How Green Is Your Pot? 

A new collective is trying to sell sustainable, organically grown marijuana, but patients are hooked on indoor weed that wastes energy and pollutes the planet.

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A Tea House Collective member in the Bay Area, agrees. The thirty-year-old male, who wished to remain anonymous, vaporizes to manage occasional depression and signed up online after hearing the collective's pitch at Deep Green. "I primarily was attracted to it because it was grown in the sun and naturally," he said. "But it tastes and smells like nothing I've ever had before. You can seemingly taste the soil, the pine trees, maybe the strawberries it was growing next to, the sun and the salty ocean wind — somehow it's all in there."

Yeah, darlin'/gonna make it happen/take the world in a love embrace ... Marsha checks the sex of some potted marijuana plants in her Humboldt grow. In the fading afternoon light, she says that these days she's less worried about a police raid than about the economic future of her community.

Nowadays, the cops usually ignore hippies like her and instead focus on battling the cartels in the national forest. With prices falling back to Eighties levels, pot prohibition is now a perverse form of government Farm Aid. If pot were to become legal, prices could fall further, possibly cratering the Humboldt economy.

When Marsha started growing in 1982, the price for outdoor pot was about $1,600 a pound wholesale, and she thought that was a lot. By the Nineties, wholesale pounds crested at $6,000, she says. Today, the Tea House Collective aims to wholesale pounds at $2,200 to clubs, but it's a buyers' market. Many dispensaries in the cities won't even take outdoor-grown pot. Meanwhile, indoor growers can still fetch $4,000 per pound at clubs.

But what Tea House can do is raise awareness about best practices, gently prodding its neighbors and consumers to raise their standards — much like the organic food movement. Custer points to how environmentalists helped get the term "organic" legally codified for agriculture. Now, major agribusiness has seized upon the practices.

Kemp says she's already seen the green-pot movement working locally. "I know people who have quit growing indoor. As one guy said, 'I didn't want my neighbors hating me anymore.' We're all pretty tight. To have your neighbors not think well of you is important." The collective, in fact, already has a waiting list for local growers who want to join. The challenge remains to expand the consumer base.

But Tea House salesman Zeremy Uptegrove, based in San Francisco, is optimistic. He's in charge of wholesaling collective product to clubs. Although many buyers still bristle at the collective's price points (even if they are lower than indoor weed), some are coming around.

"Papadon," executive director of the Santa Clara County club SCVCS, Inc., said Tea House made a convert out of his five-year-old, 1,000-patient storefront collective this year. He had thought outdoor was generally lower quality than indoor. "Outdoor products usually are cheaper, more airy, not as colorful, they don't have the smell — everything that the indoor has," he said. "Well, Tea House has changed my mind on that. Tea House is my top shelf."

Tea House also retails $35 per eighth, about half the price of some boutique indoor. In fact, Tea House appears to be a better deal for the sick and disabled on fixed incomes who want a better product at a cheaper cost. "Tea House is simply fantastic; it is what they say," he said.

But for Custer and his THC colleagues, growing outdoor, sustainable weed is about more than just producing high-quality pot for a good price. "We chased different values than the ones we saw destroying the world," Custer explained. "We say, 'This is elemental California culture and Californians can't appreciate it. So let's start defending it.'"

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