Pubdate: Sun, 09 Oct 2011
Source: Union, The (Grass Valley, CA)
Copyright: 2011 The Union
Author: Tom Kellar
Note: Tom Kellar is a freelance writer living in Cedar Ridge.


For at least 40 years, Nevada County has been a destination for 
anyone wishing to make a buck growing and selling marijuana.

But in the last decade the rules of the game have changed 
significantly with the advent of legalization for medicinal purposes.

In 2003, Senate Bill 420 was passed as an extension and clarification 
of Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.

It is now possible for anyone obtaining a doctor's recommendation to 
apply for a Medical Marijuana Identification Card, detailing the 
amount of marijuana a card holder can acquire or grow for medical purposes.

Bottom line is that if approved for the card, a person can legally 
obtain marijuana either from a marijuana dispensary or by growing and 
harvesting a small amount of the plant for their own use.

It is still illegal, however, to grow marijuana for sale. This has 
undoubtedly made it tougher on law enforcement to sort out who is 
growing for their own use versus someone growing for profit.

It has been reported that in Nevada County, many marijuana growers 
will actually have a copy of their marijuana script in plain sight 
for law enforcement agents conducting overhead helicopter flights 
looking for illegal growers. Growing marijuana is no longer automatic 
cause for immediate arrest.

"Danny" (not his real name) is a local grower in the San Juan Ridge 
area who has been supplementing a significant portion of his income 
by growing and selling marijuana.

He has marijuana script for each of the plants in his garden, but 
after harvest sells much of it to a marijuana broker, who in turn 
sells for use in other parts of the country. It has been reported 
that marijuana from the San Juan Ridge is considered top shelf.

Danny moved to the area several years ago with a domestic partner 
after discovering the beauty and culture of the Grass Valley/Nevada 
City region.

"We really believed in this community before we got here," Danny 
said. "We had no jobs here and at first we really struggled. I got my 
footing up on the Ridge doing odd jobs and started getting some 
income. Then an opportunity came along to become part of a (marijuana) garden."

Danny had no real experience growing marijuana and says he was forced 
to learn about cultivating the plant on the fly.

"I learned real fast," Danny said. "I talked to a lot of people and 
read books and essentially was successful. I doubled the garden's 
yield in one year."

The harvest season for outside marijuana gardens runs roughly from 
the end of September through most of November. According to Danny, 
the soil then needs to be fortified and enriched during the winter 
months. Like anyone who grows crops for a living, Danny says the work 
is hard and can be labor-intensive.

"Essentially it's like uber-gardening," Danny said. "You're subject 
to pests and diseases. Things like spider mites, if let go, can 
stress the plants and you won't get the yield you want. There are a 
number of things like mildews and molds that can seriously affect the plants."

There are also security issues adding to the work load. It's not 
uncommon for thieves to swoop in during harvest season, looking to 
steal marijuana and cash.

"When it comes time, you have to run security on your garden," Danny 
said. "You or someone has to be there all the time, particularly at 
night. It's emotionally draining."

There is almost a limitless variety of marijuana plants to be had. 
Last year Danny says he grew five different kinds; this year he is 
concentrating on two.

"We like to play and see what different varieties are like," Danny 
said. "Some are known for their ability to produce, they're like the 
Holsteins of ganja (marijuana). Some are chosen for their qualities, 
for the high that you get or for the medicine that is produced.

"A lot of what we grow goes into medicine, like tincture and salves 
to be used on the body. It's a legitimate thing, we believe in it and 
it works."

Politics really can make for strange bedfellows. Locally, a large 
number of marijuana growers were against the passage of Prop. 19, the 
marijuana legalization initiative that went down to defeat in November 2010.

The growers believed that had the initiative passed, the marijuana 
market would have been severely impacted, prices falling dramatically.

"Nobody knows for certain what's going to happen, but I think 
eventually it's going to be legalized," Danny said. "But as long as 
it's not, the price stays up."

Danny makes no apology for his choice to grow and sell marijuana.

"Growing ganja (marijuana) is about economics, it's about cultural 
attachments, it's about medicine," Danny said. "The stuff that we 
grow is completely organic; there are no chemicals or pesticides 
used. When we have problems with various pests or diseases, we use 
organic solutions, such as a bacillus that attacks caterpillars, or a 
bacillus that attacks mildew and mold.

"Whether you're going to smoke it or use it in a salve or a cream, 
it's going to be clean. That's very important to me."
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart