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How Times Have Changed: When a Marijuana Farmer Cried Out, 'Thank God, the Police!'

An excerpt from "Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution" takes us to the USA's center of weed agriculture.

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And it was federally felonious. Not that Carl gave the Federal Scheduling Quagmire much of a thought. He was feeling too good.

“I feel the most mobile I can remember feeling in 30 years,” he gushed. “It’s such a huge pain reducer. And even if it wan’t (Carl drops the s in words like wasn’t), if it just got me off the Vicodin, then I’d be ahead of the game. But it’s done more’n that. It’s given me my life back.”

“Should I ask? Should I ask?” I wondered. Horseback-riding was impressive enough— I knew that after his combat posting Carl had served in a ceremonial calvary unit, and missed it. Maybe that was enough. Ah, heck, I asked anyway.

“So, are you taking bowl commissions?”

“I’m looking to rent studio space downtown with some good natural light,” he said, referring to the Yankee Street artsy section of his hometown of Silver City. “Better ambiance with all those other studios around. When you came back, maybe you can help me move my lathe. There might be something in it for you.”

“THANK GOD, THE POLICE!” 

*Footnote: A farmer I followed in 2011 named George Fredericks heard the gunshots from a lethal garden grab gone bad on a nearby ranch in 2010. To even mention such rare incidents in an era where meth and alcohol violence is a daily occurrence is to overemphasize it significantly. Still, it happens about once per year in Mendocino County, explicitly because the plant is illegal. And while any violence is deplorable, unacceptable, and cause for reflection, it is worth asking what other multibillion-dollar business claimed one life or fewer in the past year. While you’ve read this footnote, someone has been killed or injured in an alcohol-related motor vehicle accident and by the time you finish this chapter someone will have died from a prescription drug.

 When it comes to the safety of living with my family in Mendocino County for a year, I think it’s worth noting that I left my keys in my truck throughout my county tenure and never locked my cabin.  It’s one of those places where wallets get returned by Good Samaritans calling the radio station. In fact, Mendocino County has low enough crime to ensure that when there is the annual cannabis-related violent incident, media can trot out the ex-logger curmudgeon for the reliable "this used to be a nice place to raise kids" quote. Guess what? It still is an extraordinarily great place to raise kids. When I took my late-afternoon writing break each day, my oldest darted ahead of me to the nearby creekside park to play with whatever new or old friends were there.

Copyright Gotham Books, 2012 -- All rights reserved. This excerpt has been published with permission from the author.

Doug Fine is an investigative journalist and author of the books  Farewell, My Subaru and Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution.