THAT THERE ARE A LOT OF ASSHOLES SMOKING POT ? There , hopefully this don't again irritate the non baby beating pothead (majority)

    4. I doubt these baby beaters you referred to are solely pot smokers. I have never seen a angry pot head unless he/she laced it with something like PCP or “wet”. I tend to think the baby beaters are tweekers who also smoke marijuana. If you know tweekers the way I do you know many need it to take the edge off or to break down. 90% of the tweekers I have jailed always had small amounts of marijuana on them also. Coincidence?

    5. Give us a break; we have a life way from BB. I don't know who posted the comment I had oral surgery yesterday and was bed bound. The poster was unnecessarily rude, but not overly so, I probably would have posted it. Toughen up you should see the ones I deleted against your comment

      That said, I raised my eyebrows at your comment myself. I have studied drugs in depth and haven't ever seen an opinion or study about what you contend.

      I was a CASA court appointed advocate for three years, if you don't know what that is, it is legal protection for abused children entering the foster care program. I have sat though countless heart and stomach wrenching cases. Drugs were at the root of many abuses, I never once heard that it was because of marijuana use. Most common is meth. and alcohol.

      That is not to say pot users can't be abusers, a person who uses not drugs can abuse. it is your wild accusation that "the worse" abusers are pot smokers. and jeeze I know not one "molester" personally. You need to change up your friend circle.

      There is a national legal firm who says in all their years of practice they have had only 200 cases nationwide of neglect or abuse charges that the parent used pot.

      I deleted your other comment to me. enough is enough, I have answered. remember when you put something out there other readers can challenge it and sometimes not be so nice. but you were not so nice either.

    6. Chivis Now look at 10:13 . Now there is a rational person . Just simply replied to the post without feeling subjective and getting defensive . All those posts you deleted because they were so bad really says something about the posters . You think its refer induced ? LOL

    7. Are you the same person 10:13 and 7:43?

    8. 4:20 No 10:13 is obviously a cop . He refers to jailing people . I am 10:23 7:43 and 10:57 . I am the one who excited the reefer defenders to the point that chivis couldn't put on their post .
      I just wonder if they were that way before they started smoking reefer . You have to admit that is a point to question

  11. Get on GE, Google Earth and take a good look around Mendo, Humboldt and Trinity Counties, etc and see what the greedy bastard mega grow scene has become. The ones that blow it up big time, while the Mom and Pops try to be cool on their homesteads with their 10-25 plants growing organic with the SUN for gods sake. We have slash and burn, hilltop removal , thirty 100 ft greenhouses/ row house grows , illegal grading, illegal logging, illegal water depletion of every watershed, horrible environmental’s almost worse than the old clear cut logging days. Outsiders from all over the world showing up buying parcels , pumping water uphill a couple of thousand feet , plastic everywhere , they have actually light polluted the once dark night sky and still most of it is black market. Greedy bastards should have been stopped a long time ago, but everyone is in, real estate agents flipping parcels as fast as possible, monster trucks flying out of dealerships, heavy equipment etcetc whole towns are filled with mostly grow supply joints , semi ‘s loaded with pallets of soil amendments, water tanks, poly pipe, everything you can possibly think of........I could go on.......and it’s NOT the plant , it’s the People, as usual. These aren’t even cartel grows, law enforcement and Fish and Game can’t even make a dent if they wanted to, so they pick off the easiest targets , often time the Mom and Popper’s medí patches . The whole scene is insane , thousands of trimesters from all over the world showing up during harvest season which is now year round thanks to light dep.
    Honestly, I LOVE the plant, everyone should just have one or two and if they are gonna blow up there scene, ruin our roads, suck every drop of water and poison wildlife , then hell yeah, Permit them and TAX them. Crime is rampant, rip offs are rampant , guns are everywhere, hell , we have a “ ripper season” , no shit. We also have generations now of growers, ( that is ok ) but a lot kids have NO OTHER skills.
    Why get a job when you can trim weed for $150 -$200 a pound for a few months ?
    Sure , a lot of jobs have been created, a whole economy is running on it, but at what cost??
    As much respect I have for the growers who have been in it for a long time and the progress and improvements in the strains, etc the greedy bastards are , as usual ruining it for the rest of of them. Plus, I can’t help but miss the good old bad days when you actually started a good strong plant from seed and grew it in the sun with your compost , it’s clones clones clones, not w/o their own problems.
    Anybody miss the old Mendo Mezcla .......when every pound had six different good strains in it and no one ever got tired of it or immune to it cause you used a different bud whenever you pulled one outta the bag ??

  12. Mom and pop did not achieve legalization, it was the big businessmen planning to have it for themselves, you small growers let the big lies lie and con yousess without even a signed paper, sign of a con job by a con man...
    Now you need to correct course, quevasaser?
    I been suspecting "greedy bastards" burned the forests all over the west coast to plant their pinchi yerba.

  13. I said this when I was a kid, if marijuana ever gets legalized the cartels will just move more harder drugs . And that's exactly what happened. Mothafuckers say they want the best for the community but then say legalize it? Lol, that's just bringing in harder drugs if the cartels can't make profit off marijuana no more. It's logic, but then they think they Know everything. Sigh.


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