Mendo Farmers Collective Delivers Marijuana… In Orange County

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Photo: Peter Hecht/The Sacramento Bee
Tim Blake, a legendary Mendocino County marijuana grower, tends his outdoor greenhouse with his dogs. Blake cultivates medical marijuana and runs Area 101, a spiritual retreat celebrating Mendocino’s marijuana culture.

​By Jack Rikess

Toke of the Town
Northern California Correspondent

It might be hard to believe for some of my younger readers that at one time, in order to get a Starbucks coffee, you had to brave the suicide-invoking rain, a thang called “grunge” and have to be in Seattle or thereabouts. Now that concept seems preposterous. As Janeane Garafalo once said, “I don’t want to say that Starbucks are everywhere, but I woke up this morning and they were building one in my living room.”

Maybe one day the same will be said about Mendocino and Humboldt marijuana. Maybe one day, getting your medicine will be as easy as standing in line at your nearby coffee shop or getting it delivered right to the house, just like the wine clubs that we belong to have done for 50 years.
And the race is on…

In the lead is the Mendcino Farmers Collective (MFC). It was started in 2009 by Mendo icon Tim Blake and his hard-working, not-so-silent partner, Marv Levin, part of whose loquaciousness is based on Tim’s quiet aversion to public speaking, hence the spokesperson’s job, and he handles most of the legal eagle work.)
The MFC is due to open soon in its temporary location in the historic and fully vibe-conducive Mendo hippie hamlet, Area 101, until the permanent site, a few feet away, is finished, hopefully by the magical date of April 20.
“If we’re not up and running in the new building by 4/20, I’m going to have to hide out for a while,” said the enthusiastic Marv. “But we’ll be ready. We’re ready now, really.”
Toke: How come, besides some bins in the dispensaries that are labeled “Grown in the Emerald Triangle,” Humboldt and Mendo do not have their own dispensaries dispensing medicine coming directly from you guys? How come you guys don’t have a presence in the Bay Area, like say for example, a winery from Napa does?
Marv: The very quick answer is the Bay Area would be very tough for us to get into at this time. Besides for the outrageous expense it takes, it’s very hard for outside groups to get the needed business licensing while at the same time, competing with the local guys, who in their right are having a hard time.
But it is more detailed than that. Right now, we’re delivering in Orange County [www.socalmfc.org or call (877) 420-4847] until we branch out… or up.
Toke: What are sales like now?
Marv: Right now we’re averaging $1,500 per day in sales.
Toke: Do you pay taxes in Orange County?
Marv: We pay the state’s Board of Equalization, and from there, Orange County gets some of the bread.

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Photo: Vice
Mendo marijuana is grown outdoors.

Toke: For seven years now, Area 101 has hosted America’s longest running cannabis competition, the Emerald Cup. I know personally that some of the best marijuana in the country is represented. Will any of that be available to members of the collective?
Marv: Five or our 12 farms within the collective have placed in the top 10 every year. But while our medicine is top-notch, what we’re stressing is to make the patients aware of the most medicinal ways to use their cannabis and most eco-friendly manner, as well as that it was grown by small farms who pay taxes and give back to the community.
Toke: So obviously, all of your medicine is outdoor organic.
Marv: (Laughs) For the past 10 years, since I’ve been really involved in this industry, I’ve lived and breathed what is happening here in Mendocino. One of the things that makes me laugh is the word “organic.”
See, the USDA, the Department of Agriculture, owns that word. Marijuana can’t be organic because it doesn’t qualify as “organic” as stated in the USDA’s rules.
What we are is Clean Green. It is a transparent, accredited third-party company run by Chris Van Hook, who also works with the USDA organic program, to ensure that our farmers are indeed growing strictly outdoors and in accordance with state and county regulations. No toxins are chemical-based fertilizers are going into the medicine.
And just as important, their water and electricity are coming from legitimate sources. And we grow from seeds, which is really different from 75 percent or more of the medical marijuana growers in California.

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Graphic: Mendocino Farmers Collective

Toke: I know the medicine is good. What can a patient expect to pay for an ounce?
Marv: Between $220 and $280, depending.
Toke: Same rules apply, a person needs their medical marijuana card, make an appointment, fill out the free membership, and then you’re a member?
Marv: There’s some checking and verification, but yes. Even though I’m laughing about this, we take everything every serious. We’re too close to have anything go wrong now. That’s one of the reasons our farms are so thoroughly reviewed; we do that for the farmer as well as ourselves.
We want to help our collective growers with the paperwork and political stuff so they don’t fail or worse, bring us and the other farmers down. Same thing with patients.
We need to set an example for the rest of the country that this can be done. That’s another reason it might seem slow to outsiders [who wonder]why this is taking so long. We can’t afford mistakes.
You mentioned the Emerald Cup. We now have award-winning medicine in our grasp, but what is also happening is those growers, who are a part of our collective, can now come out and take pride in their crop.
This is big. Beyond everything that we’re doing up there… One of the things we’re doing… is to create…
No, that’s not right. How can I say this? Most of us already have pleasure in what we’re doing, for the most part. Growing marijuana can be a lot of headaches; it’s a hard life. Snow knocked out my power for five days last week.
But what the growers now can do is say, “This is my stuff. I grew this!” That pride will become contagious. We’ve never been able to come out like this before.
People are going to want ou
r medicine because it was grown clean and green in Mendocino County. And soon, like Napa Valley wines, we’ll be everywhere.
Toke: When will you be able to deliver to the Bay Area?
Marv: Soon. Very soon. That’s next.
How to join the Mendo Farmers Collective: http://mendocinofarmerscollective.org/join.php
For more info on MFC, call (707) 354-3081.

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Photo: Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town correspondent Jack Rikess blogs from the Haight in San Francisco.

Jack Rikess, a former stand-up comic, writes a regular column most directly found at jackrikess.com.

Jack delivers real-time coverage following the cannabis community, focusing on politics and culture.

His beat includes San Francisco, the Bay Area and Mendocino-Humboldt counties.

He has been quoted by the national media and is known for his unique view with thoughtful, insightful perspective.


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