I was talking with some recently arrived young folks in their mid-twenties the other day. They said that word is on the East Coast that NorCal trim jobs pay $200 a pound. They also said that, if you’re good, you can rock three pounds a day. Unfortunately, I had to disabuse them of their delusion. The “Trimmigrant Era” is over.
First of all I told them, harvest season is long past and the majority of this year’s crop is probably already clipped and bagged or jarred. Not much indoor is grown up here, except on the Coast, so trim jobs don’t really start until the first light dep comes in in July. As a beginner, you’re not going to cut three pounds. You’ll be lucky to do more than a half pound per day.
Second, with illicit market cannabis selling in the $600 a pound range, no one can afford to pay the $200/Lb. that was standard just 6 or 7 years ago when weed went for $2000 to $3000 a unit. The old rule of thumb was trimming should not cost more than 10% of the pound price. Today that means $60 a pound!
Back then and not so long ago, Trimmigrants came from all over the world. Starting in late August and early September, one could hear foreign languages and exotic accents in the local Health Food Store. On the highway and in town they would stand and make scissor gestures with their fingers looking for work, not a ride. They came from all over the US, France, Israel, Germany, Spain, England, The Netherlands, Tibet, Chile, Namibia and who knows where else? Trimming was a whole scene on the distant farms at the end of dirt roads. In many cases food and lodging was necessarily included.
Now, the price has dropped so low and the permit fees, the taxes and the required upgrades have so burdened the farmer that no one can pay those wages any more, much less throw in food, drink and a place to crash. Consequently, more and more cultivators will turn to trim machines for the bulk of the crop and only hand trim the very tops of the colas to sell as flowers. Gone are the days when even the tiniest of buds would be thrown in to pad the pound.
The machine trimmed smalls or little buds will go to pre-rolls and various methods of making concentrates and extracts. The rest, bucked and big-leafed but not trimmed, plus the various leaf shake, will be made into the numerous value added products such as hashish, edibles, tinctures, etc. Result: fewer trimming jobs and they will be local, highly skilled people with workmen’s comp and W-2 forms. Who knows, perhaps they will even be unionized. Nevertheless, other jobs will arise, less skilled lower paying, as more of the “industry” becomes automated and efficient to offset the plummeting wholesale price, the permits, taxes and the rising cost of doing business.
Another deterrent for would-be itinerant workers is the new requirement that legally permitted cannabis businesses of whatever type may only employ people over twenty-one, who have been finger-printed and not have certain types of felony convictions. The black market will still need workers, but that market is shrinking because the 28 other states with some form of legalized cannabis do not need to get much of their supply from the Emerald Triangle any longer.
As I talked more with the two fresh arrivals from the East Coast, one said he wanted to get here now to be one of the pioneers in the new cannabis world. I had to stifle a laugh. If you weren’t involved in cannabis at least 20, not to say 30, years ago, :you ain’t a Pioneer!” So many people have come and gone, prospered and suffered. Amazing courageous people who literally carved a niche out of the wilderness. We all owe them an un-repayable debt for their perseverance in the face of decades of persecution.
Yet the young folks are not alone in thinking that there is still green-gold in “them thaar hills”! Everyone its seems, everywhere wants to get in on the ground floor of the Cannabis Boom.
Innumerable slick new publications and websites have come out in just the last two years, some focussed only on the business, equipment, legal and investment aspects. Seems like there is a Cannabis Conference, a Trade show or Competition every weekend. The keynotes and panel discussions highlight the professional and corporate opportunities that abound for consultants, lawyers, insurance agents, accountants, bookkeepers, compliance officers, testing lab scientists and technicians, track and trace specialists, investors, CFOs and COOs. There is talk of branding, advertising, marketing strategies, licensing. There are also numerous new government jobs opening up to regulate and inspect the whole construct from seed to sale.
Trade shows often have no representatives of the “touch the plant” class who are the long suffering foundation of it all. Rather they flaunt the latest shiny stainless steel and glass machinery for trimming, extracting, concentrating, washing, de-humidifying, climate controlling, dosing, packaging, pre-rolling. They show turn-key greenhouses and sterile indoor grow environments, the latest advance in Full Spectrum Lights, the newest light deprivation tarps, some astounding new fertilizer, amazing amendment, root treatment, terpene booster, compost tea brewer.
Everyone is gonna make lots of money, except the people who started it all in the mountains of the Emerald Triangle, the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Sierra Foothills back in the 70’s and 80’s. Not many of the “Originals” are left. Hopefully their children and grandchildren will survive the disruption now in progress.
“That Cannabis of the People, by the People and for the People shall not perish from this Earth.”