Stephen Gieder — local cannabis event organizer and business visionary

Stephen Gieder

By Monica Robinson

Flapjack staff

After a troubling incident a year and a half ago Stephen Gieder intervened an unbalanced fight in the back alley of the Plaza in Arcata, California. While walking away, after believing he had verbally resolved the altercation, Gieder was attacked and struck down. He said there were at least 15 witnesses nearby and not one person checked in or offered to help.

Gieder was disturbed when he saw how disconnected people have become from one another and wanted to help elicit change. Gieder gave a good ol’ Facebook rant and set up a meeting at the Jambalaya in Arcata. To his surprise 35 people showed up.

“He wants everyone to be involved, keep people connected and rise the vibration,” says Sasha Miksis, 33, Gieder’s friend and co-worker.

The first two meetings identified problems and came up with solutions. The CPP started Street Clean Up on Fridays, which expanded to free yoga on the plaza Saturdays and the Plaza Play Group for kids on Sundays. The safety task force, created by the city of Arcata, deals with the same issues and works in conjunction with CPP.

Gieder was born on Oct. 27, 1976. and grew up in Pennsylvania, where he attended Williamson Trade School and studied horticulture and landscape design. After graduating and spending a year in Colorado, Gieder realized he wanted to be a part of the cannabis industry. Gieder drove across country towards Humboldt County and stopped near Lake Tahoe. While visiting Tahoe he went out for coffee and donuts and came back an hour and a half later with a job. Three years later, while walking his dog, he stumbled across Stan “the man” and Steve Muller opening a hydroponic shop in 1998.

As a graduate in Horticulture and Landscape design, Gieder would sit in the shop and consult the store owners when it first opened. At the time people didn’t really understand the science of it, but he had the knowledge and background to help people.

“Some people’s minds work scientifically; my mind works horticulturally,” Gieder says. This experience inspired Gieder to start his own horticulture supply store in Humboldt County.

Gieder started Northcoast Horticulture Supply in 2002. NHS sells cultivation supplies to indoor and outdoor farmers in Humboldt County at its four retail locations in Fortuna, Eureka, Arcata and McKinleyville.

In order to get the best product and deliver it at the lowest possible price, Gieder started Humboldt Wholesale, a nationwide manufacturer and distributor of specialty garden supplies. This allowed him to import from Holland the finest production nutrient line in the world, House & Garden.

“Steve’s a doer,” Ken Hamik, 59, Gieder’s business partner, says. Hamik wants to write a book on him called “Gieder Done.” Gieder embodies visions more than most people.

“Steve is where the rubber meets the sky,” Hamik said. “He starts and finishes things.”

After nearly a decade of being the sole distributor of House and Garden in the United States, Gieder purchased the company and moved manufacturing of the nutrient line to Arcata, California.

Gieder has always taken pride in building the local economy and continues to do so by employing over 100 individuals. For the 15 year anniversary of NHS, Gieder hosted an employee party the Arcata Theatre Lounge with live music and free food.

“He really does care about all of them, their family life and what’s happening at home,” Miksis said.

“You know that saying Kevin Bacon is six degrees of separation from everyone? I call Steve one degree,” Hamik said. Gieder’s fundamental businesses in Humboldt have enabled him to meet so many people here.

“Everyone knows Steve and Steve knows everyone for the most part,” Hamik explains. As a creative yielding local entrepreneur and cannabis advocate, Gieder began the consulting firm Humboldt Green.

Hamik describes Humboldt Green as one the most unusual businesses he’s ever worked for. “It’s a very difficult animal to describe to somebody,” Hamik said. It’s an event producing and community organization; a type of economic ecosystem trying to figure out how all the pieces fit together. Everywhere from cannabis infused yoga, Humboldt’s Om lead by Miksis to the Hummingbird Healing Center a dispensary reopening in McKinleyville lead by Hamik and Gieder.

Gieder has put together a highly qualified consulting team developing a new standard for cultivation which exceeds anything that exists right now. Humboldt Green looks after the environment, livable wages and makes sure people have good jobs. In a way it is like an incubator for people who don’t know what they want to do but leave with a more crystallized vision for themselves or their business.

With 11 years under its belt, Humboldt Green Week continues to bring people together for events that enrich the community. Thousands of dollars in donations continue to support local Non-Profit Organizations. The importance of education through art, music and gardening events is very important to Gieder and his crew.

Gieder stresses that Green Week gives people a moment to get away from daily distractions and enjoy doing good for the environment while having the chance to connect with the community they are helping build. Miksis explains that folks are riding this cannabis culture’s wave into mainstream living. Gieder wants everyone to come along and succeed rather than be on top.

“He genuinely cares,” she says.

Trimming in the hills of Humboldt

By Jordan Colombo
Flapjack staff

Vanessa Rau is a 22-year-old German girl who graduated from Duisburg-Essen University in Duisburg Germany. With her mother living in Germany and her father living in Vancouver Canada she has had duel citizenship. Rau often frequents visits to Humboldt county to work on “The Hill” to make some money. However, Rau stopped after a friend of hers almost died from an overdose.

Rau graduated college and with a bachelor’s in sociology then moved in with her father to get away from her life in Germany.

“Life was good in Germany,” Rau said. “But the people are a bit the same and I wanted something better and more fulfilling in my life.”

When she had gotten to Vancouver, she started meeting people and found a job working at a bar in the Gastown area of downtown. She had met a few regulars that she would talk with about going to Humboldt county to trim weed on “The Hill.” At first she was skeptical of it, then the job eventually sounded better. Rau knew, at the time, that growing marijuana and trimming it were illegal in California. After some convincing by her new friends she has took her opportunity to go on the endeavor.

Rau took a few weeks off from work telling her boss that she wanted to go see her mother whom she had not see quite some time now. Her boss understood that it must be hard to be so far away from home for the first time. Now with no work for two weeks, Rau took the 12-hour drive to Arcata, California, in September, where she would be living with her friends in a van.

“I was very skeptical at first, but began to relax once we figured out a way to make the van more comfortable,” Rau said.

Humboldt County has a large marijuana growing industry because of its vast forestry and its perfect climate. However, illegal growers have done a lot of detrimental damage to the forest. The growers can drain lakes that provide water to local animals and drain the land of its nutrients. Local law enforcement are constantly flying helicopters over the redwood forest to find spots that growers can be found, by looking for openings where plant life looks organized and having see through sheds near them. Then they send the ground troops to further investigate where they can find signs of growing with large pumps leading to lakes near by rivers.

When Rau arrived in Arcata it had reminded her a bit of Vancouver a bit because of all the transients that are hanging around.

“Vancouver has a huge homeless problem,” Rau said. “Most of Canada is cold, so the homeless come to Vancouver because it is the warmest place for them to go.”

She acclimated to the lifestyle of Humboldt County very fast. When her first day of work had come she was nervous because it was a long drive from Arcata to”The Hill” where she was working. She had taken many turns and many dirt roads.

“The roads were so small you could not fit two cars coming from opposite directions,” she said. “The trees sheltered the road from the sun giving this whole ride an ominous look.”

When Rau arrived on “The Hill” there was an open field with a small trailer on it and a makeshift shed that was close to the trailer. In the shed there were people working at a table while another man stood behind them just watching making sure that no one steals.

“I remember watching movies about drug dealers where there are guns everywhere, but this was nothing of the sort,” Rau explained. Inside the trailer was a kitchen as well as some plants hanging around.

Laura Trudladu, a 24-year-old from Tübingen, Germany, is now an Arcata resident living in a grow house.

“I met Vanessa a few times,” Trudladu said. “She would come down our driveway in a van full of people from all over the world.”

Trudladu said that she has met people from everywhere living in a grow house and was nice to meet Rau because she actually got to speak her native tongue.

The man that was watching over the others had explained to Rau that she was to trim the marijuana leaves as close to the bud as she could and then throw this into a bucket. She was instructed to not throw her buds into anyone else’s bucket. Because workers were paid by total weight of the trimmed marijuana, such contributions would benefit the other person who owned the bucket.

When it was time to pay Rau, the person watching her would take her total trimmed bucket, weigh a bucket that was the same, but empty to zero out the weight, than would weigh the bucket full of marijuana and take the total weight divide it by a pound in grams (454) then times it by 100. The first time she worked she had worked over 25 hours, but only was able to produce three pounds of trimmed marijuana, which turned out to be $300. The longer she did it the better she got at sitting there longer and being able to trim faster.

Rau would continue to travel back and forward from Vancouver to Arcata to keep working on “The Hill” for a few more years until she realized that doing this type of work was not for her.

“It was fun at first, but it got tiring and I saw some friends got hurt,” Rau explained. She said that some employers would provide you with cocaine to keep you awake and keep you working longer. What made her quit working was that one time her friend was dropped off near a place they were staying at with a nose bleeding and twitching a bit from too much cocaine.

Alden Haro, who had been working on “The Hill” for five years, had also been with the friend that got dropped off.

“It was the scariest thing I had ever experienced,” Haro said. “I thought I was about to lose one of my best friend.”

After that, Rau never went back to work on “The Hill” but she still frequents Arcata often.

“Arcata is a beautiful town with beautiful people that has so many secrets in the town and in the trees,” she said.

Political activist & producer Jeff “The Dude” Dowd talks about film as activism

By Kyra Skylark
Flapjack Staff

Inspiration for the character, “The Dude” in the cult classic “The Big Lebowski,” Jeff Dowd is in Humboldt. Dowd, writer, producer and political activist, came to Humboldt to promote the new movie adaption of Humboldt County’s original musical, “Mary Jane – A Musical Potumentary.” Dowd was shown the film by a friend involved in the project and believing in underlying messages of the film, offered to help promote it.

“The values of the movie speak to how people create their own economy,” said Dowd.

Additionally, the film focuses greatly on the environmental degradation involved in marijuana cultivation and according to Dowd, how to live a sustainable lifestyle. To bring awareness to the film, multiple presentations, a bowling night, a movie screening of “Mary Jane,” as well as a screening of “The Big Lebowski” and few other functions have been organized.

With so many events planned to honor “The Big Lebowski” and publicize “Mary Jane,” Dowd’s visit to Humboldt State University went unnoticed by many. However, the few lucky students who saw flyers up around campus attended a discussion where Dowd gave a very different talk then those scheduled formally.

While Dowd did talk briefly on “Mary Jane,” he spoke mostly on current issues faced in the United States and allowed students to ask questions about his life. The informal Q&A touched on various intense topics on the student’s minds.

Amy Belteran, a sophomore at HSU from east LA, asked for Dowd’s opinion on the controversy over Netflix’s upcoming show, “Dear White People.” The show is based off the film released in 2014, focusing on racism and white privilege. The trailer for the show was released two days ago, and has already received intense backlash from some of the public.

“If Netflix can create a film adaption of ‘13 Reasons Why,’ a show centered around teen suicide and mental health issues, why are people boycotting Netflix because of ‘Dear White People?’” said Belteran.

Dowd surprised her with his opinion of the backlash.

“The first thing you want to do when promoting a film is to get it banned,” Dowd said.

He went on to explain that debate over a film is always the best publicity, as well as a sign that the piece is important. Controversy and debate are what Dowd wants when he is working on a film. He explained that he specifically tries to choose films that push buttons and focus on relevant issues.

Dowd was the co-executive producer for the children’s movie “FernGully,” where they worked to explain the environmental sustainability and protection to kids. There are numerous other films he worked on because of their controversial message.

Dowd’s films are acts of activism.

As the Q&A came to an end, a girl in the crowd asked what Dowd would recommend the youth do in response to the issues arising as a result of the election.

“Get involved, continue the emotional discussion and stay active,” Dowd said. “You’ll feel better and you’ll make the world better.”

After Dowd left, Roman Sanchez, the events coordinator from Dell’Arte (organizing the “Mary Jane” events,) provided valuable insight on the differences of the Q&A in comparison to the official presentations Dowd came to Humboldt for.

“Everywhere he visits he finds the local University and talks to students. Because he has such a wide range of experience he talks in many different classrooms,” said Sanchez. “One of Dowd’s greatest passions is enlightening the youth.”

Proposition 64 sparks discussion about cannabis on campus

By Ben Goodale
Flapjack staff

Passed in November with a 56-44% win-loss margin, Proposition 64 legalizes the adult use of marijuana in California for those who are over the age of 21. The proposition describes measures to tax the sale of the flowers and leaves as well.

Several students at Humboldt State University offered opinions on why it passed and also what changes might be seen in California as it comes into effect some time in the year 2018.

Art major Gianni Arthur voiced his opinion on how this proposition may affect the community.

“I think that it might shift the control from the lower level people of selling cannabis, instead there could be a focus on reputable suppliers like big corporations,” Arthur said. “Seeing the way we handle alcohol I think the marijuana industry could end up in a similar place.”

Proposition 64 states that the new recreational marijuana market will be overseen by state government departments such as the Department of Consumer Affairs (responsible for licensing), the Department of Food and Agriculture (overseeing cultivation) and the Department of Public Health (safety and quality testing).

Dane Godbe helps to run a medical marijuana delivery service based in Humboldt County and also attends Humboldt State University seeking a major in Business. He sees Proposition 64 as potentially harmless or even profitable to the medical marijuana industry.

“Well, the way that I’ve heard it talked about it seems that the measure keeps the previous medical marijuana rules intact,” Godbe said. “Apparently the recreational stuff will be more taxed, and you can’t carry as much of it at once..so it might actually encourage people to become medical marijuana patients so they are able to avoid restrictions.”

One of the main things that Prop 64 aims to do is tax the growth and sale of marijuana. Money collected would be allocated towards restoring and repairing the environment as well as youth drug prevention and law enforcement.

Proposition 64 will also make it less expensive for people to obtain their medical marijuana cards by limiting the fees that county governments can charge to a maximum of $100, with that fee also having the option to be lowered for low-income MediCal patients.

“In the meantime I think that public opinion has shifted in the state; people are accepting cannabis as a society, which could lead to many more people becoming involved in the industry and a huge opportunity for jobs for those who are unemployed,” said Godbe.

While this is good for many, there are also speculations from the other side of things on how this proposition may frame how cannabis is seen by members of our society.

Section 3 of the proposition states the intent is to prevent the abuse of marijuana by adults. In addition it is also written that recreational marijuana should not be sold at the same place as alcohol or tobacco, which would discourage its abuse by making it less publicly available.

“The thing about Prop 64 is that people might start to see marijuana as a drug like alcohol or nicotine that has little to no medical benefit and seek mainly to profit or just get high on it, which doesn’t fall in line with my personal beliefs in seeing it as a medicine,” said Daniel Lee, medical marijuana card holder and third-year Business Management major at HSU.

With legalization probable, Humboldt remains uncertain about future of cannabis culture

By Patrick Kertz
Flapjack Chronicle

The unregulated cannabis agriculture in Humboldt County poses an abundance of problems to consumers and local community members. Resident’s concerns include  an increase in crime due to illegal cultivation and how the price of real estate may be affected. Lifelong resident, and politician Chris Kerrigan believes a proactive approach within the community and sustainable methods of cannabis cultivation is pertinent to Humboldt County’s relationship with marijuana. Kerrigan, a candidate for District Four Board of Supervisors, believes legalization will ease the uncertainty of community members who are invested in the future of Humboldt.

“For 20 years we’ve had medical use of marijuana in place and the views are shifting rapidly as we see other communities and states moving forward with legalization,” Kerrigan said. ”It’s probably going to be inevitable that marijuana is going to be legal and it’s really important that Humboldt County has a good grip on what that means for the local economy.”

The quality of the cannabis varies from farmer to farmer, as does the growing methods which are passed on to unsuspecting users across the country. Agricultural standards are also unique to the farmer. Some farmers cultivate with care and respect to the land while others grow recklessly and destroy the environment. Alyson Martin, author and freelance journalist on cannabis issues, co-wrote a book on cannabis that focused on a range of topics including the legalization process in Colorado and Washington. Martin isn’t sure legalization will affect the production of cannabis in Humboldt.

“I know that people have been growing here for decades,” Martin said. “ I don’t necessarily think people are going to stop if the regulations say that they can’t grow. I think it’s going to continue to create headaches for regulators and law enforcement.”

Humboldt County does not collect taxes on over $500 million from the estimated 26% of residents involved in the cannabis industry according to Tony Silvaggio, a sociology professor at Humboldt State University.  (cite/explain where numbers came from) and impairs a region with high unemployment rates.  In 2010 voters in Humboldt unanimously rejected Prop 19, a ballot initiative that would have allowed local governments to regulate cannabis.  Nushin Rashidian, author and journalist on drug policy, believes the policy should be specific to the area.

“It’s a reality that there’s a lot of cannabis being grown here, so it’s really all in the language of the initiative,” Rashidian said. “Are they going to ignore that, or try and fight against it, or will they try to work with what’s there?”

Humboldt County’s tourism lies amongst the trees of the Redwood forest and the secluded beaches of the coast. An estimated half million people visit parts of Redwood National Park. Would cannabis cultivation create a sustainable agricultural industry that also entices visitors to enjoy the exquisite environment of Northern California while enjoying a homegrown product? Convincing cannabis cultivators to conform to regulations is a tough sale, but the assurance of being a legal business could allow farmers who grow with integrity to harvest the most profits. The decline of the timber industry has allowed the illegal cultivation of cannabis to dominate the Humboldt County economy. The black market marijuana agriculture and nationwide distribution has allowed Humboldt County to maintain a lifestyle that rivals the wine industry of Napa Valley.

“I think there are some parallels to the wine industry,” Kerrigan said. “The sustainability aspect is going to be crucial in developing benefit back to the community.”