The Marijuana Business: No Pictures Please, I Got A Family Here


Mother Jones

By Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town
Northern California Correspondent

​The man under the faded Giants cap wiped his forehead again for about the thousandth time. It was hot and it was late. Harvey should have been here 30 minutes ago. 
The duffle bag in the back of his ancient Charger ticked like a tell-tale bud wanting to get out. The man wanted to go. He had pressing business at 2:30 that he couldn’t be late for. Then there was this other guy to hook-up with. 
His long mane fell out of the cap as he ran his hand through that swamp of molted hair looking for dust on the horizon. It was a little before 2 and the temperature was deep into the red. 
Between the LB’s in the trunk, the Charger’s engine actually ticking under the midday sun, and the clock in his head counting off like a nasty verbal egg timer telling him he needs to get moving if he wants to make his hook-up and his 2:30, he was getting nervous — for a man who doesn’t get nervous. The man would have started pacing if it wouldn’t have looked too suspicious. 

He thought he might have to drop the hook-up in favor of making the 2:30 on time and staying professional.

Mike’s Old Ford Pickup Truck Page

​Then, from around the embankment of the country road, Harvey’s old Ford truck came slowly, slightly rising over the vapors pouring off the heated small blacktop two-laner. Looking at his watch, the man under the Giants cap popped open his trunk, grabbed the green bag and approached the oncoming truck.
“Don’t give me any shit,” Harvey said, pulling the truck up to where the man was, not turning off the ignition. “Had to stop at Home Depot in town to get some valves and flower bulbs for Gem. And then mail off something for Gem’s mom, some insurance bullshit form that she couldn’t do on her own. Then the volunteer fire guys are blocking the road because of the high fire warnings. Sorry, man.”
If the man hadn’t been working with Harvey for more than 15 years, it would be a thing. But to the family farmer man, it’s just another day of doing business in the Triangle.
Ty and I have been friends for more than a few years. He was one of the first growers who hipped me to outdoor growing and the importance of putting Love into your plants. Sound trite? Maybe. But Ty grows the best medicine I’ve ever had. I mean it.
I’ve never been to his place until today. Many growers have let me into their homes and grows. It is quite an honor for a stranger. Remember, a stranger is anyone whose family doesn’t go back four generations or hasn’t lived in the Triangle for at least 30 years. 
For some, no matter how long they’ve lived above the Redwood Curtain, they will always be a stranger in hills of Humboldt and Mendocino. Forget about Trinity, they’re all hermits up there anyways.
It was weird waiting for Ty at an old decimated, vacated building where we prearranged to meet. Every car and truck that went by stared at me wondering what I was doing there. Why was I hanging out near two old crumbling buildings that have been closed since before they had organic food?  Was I a Fed? A revenuer? Or just somebody who is up to no good?
Thank Buddha when Ty’s discolored Charger pulled in next to my rental a few minutes later.
“Sorry, dude. Got held up with a buddy who was late because he had to stop at Home Depot in town on the way to meet me. Making me wait. Making you wait. Sorry.”

Jack Rikess

​Ty sprung out of his car handing me a mini-spliff. “Here’s for the ride. Follow me. I’ve got to be somewhere at 2:30.” He took off his faded Giants cap, situating his clump of hair underneath before getting back into his dusty car. 
As the Charger pulled away, it was noticeable that there wasn’t any back license plate on his car. I was really off the grid with a real grower. 
Little time later we pulled off the road that had snaked and turned through the burnt brown grassy California hills. Some fallen trees marked an open square in the turnout where obviously vehicles have parked here before. Being an outsider, I kept my mouth shut and waited like Ty was doing.
I know sometimes growers will do deals in front of me to show the lifestyle. Let me know what it’s kind of like. I never feel good about that.
I don’t want to be around if something went bad. Either to be blamed for it going bad or worse, getting swept up in the badness. Whatever, I don’t want to be that close to the scene. A gentle walk through your grow is good enough for me. I don’t need to meet Scarface.
Ty glanced at his watch. “Soon,” he says looking at me.
About five minutes later a white GMC van skirts off the road, opening a side door. A 12-year-old girl with sleek brown hair and a smile filled to the grills with wire, jumped out of the country school bus, runs to her dad and hugs him.
“How’s school?”
“Very cool. I got a 90 on my spelling test. But the teacher sent home more words to learn, right after giving us the test,” his daughter says scrunching her face.
“That’s rough, Taylor.”
“Will you help me tonight?”
“I don’t know,” Ty said looking at me. “We got a writer here. Maybe he’s familiar with words.”
The young girl looked at me hopeful and trusting. I’d never met her before but she was friendly and kind. Not snotty or trying to be cool and bored at the same time like city kids.
“We’ll see how it goes tonight,” Ty said letting me off the silent hook. “Hey dude, follow me. We’re just up the hill.”
Twenty minutes later we were up the hill. There were three locked gates which his daughter, Taylor had opened for us. 
She held the swinging arm of the gate as we drove the cars through, then closing and locking the gate behind us. I wondered if it was weird for kids up here to live under lock and key. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live under the constant threat that your operation might be shut down by the cops or some other unknown force. What do you say to your kids? Are they allowed to have friends over?
Life during wartime. Forty years into the War on Drugs and I’m meeting the next generation. The generation spawned by all those hippies who fled the city for the country back in the Sixties and Seventies. Now, this generation has kids. 
Ty, Taylor and I walked the farm. Ty and his wife, Carol, bought an old converted lumber yard that had been forgotten sometime in the Fifties. They rebuilt it and divided the barn-like office into two floors and four bedrooms with two full bathrooms. The layout was very modern, like something out of an architectural magazine.

Hemp Beach TV

​It took a couple of hours to see the whole farm, from the seeding tent to the outdoor gardens. Again, I don’t know what Ty’s secret is besides the crazy amount of energy he puts into his babies, but the buds of his plants rival the small muscular arms on Taylor. As we inspected each plant, Ty encouraged me to rub the buds and then smell the sweet perfume of the colas. Taylor would offer what were her favorites.
“This smells the best, I think,” she says holding a heavy drooping flower top with tiny hand and her braces accenting her grinning smile. “They’re my favorite.”
Ty goes off to fix something while Taylor and I finish the tour. While Taylor might not know strains and have the product knowledge of your average patient, she could tell whether a plant needed water or not. 
Ty revs up in an ATV. Turning off the three-wheeler, he says, “Let’s go get stoned.”
I’m definitely in a grower’s house. There’s an army of ceramic pipes and bongs on top of the built-in pressboard cabinets. Stationed in every room are long racks sitting horizontally about six inches from the ceiling with hooks used for drying. There are glass jars with buds in them on the table. Carol apologizes that the jars aren’t full. Being deep in the summer, product is low.
You could say it was the delicious odor of good medicine that made sure you didn’t forget where you were. Then there were all those pipes just hanging out for everyone to see. And again, from the moment we sat down at the family table in the kitchen, the smoking didn’t stop. You could easily say, “This is the life.”


​I think I was expecting a scene from something I had seen in Life magazine in the Sixties. They did a photo shoot of the communes of Northern California depicting the first generation of hippies to adopt an alternative way of life. The pages showed Earth mommas actually feeding their children like their moms did before. The bearded young men tended to gardens where they raised their own food. From the story in Life, you weren’t sure if the newbies were going to make it through winter or not.
In a way, I wasn’t sure what I should be expecting here.  
There were Carol’s mom and a neighbor chatting away while looking at samples of wallpaper and decorative handles on an iPad for a bedroom that they’re redesigning. Ty’s two other kids need to be fed. Carol makes sure everyone takes off their shoes at the door trying to keep a busy house clean. The ranch hands that help Ty with his grow are in and out of the house grabbing this or that. Dinner needs to be made for the adults. Neighbor Ted and his two kids stop by conveniently at supper time but brought some goat that he slaughtered last week.
Marley, Ty’s middle son, eats home-made applesauce and rice as Carol and Ty improvise dinner that is growing as more people just show up. Their six-month-old sits serenely monitoring the whole situation while Grandma holds the bottle while passing a joint. 
Taylor asks me if I’ll go over her spelling words with her after dinner. 
Carol suggests that Taylor plays something for us on her keyboard. 
From upstairs, the unmistakable opening to “Ripple” starts to infuse the house with sweet sounds of the Dead as Carol and Ty hold each other near the stove while the goat cooks and the home fires burn.
It’s been a week since I’ve been home; since I left Ty and Carol’s place up in the hills, said goodbye to the kids, the good guys working the grow and drove the long distance back across the Golden Gate Bridge to my spot in the world.
It’s weird. I think I have a problem with how “out” Ty is. I mean, I couldn’t take pictures of Ty and his family for these pages in fear of retribution by the Man. I don’t think America’s ready for that image. 
We want to believe our dope is grown by bachelor farmers who have no ties to society, except to provide us with our green. There can be no innocents in the fields of our glory and Kushes.
Ty’s the real deal. He is a legitimate grower, dictated by the standards of Northern California law. He mostly sells to dispensaries as he’s supposed to. Grows outdoor; the squeaky clean green. Yet, he smokes and grows right in front of his kids. It’s weird. I feel like there is something wrong with that, and I’m not sure why.


​Most people don’t care where their medicine, dope, marijuana comes from. They just want it when they want it. Delayed gratification has very little place on the consumer end. It is the grower that is supposed to show some form of discipline, I guess. Follow the rules like good growers are supposed to. There’s not really a problem with that, except that the laws seem to change monthly. What could you lose, except your family?
The people who buy pot are part of a subculture that can remain secret if they choose to or if they feel like it, tell the whole world, “I smoke Pot!”
Growers are supposed to remain anonymous. Clandestine. In the shadows. Like they’re not supposed to have kids, houses, mortgages, trips to the hardware store, weddings, births or lives. 
Someone has to grow marijuana if the consumer still wants to get their smoke. Someone has to do it.
But we don’t want to know where it comes from.
To be busted for marijuana, you can lose your family. Most of the old-time growers I know are on their second families. Losing their first family to changing times, prison, an uneven unsettling lifestyle, and don’t forget the boredom and the not knowing what is going to happen next.
Also don’t forget the average farmer works 15 to
18 hours during days that hit more than 100 degrees and nights that dip to 50. The toll marijuana farming takes on a family. Forget that! The toll regular farming takes on a family is immense. 
Do you see many family-owned farms anymore? Try adding ganja to the mix…
I spent some time with the most loving family I’ve seen since the Waltons went off the air. There was hugging and nurturing as well as time-outs and being told, “No, you can’t have…” Regular family stuff. And yes, there was marijuana smoking.
But, at the same time, I can’t recall a party that my parents brought me to as a kid that didn’t have booze. I can’t remember a moment in America, going to some kind of event, where booze wasn’t available. We can debate whether we’re a nation of alcoholics or not, but I’d like to believe that through that morass of beer, cocktails and highballs, we were able to make a choice of whether or not we wanted to drink.
Nobody held a bottle to our heads and made us drink, did they?
Is pot that much different?
I spent days and hours with a family that laughed together. Learned together. And in the most functional way, supported each other.
To think that this beautiful family could be broken up because Dad grows pot is absurd.
Is this really worth it? Spending our tax dollars on going to war with a family like this? Is it really worth it? Are all marijuana farmers on some level outlaws? 
I saw the new reflection of American Gothic on the prairie of the golden hills of Cali. A family full of love and joy, only I’m not allowed to show you the photographs because what they share is illegal. 
There’s something wrong with this image.

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

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.