Pubdate: Tue, 25 Jun 2013
Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Copyright: 2013 The Press Democrat
Author: Julie Johnson


Emily Brady was 14 when she watched her best friend in Occidental say 
goodbye to her father on the morning he left to serve a prison 
sentence for marijuana cultivation.

Her friend ran to her bedroom and shut the door as her younger 
brother wailed, said Brady, now 36. A notice that the property had 
been seized and belonged to the FBI hung on the door.

"It seemed like he had gambled his family in a way, this risk he took 
stuck with me," Brady said in an interview.

Brady's memories of that moment in part fueled her first book, 
"Humboldt: Life on America's Marijuana Frontier," which Grand Central 
Publishing released last week.

In "Humboldt," Brady chronicles four people's relationship with the 
county's primary cash crop: A 1960s-era back-to-the-lander, a 
sheriff's deputy, a man growing for the money and a college student 
who rejects the pot culture around her.

Brady taps into the dueling optimism and dread among Humboldt County 
residents during the months leading up to California's 2010 bid to 
legalize marijuana, Proposition 19, and stays with the community 
through the months after it failed at the polls.

"I couldn't have written this book otherwise," Brady said of the 
timing. "It's a very secretive world, and it cracked open because of 
Prop. 19 and I slipped inside."

Many writers have have tried to capture the culture of the 
pot-steeped communities of the Emerald Triangle - Mendocino, Humboldt 
and Trinity counties.

Retired Sonoma State University professor Jonah Raskin's book 
"Marijuanaland: Dispatches from an American War" also touched on the 
2010 proposition's rise and defeat through the eyes of people 
intimately involved with marijuana in the region. Raskin draws 
heavily from his personal experience, starting with his father's 
secret pot garden at the family's Sonoma County property to the trips 
he made on Highway 101, driving pot south and cash north.

"Humboldt" is not about Brady. But she draws on her experience 
growing up in west Sonoma County as she spends a year chronicling the 
lives of the four Humboldt residents.

Brady primarily grew up in the west county. She lived in Tomales and 
spent a decade of her childhood on a sheep ranch near Bodega. As a 
child, marijuana was something adults smoked at parties, Brady said.

Brady attended El Molino High School in Forestville before earning 
her diploma equivalent at age 16. She left Sonoma County, moved to 
Napa, San Francisco and then New York City. She had lived in Ireland, 
France and Venezuela when she returned to California in 2010.

The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and later an assembly bill that 
established dispensaries had fostered a different culture surrounding 
pot, Brady said.

"People were smoking in the streets, the whole medical thing had 
outed it, they were holding cannabis conventions in the cities," Brady said.

Brady traveled to Humboldt County in August 2010, aiming to document 
marijuana's legalization from California's marijuana heartland.

But what she found was a web of counterculture and progressive values 
mixed with a money-making enterprise. She ended up staying until November 2011.

The book opens with a meeting at the Mateel Community Center in 
Redway to discuss what might happen to the community if marijuana is 
legalized, dubbed the "Post-Marijuana Prohibition Economy Forum."

"That was the first time that there was a public conversation about 
marijuana growing," Brady said. "It was like the town factory is 
going to shut down, what are we going to do?"

The book introduces Mary Em Abidon, 70, who moved to Humboldt in the 
1960s, fought to keep old-growth redwood groves and had been growing 
pot plants in her backyard for decades.

Then, there is Crockett Randall, 35, who grew up on a Marin County 
commune and is in the pot business for the money. The name is not his 
real one, a deal Brady made to gain access to his life and 
million-dollar pot garden.

Emma Worldpeace, 23, was a college student born in a cabin along the 
Eel River whose stepbrother is accused of killing a Guatemalan 
immigrant tending his pot garden.

Brady rode along with Humboldt County Sheriff's Deputy Bob Hamilton 
as he patrolled towns filled with outlaws. The veteran lawman said he 
voted for Proposition 19 because the war on drugs had long been lost.

There are endless aspects of the marijuana trade to be told that 
"Humboldt" breezes over: The true believers in medical marijuana, the 
environmental concerns with large, illegal marijuana gardens and the 
shadowy criminal networks that drive the black market.

Brady's portraits show intimate glimpses of the roots of Humboldt's 
marijuana culture, the strengths of the community and the violence 
intertwined with the illegal marijuana trade.

A large part of "Humboldt" focuses on the ways incarceration, secrecy 
and the lack of legal jobs affect the community, particularly young people.

In one scene, Worldpeace pushes her little brother in a stroller in 
the courthouse hallway while her mother attends a hearing about her 
criminal marijuana cultivation charges.

Another chapter shows Randall, as a child, bringing his lunch to 
school in sandwich bags with remnants of pot in the corners and, as 
an adult, zipping through the Humboldt woods at midnight on an 
off-road vehicle to check on his crop.

Abidon recounts a memorial ceremony for a 38-year-old social worker 
beaten and strangled to death in a marijuana drying room by robbers.

At the end of the book in an author's note, Brady is clear she 
supports legalization and regulation of marijuana because that might 
be the only way to curb the violence associated with its profits.

"There's a saying in Humboldt, 'It's all fun and games until sales,'" 
Brady said.

Brady will read from "Humboldt" at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Copperfield's 
Books, 138 N. Main St. in Sebastopol. Her website is at
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom