By Angela Edmunds
Growers, consumers and retailers of the cannabis plant face major problems when it comes to education, communication, environment protection and legality. All of these aspects of the cultivation of marijuana
concern and affect the others. The Emerald Triangle class at Humboldt State University attempts to address and discuss all of these issues and more.
Joshua Meisel, a co-director of HIMMR and a professor of sociology at HSU, supervised the event and spoke on behalf of the program.
“There are so many different lenses through which we can study this issue and, marijuana, very much, becomes a looking glass to broader issues of concern in our community,” Meisel said.
HSU offers Sociology 280: The Emerald Triangle as a class during the spring semester. The program is designed and provided by Humboldt State’s unique Institute for Marijuana Research. This year the class took place this year on April 13 and 14. The two class periods were composed of many presenters speaking on behalf of their jobs, practices and opinions about the uses and impacts of marijuana on the community within the Emerald Triangle. Experts in law enforcement, cultivation, environment, wildlife, policy and prohibition were all present.
“I think it’s really important for students to understand the nuanced ways in which we can understand the significance of marijuana in this region,” said Meisel.
The Emerald Triangle is considered the marijuana-producing trifecta of our region, which consists of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties. The community in this area is comprised largely of people connected to the cultivation, production, sale, and transport of the what many consider to be a medicinally and economically helpful plant cannabis. Student and teachers at Humboldt State University would agree that comments have been made on multiple occasions about the practices and stigmas surrounding this area about the cultivation of cannabis.
Diana Recendez, 18-year-old business major, said she did not attend the seminar but thinks it may be counterproductive for the image of HSU.
“Sure, pot is everywhere around here,” said Recendez. “People always mention [marijuana] when I say I attend Humboldt State. I don’t think this seminar is the best program to enhance our school’s image, but I do think that people in this area understand its importance.”
Student of many majors and ages attended the seminar with lots of questions, many having to do with legalization and the future of the industry.
“It’s nice to see that most people involved are more worried about how to move forward and make it work, than how to shut it down, because [marijuana] is prevalent,” said Kathryn Boynton, 23-year-old psychology major. “I think it’s essential to be aware of what’s going on [when] living here. It’s important.”
The class addressed many issues that are not usually considered when thinking about the cultivation of cannabis. Presenting the issue on a larger and broader scale allowed students to see the more serious aspects of the industry.
Large-scale, illegal grows, sometimes on public land, can have extremely detrimental impacts on surrounding habitat and environment. On the other hand, large organic grows on private land, do not have nearly the same impacts. But since they are both groups producing cannabis, it becomes hard to distinguish the good guy from the bad. Sustainable and smart farming techniques are encouraged but they are difficult to enforce when dealing with the drug force. It becomes harder to enforce and regulate environmental crimes when there are still gray areas about legality of procession and cultivation.
Scott Greacen, executive director of Friends of the Eel River, spoke about his position.
“I’m part of a group of environmental activists in the region who have seen a real need, first to acknowledge that these harms are real—there are significant impacts on public trust values that we care a lot about: water quality, biological diversity, the things that make this region really special, are actually at risk from this industry,” said Greacen.
One of the strongest messages of SOC 280 was the significance of education and communication among the community about marijuana related issues. A large struggle for the movement is the gap in disclosure of accurate and helpful information for growers, consumers, and retailers.
“[It is important] to understand what causes the different kinds of impacts so that we can best address the problems through policy changes, through education, through all the different possible mechanisms, for changing peoples’ behavior, ” said Greacen.
Sociology 280 has been taught at HSU for roughly 15 years and will return in the spring of 2014.