Marijuana’s multiplier effect

When it comes to the local economy, pot is potent

Photo illustration By Tina Flynn

Were you wondering why your favorite supermarket was totally out of Reynolds Turkey-Size Oven Bags—in October? Or why every single pair of those handy little spring-loaded Fiskars shears were gone all of a sudden at your neighborhood crafts store?

Here’s a clue: marijuana harvest season.

According to a local guy named Zeke (not his real name) who “since 215’s passing has grown medicinally and has known many people who have grown [medical marijuana],” all sorts of supplies that normally get used for other reasons—like turkey bags and sewing shears—get scooped up from places like WinCo, Costco, Lowe’s, Home Depot and Michaels arts and crafts store in the month of October.

Not that you’d know, necessarily. The people who work at these places don’t even seem to be aware.

A call to the local Michaels yielded an “Oh really? It’s news to me,” from the salesclerk when asked if she knew that the shears they sell are the clippers of choice for marijuana harvesters. A phone call to the Fiskars customer service line netted a slightly baffled woman on the phone who asked, “Are you sure that our clippers are the hot item?”

The Fiskars shears “are definitely the favorite of a lot of people,” said Zeke. “They’re easier on the fingers and a lot less strain when you’re doing the trimming. You don’t want people getting carpal tunnel. You don’t want to get injured while making your medicine.”

The turkey bags are used for storing pot after it’s harvested. They hold a lot, keep it fresh, and keep the smell from escaping—good if you want to keep your stash on the low-pro. Plus, the large bags are a cheap alternative for the $8 bags normally used on a Volcano vaporizer, that handy German machine increasingly favored by medi-pot users that heats pot to a temperature that creates a vapor, but no carcinogen-packed smoke (see UnCommon Sense, page 21).

The amount of money marijuana brings in to Butte County has never been quantified, but a couple of years ago Mendocino County did a rough study and determined the pot industry there was worth $58 million. Butte County’s not quite as big a player as Mendocino, but it’s in the same league, and most of the money made here presumably is spent here, creating a multiplifier effect worth tens of millions of dollars.

It’s not just in the fall that local businesses thrive from dollars spent by growers.

“It’s year-round,” said Zeke. “In the spring, all the nurseries around here just do huge business selling worm castings, blends of soils, compost, topsoil. The two local worm farms—Durham Worm Farm and the one out by the landfill—sell so much soil it’s unbelievable. Yards and yards and yards of soil from those guys. Out at Durham Worm Farm there were a hundred hippies lined up this past spring to get dirt. [The owner] was just smiling.”

Construction supplies, such as lumber to build raised planting boxes and greenhouses, are another hot item in the spring.

“People rent tractors from U-Haul places, Guy Rents, US Rentals—rototillers, post-hole diggers, earth-moving machines,” offered Zeke. “And for winter growing, you’ve got the hydroponics stores. The indoor people tend to grow in the wintertime. It’s too hot to grow indoors in the summertime; in the summer, the [grow] lights give off too much heat.

“Mid-year they’re buying insecticides—non-toxic insect sprays that kill the caterpillars but leave the beneficial insects alone—and fertilizers,” Zeke said.

“At the end of the year, a lot of them are buying heaters to dry with, and window screens to weigh with, and string and twine to hang plants with,” continued Zeke. “There are so many types of supplies that people have to buy throughout the year, and in my experience a lot of these people seem more locally oriented. A lot of them will buy all their construction tools at Collier instead of going to the big chain stores.”

A clerk at Collier Hardware, when asked if he’d like to comment, said, “No, not really.” A moment later, he added, “Because I don’t really see that. Thank you!”

“And real estate,” added Zeke. “I can promise you people have been buying real estate like crazy. Ask [name deleted]. Wait, better not ask him. He probably wouldn’t like that.”