A multi-part TV documentary/reality series
Peeling away the layers on one of the USA’s fastest growing industries in the most famous marijuana-farming region in the world.
- Unique access
- Extraordinary characters
- Guns, helicopters, car chases, even murders.
- Science, botany and beautiful scenery
Humboldt County, in northern California, is famous for just two things: the Redwood Forest and marijuana. And just as the giant Redwoods tower over all other trees, so does Humboldt’s famous herb. It is by far the best strain of marijuana in the country and possibly the world.
“Humboldt is the nexus point of the whole growing movement,” Steve Bloom, senior editor of High Times Magazine “There’s no doubt about it, it’s got the No. 1 reputation in the country.”
This multi-part documentary series takes us into the heart of Humboldt to discover an extraordinary and unique world. Guns, murders, car chases, helicopters, huge stashes of cash, science, police investigations, poor growers, rich farmers, Federal Officers and corrupt officials. This is a series that has it all.
Marijuana has become the biggest cash crop in the US. Estimates put its worth at around $100 billion a year. Weight for weight – Humboldt weed is more valuable than gold. More than 40% of Americans over the age of sixteen admit to having tried the green herb. It is already used legally for medicinal purposes in over twenty US States. The last three Presidents have admitted to using it. Many advocates believe that with the Baby Boomers in charge of the country it’s only a matter of time until it is legalized. But there is still a huge resistance from conservative America, which so far has kept it on the list of banned substances. Thousands of growers and users are imprisoned every year and law enforcement spends millions chasing it down.
In Humboldt it’s been a game of cat and mouse for decades. Ever since the 60’s, growers arriving from San Francisco realized that Humboldt offered the perfect conditions to grow this hardy plant. The soil is perfect, the climate ideal, and the remote steep hilly countryside enables most growers to escape detection. Humboldt is the northern most county in California, considered by many as hillbilly country. Its remoteness makes it extremely dangerous. Growers protect their privacy and their precious crops with arsenals of guns. With only a tiny police presence protecting the entire county murders are quite common. Over-inquisitive hippies trying to find free herb are met with automatic weapons and a shallow grave.
“In Humboldt County people are killed on a regular basis for their marijuana. I look at it as like the Gold Rush of 1849, when gold was worth so much that people were getting killed.” Sgt. Wayne Hanson of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department Drug Enforcement Unit
“It’s kind of like the Wild West, it’s got the reputation of look outs, booby traps and guns.” Steve Bloom said.
For those that grow Humboldt, it’s a science that can take years to perfect. They believe it’s like a making fine wine. Every detail and nuance has to be examined and reexamined to make the magic herb up to the standard expected from this famous region.
“It’s kind of like Napa to wine,” Todd (grower), “everyone is trying to make the finest quality’
For the end user, the smell, taste, flavor, and effect is discussed at great length in the dispensaries rapidly springing up throughout California. In Los Angeles, for example, there are more marijuana dispensaries than there are Starbucks, and Humboldt is always the most sought after.
“Automatically, in Los Angeles, if I heard from somebody that they got Humboldt, I’d be like, all right let’s go,” Greg (Marijuana smoker). T-shirts emblazoned with ‘Got Humboldt’ spells out the legendary quality to all those in the know.
For the cops the whole issue is a headache. The laws are confusing and a lot of time, energy and money are wasted on trying to find it and destroy it.
“What happens in Humboldt County is that everyone, even local judges and the probation office, get kind of numb on all the marijuana cases.” Sgt. Wayne Hanson, DEU
But the federal government is still keen to make sure the laws are maintained and the criminals prosecuted with the full force of the law. The DEU spend much of their year locating the farms, which then have to be staked out so they can gather enough information to prosecute.
“It’s common knowledge that we do stake out marijuana grows,” Hanson said. “We confirm them, deploy officers and wait for a suspect to come in and either tend their plants or show some sort of cultivation. They’re videotaped and arrested immediately.”
Once a year, just before harvest begins in October, the DEU hits the quiet countryside with what is known as CAMP (Campiagn Against Marijuana Planting). Helicopters and SWAT teams fly into the hilly region. They drop into marijuana growing areas, cut, burn and destroy the expensive cash crop before making a rapid exit.
This special Marijuana Eradication Unit destroys more than 40,000 marijuana plants each year. This is a small war. The growers risk their lives for the potentially huge profits. So, the MEU are often chased off the land with automatic weapons. As of Oct. 1, 2009, the unit had made 75 arrests so far this year and confiscated 115 firearms.
“We’ve found stolen firearms, fully automatics, silencers, you name it. It’s a violent business.” Sgt Wayne Hanson, DEU
Sometimes entire houses are turned into growing areas. Several years ago several people were arrested when the DEA raided a two-story house to discover that it was completely gutted and turned into an indoor farm. Around 12,000 plants were found and reports say the growers were making $50,000 a month from sales. Those involved received a 20-year sentence in state penitentiary.
The whole population (125,000) of this hilly county could fit into a small town and yet the production of marijuana is a multi-million dollar business. However, for all its millions most of the growers here are dirt poor. Many of them risk everything for a measly return on their time – and make no mistake, marijuana is extremely time consuming to grow. Most of these people are growing it to support their personal use or are living out an ideology for marijuana liberation.
The people who make the big money are the ‘funders’. These people, many of them who started out as growers, supply the materials, the land and the money for the small growers to make the magic herb. They reap the biggest cut and many of them have so much money that they don’t need to ever to risk been seen in the area.
This is generally a no-go area but with our unique access the series will enter the heart of this extraordinary world to take our audience on an incredible and never-before-seen journey.
While the marijuana of Humboldt County is at the centre of this series, the fascination will come from the characters that revolve around it.
We will meet the growers, many of them poor, some with major health issues. We will spend time with them to understand the process and the dangers of producing what has rapidly become the nations drug of choice. We will also meet the rich fat cats who fund the growers – some of these are guys who started at the bottom and worked their way up the ladder. They finance the land, the equipment but let the small farmers take the big risks. We will travel with the police as they attempt with just a handful of officers to cover an area the size of Rhode Island, And we will travel by helicopter with the Feds as they make commando raids on the pot fields, cutting and burning the illegal crops before rapidly escaping the area due to the strong chance of getting shot.
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