Pubdate: Sun, 12 Dec 2010
Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Copyright: 2010 The Press Democrat
Author: Glenda Anderson
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


A steady drizzle of rain dampened the atmosphere but spirits remained 
high in more ways than one at the seventh annual Emerald Cup north of 

Marijuana aficionados talked shop, smoked marijuana and examined 
pot-related wares in a narrow canyon along Highway 101.

"It's kind of wonderful," Jon Staples, of Petaluma, said, noting the 
openness of the event, a far cry from the days when growing and 
smoking marijuana were strictly covert operations.

Marijuana has steadily made headway as a mainstream crop since 
California voters legalized its use as a medicine in 1996. Now, even 
local government agencies are considering marijuana production as a 
way to make money.

The Emerald Cup is a celebration of the end of the marijuana harvest, 
much like any other county agricultural fair, said Tim Blake, the event's host.

He owns Area 101, a one-time deli and market located on Highway 101 
halfway between Laytonville and Leggett. His property includes about 
300 acres and, during growing season, a cooperative marijuana garden 
that is permitted by the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

"I always loved county fairs," Blake said.

Instead of apples or pears, 141 marijuana buds vying for the Emerald 
Cup's top honors were on display.

The winners, picked for their appearance, taste, smell and effects, 
were judged by a panel of eight experts over 16 days, said Kevin 
Marsh, one of the judges.

Many of the people attending Saturday's event, which featured more 
than a dozen bands, were medical marijuana growers, some local, some 
from across the country.

Neil and Kat McDonald flew from Charlotte, N.C., for the event, which 
they compared to other industry conventions, like insurance.

"We're here to meet other people like ourselves" and pick up tips, 
said Neil McDonald. "It keeps me up with what's going on."

About 100 people volunteered to work the event in exchange for its 
$80 entry fee.

"It's easy to get volunteers. It's harder to get them to do 
something," said one of the event's producers, Jayed Scottii, noting 
that many were smoking pot instead of working.

Mendocino County Supervisor John McCowen attended the event to 
promote the county's permitting process for medical marijuana 
cooperatives. The permits allow up to 99 medical marijuana plants to 
be grown per parcel.

The permits avoid wasted law enforcement time on legal pot gardens, 
ensure that the gardens are not causing environmental problems and 
give the growers a measure of security from local authorities, he said.

Marijuana of all sorts remains illegal under federal law.

The revenue the permits generate also could save the jobs of seven 
Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies who face possible layoffs.

"Our goal is to save those sheriff's jobs," said Blake.

The once unthinkable alliance of law enforcement and pot growers 
working together for a common cause is not lost on Blake. But he said 
growers and non-growers have more in common than many people might think.

"We're all one," he said.

Several dozen growers have promised to sign up for cooperative 
permits, which currently cost just over $1,000 each. A price increase 
has been proposed.

The permits could add about $900,000 to the county ailing coffers, 
McCowen said.

McCowen, who also supported a ballot measure that reduced the number 
of pot plants individuals could grow per parcel and how the crop was 
grown, said his support of the permits does not conflict with his 
other stands on pot production.

He said he was never against marijuana growing, just restricting it 
so that it does not impinge on the rights of others and cause public 
safety problems.

Restrictions and rules are inevitable, said Blake.

"Everything is regulated," he said.

Emerald Cup organizers were hoping to sell 1,000 tickets to the 
event, which began Friday night with a celebratory dinner for local 
residents. The Saturday event, with music, food and the Emerald Cup 
finale, was for the public at large. About 300 people had arrived by 
5 p.m., a half hour after the gates formally opened.

In addition to celebrating the harvest and the best pot of the 
season, the Emerald Cup is a way to advertise Mendocino County's 
outdoor, organically grown marijuana, which is battling for a market 
that currently favors indoor production.

Many local growers have been unable to find outlets for their outdoor 
marijuana, Blake said.

Outdoor production is more environmentally friendly because the 
marijuana grows naturally, Blake said.

"We're going to take that market back," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom