At the camp where I worked, a revolution brewed.
“All aboard,” Brady snickered, as he opened the rear door of a horse trailer hitched to a narcoleptic mid-‘90s Suzuki Samurai. The trailer’s windows were boarded over with stained scraps of plywood. I climbed right in, along with 16 others who had trekked to this remote mountain farm in Humboldt County, California, to trim marijuana. Brady slammed the door shut and padlocked it from the outside. Inside was pitch black and filthy. I fell on my ass when we started winding down the road. The trailer creaked and swayed with every bend, threatening to come loose and tumble off the mountainside. It was my first day of work.
In my real life, I’m a filmmaker living in Los Angeles. I’d been lured to the farm with the promise of choice footage and cold hard cash. My friend Summer had been living up in Humboldt for the past few years trimming weed during harvest season and thought the scene would make a great subject for a documentary. I agreed. She ran the idea by the farm’s owners, who said if I came with her to work, they’d be open to me shooting some interviews. Growers are a notoriously insular and suspicious bunch, and they don’t take kindly to outsiders. I’d seen a few documentaries that touched on the subject but never one in which the director immersed herself in their world and portrayed it from the inside. This level of access was unprecedented and promised to be exciting.
I didn’t realize how insane this project would turn out to be.
Since 1996, growing medicinal marijuana has been legal in California under Proposition 215. The state is set to legalize the recreational use and cultivation of the plant in January of 2018, but it’s still illegal federally. Which means that at any point, the DEA can bust one of these pot farms and arrest everyone on it. “If the feds show up, just run into the woods,” Summer said nonchalantly. “But don’t worry, they won’t.”