This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity to read as dope as possible.
Hey, I’m Mike Glazer. I visited Humboldt with comedians Billy Wayne Davis, Frank Castillo, and Mike McGowan to do a standup show about stopping Measure A. If you live in Humboldt, don’t vote for it next March. It’s bad. Before the show, I met with farmer Galen Doherty to tour his homestead, Whitethorn Valley Farm, and learn firsthand how decimated his community has become.
Galen’s a fifth-generation farmer whose 10,000 square-foot farm grows some of the tastiest outdoor sun-grown heat I’ve ever smoked. The terps are wildly flavorful. The high put me in the pocket. I felt connected with nature through his weed. Maybe it’s the native soil he uses? Maybe his regenerative agriculture approach allows maximum farm fertility and food sustenance — happy earth grows happy plants. Whatever it is, I feel lucky to be there.
Galen’s wife, Ruby Rose, and their two kids joined us for the interview. We shared a generous spread of homegrown weed, homegrown vegetables, homemade red wine, salty meats, gooey cheeses, and all the fixings to make sandwiches. As we started recording, an apple fell from their tree. Ruby Rose grabbed it with a 3.5-inch hunting knife and sliced it into tiny pieces for their daughter, who has cerebral palsy, while simultaneously breastfeeding their son. An astounding balancing act. The perfect metaphor for life as a Humboldt farmer. They’re a strong family unit who do everything all at once and do not have time to fuck around. So why do people have so much time to fuck with them?
Mike: I heard you call what is happening now an extinction event. Let’s start with how we got here. How did the Prop 64 cap being lifted affect you?
Galen: That was when we knew this would be <laugh> a bloodletting.
G: Right after that backdoor loophole. For five years. That was the promise. And then it was like, “Oh, actually, you can just stack unlimited licenses.” Are you kidding me?
M: Mostly corporations stacking them.
G: In politics, money counts, and corporate tycoons are controlling and influencing everything throughout the country. Their efforts to monopolize the industry are drastically affecting this community.
M: I can see it.
G: All the storefronts in our town are closed. Farms are going outta business. People can’t afford to hire help on their farms. <tears> I’m getting emotional.
M: Real shit.
G: Really fucking hard.
Ruby Rose: He doesn’t cry. This is the second time I’ve ever seen him cry in 10 years together.
M: What hits you?
G: It’s the impact, man. We’re all working so hard to provide for our families and make it all happen.
G: Going up against all these venture capital-backed firms that grow shitty weed and flood the market, paying for shelf space. You got [mega grows] blowing out the entire market of the United States. They tanked the wholesale price in the entire country.
M: I think there’s room for everyone in a perfect world. Getting rid of corporations is not ideal because there are people who these corporations employ. Everyone deserves to have a livelihood.
M: And thrive
G: For sure.
M: As anti-capitalist and anti-corporate as I am, the more I talk to people and growers, the more I think, “Oh, there just needs to be room for everyone to make money.”
G: All the small independent businesses are getting squeezed out by the big ones. Their business model is to put us out of business. When you support a small business you know that money’s going directly into that small business who’s then probably paying their employees a fair and living wage, putting food on their tables, and that dollar’s going around that community over and over and over and over again. Whereas as soon as you spend your money on the corporate brand, that money’s going out of the community and into some shareholder’s profits.
M: Is voting enough?
G: Vote with your dollar. Vote at the polls.
M: We’ll get to the polls in a minute. As a small business, what are you growing that you’re excited about?
G: Our Bangerang strain is super special. It’s a cross between Afghani Kush and Dosido. The Afghani Kush was smuggled back to Briceland from the Hindu Kush Mountains in Pakistan by our community elders who were part of the “back to the land” movement. They sewed the seeds into their clothing to smuggle it back. We crossed that lineage with Dosido to make it more commercially viable for mainstream consumers. It also increased potency to a nice solid 25% and added some color. When we get cold nights, it’ll turn nice and purple. That’s super unique.
M: Jumping off that Afghani Kush, we had Chef Roy Choi on our podcast Weed + Grub, and he talked about how dangerous it is that we’re losing basic corn tortilla recipes to monoculture. Is that what’s happening with weed?
G: Definitely. The loss of the genetic heritage of the Emerald Triangle is real. Everyone’s being forced to grow the strains on the menu ’cause that’s what the buyers want. They all want purple gas. And you’re like, great. Now, we’re all growing the exact same thing. You show ’em something really special, and they’re like, “Wait, what’s that?” You tell ’em what it is, and they’re like, “Oh, well, no one’s gonna know what that is.” And you’re like, “That’s the point. It’s special.”
M: What about distribution? So you take your flower to dispensaries —
G: I can’t drive my flower off my farm without another license.
M: Wait, there’s a —
RR: Leaving your own property license.
G: Just ’cause you have a cultivation license — you have to have a transport license <laugh>, or a distribution license, or…
M: Or a trunk.
G: Yeah, the bureaucracy is <laugh> ridiculous.
M: How do you get it on the shelves then?
G: Working with other farms. We started the brand Farm Cut. It’s minimally processed. We leave the sugar leaves on to protect the flower, package it on the farm, vacuum seal it, and make sure it’s in the best conditions possible before it leaves the farm. And that’s a cooperative of five farms working together.
M: Why do you leave sugar leaves on?
G: Similar to a banana. You wouldn’t buy a peeled banana in a store. It’d be brown, oxidized, and disgusting. Trimming weed starts the degradation process, and the California supply chain takes months for products to hit consumers. When it leaves my farm, I don’t know how it’ll be stored, where it’s been stored. If it’s temperature controlled, exposed to sunlight or not. So by doing quarter-ounce jars, and minimally processing them, we’re trying to keep our flower as fresh as possible.
M: But then you’re selling trim as a part of the weight I’m buying.
G: No. We put an extra half gram in our half ounces and an extra gram in our ounces so that if you feel you have too much leaf and there wasn’t enough trichome on it, we’re compensating you.
M: Can we talk about the strength of your weed?
G: Yeah, the potency game — I think it comes down to a couple things. One is over-taxation by the government makes the price of weed so freaking high to the consumer that they want to get the most bang for their buck. I understand that mentality. Some of our best strains are in the low twenties or high teens, and you don’t know if the consumer will buy it because the dispensary won’t put it on the shelf to see if the consumer’s gonna buy it.
M: I’d buy that.
G: All day, I smoke a 19% sativa. You get a lot done, and you’re happy most of the day.
G: I even hear my dad’s voice in my head where he’s like, “Your weed kicked my ass. It’s not the weed I grew up with.” And I’m like, “No, that weed is still available. And it’s better.”
M: We’ve talked about the cool shit. Let’s get into Measure A. Is it a part of your possible extinction?
G: Measure A is a small group, like NIMBY, from Northern Humboldt that hired a law firm that specializes in crushing cannabis cultivation. The law firm wrote this ballot initiative, which completely changes all the rules of the Humboldt County cannabis system. One small group of private citizens is putting forward something that will completely, fundamentally alter an entire economic sector in this county.
G: Two separate, very independent, often adversarial groups, The Humboldt County Growers Alliance and the Humboldt County Planning and Building Department, hired law firms to analyze this ballot measure, and they both concluded that it would crush Humbolt’s cannabis industry. It’s Prohibition 2.0.
G: Farms have done everything they can to become compliant: fixing their stream crossings, doing all this environmental restoration, putting your employees on the books, like pay. We’ve come so far in the right direction.
M: You’re playing by the rules.
G: Yeah. And then they’re like, “Let’s change the rules.”
M: I heard some people don’t vote because you’re trying to stay off the grid.
G: If you’re not registered to vote, do that. It doesn’t seem like it matters because it feels like <laugh> corporate greed gets what it wants.
G: But we still have to make our voice known by voting and getting registered. That’s super important.
M: Any final thoughts?
G: We’re in the early stages here, and there is so much potential in this plant and this industry. It sucks that the first thing that we all have to deal with is fighting for our lives to get a license and then compete with corporations that are backed by millions and millions and millions of dollars. We’ve all poured everything we’ve got into these businesses. We’re running on blood, sweat, and tears at this point, but we have some of the most amazing and unique weed in the world.
G: The Emerald Triangle and other heritage regions throughout the state are where real amazing weed comes from. Don’t get sucked in by the flashy packaging and the shiny marketing. Where’s the local weed brand at? Where’s all your sun-grown at? And there’s so much untapped potential with these minor cannabinoids. The sky’s the limit. But, we gotta make sure we get to lift-off and don’t blow it.