Seasonal workers flock to California to process marijuana

WILLITS — The annual march of migrant marijuana workers throughout California’s pot-rich North Coast is in full swing but, like the pot industry itself, reaction to the workers’ presence is mixed.

Some residents say the migrant workers contribute to the economy, but critics point out that during the marijuana trimming season there are often upticks in complaints about transients, illegal camping and illegal dumping in their towns, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/1Sd1NLz).

There are no official statistics available on the number of seasonal laborers in the underground industry but local experts say between 7,000 and 12,000 workers show up during the trimming season, which runs from mid-September through the end of November.

Tim Blake, who heads a Laytonville-based marijuana cooperative, estimates about 150,000 workers labor in California’s pot crop annually and he figures each worker spends about $1,000 while they’re in Northern California.

“This trimmigrant thing has become huge,” said Tim Blake, founder of the Emerald Cup, the North Coast’s premier annual pot judging contest and festival, being held this year on Dec. 12 and 13 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

There are now some many of trimming workers, many of them foreigners, that some are believed to wind up on the streets, loitering, camping illegally and panhandling. Critics say their presence attracts vagrants who perceive a permissive pot culture in their towns.

Willits Police Chief Gerry Gonzalez said there is an increase in complaints about transients in his city during the trimming season. But it’s nothing like the problems plaguing Garberville, in southern Humboldt County.

“I have been told ‘this is the land of buds and honey'” while confronting troublesome transients, said Beth Allen, 58, a Garberville restaurant owner and small-scale medicinal marijuana farmer.

Transients are everywhere in Garberville, a tiny town with fewer than 1,000 residents.

The problem has given rise to a movement in Garberville to take back the town from vagrants and drug addicts who vandalize and burglarize homes and businesses, do hard drugs in public, urinate in the streets and harass tourists, who are now shunning the town.

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