WEED, California. When they see the signs for Weeds, carloads of curious travelers stray off the highway to stop. They send in gift shops selling “Weed Is So Dope” fridge magnets and sweatshirts advertising a fictitious University of Weed: ‘A Place of Higher Learning.’
Residents of Weed, a wooden city in California an hour from the Oregon border, have been feeling like jokes for decades, upset about the repetition of the Daily Explanation: No, the city is not named after marijuana, but a local 19th-century wood baron, Abner Weed. For years, the city rejected proposals to use the name and allow the sale of marijuana.
“I did not want a lot of dishes in front of the store to smoke on a bench,” said Sue Tavalero, a former hairdresser who is now mayor.
But Weed’s leaders, including Ms. Tavalero, meanwhile, had a heart change. The city council burst open the door to the pottery industry three years ago and opened a medical marijuana pharmacy in Main Street.
Last year, when a second pharmacy opened, even while other businesses in the city center were suffering from blockade, Weed’s leaders turned their timid embrace of marijuana into a full embrace. In November, the city council unanimously approved a plan for a sprawling plant on the outskirts of the city with the capacity to grow 150,000 marijuana plants and employ 300 people.
Weed is by no means the only town in California that contains ambivalence regarding marijuana. Statewide approval for legal marijuana is running high, but it often clashes locally with not-in-my-backyard-style rejection.
Although most major cities in the state, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Jose, allow the sale of cannabis, smaller and more conservative cities such as Bakersfield and Anaheim cannot sell the drug.
In general, about 70 percent of California cities and towns do not allow pharmacies, according to Weedmaps, a website that offers online reviews of cannabis businesses.
Weed now makes a bet that he can not only market his name, but also his location at the foot of the slopes of Mount Shasta, a dormant, snow-capped volcano with a passing resemblance to Mount Fuji in Japan. The city had a trademark of a logo that would be placed on the packaging of its marijuana, a designation “Made in Weed” similar to that used by Champagne or Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Raymond Strack, a cannabis entrepreneur behind the plans for the marijuana cultivation facility, talks about the ‘terroir’ that the Weed weeds will have, fed by the spring water gurgling from the ground just outside the city, sold under the brand name Crystal Geyser.
“There are still members of the community who believe that marijuana is the ‘devil’s salad,'” Mr Strack said. “But it’s increasingly difficult to find.
Donna Winger, a former member of the planning commission, sees herself as one of the converts to the idea that cannabis can help lift the city’s fortune, although she still hopes the city is a more “healthy and family-oriented” can find way. way to market himself.
“I have to be open with you,” she said. Winger, a retired teacher, said. ‘I would like something like a sunflower festival or a lemon pie festival.
“But we have not yet stumbled upon an alternative at this stage,” she said.
Weed the city does not represent California of the popular imagination. Amid the thinning of evergreen forests and cattle ranching, Weed may have the feel of an Appalachian coal mining community looking for a new industry to sustain itself. The lumber industry has been in decline for decades, and the local mill employs a small fraction of the people who did so during the city’s heyday.
Weeds, with 2,700 residents, have an average household income of $ 31,000, less than half the California average. Many of the buildings in Main Street are in some form of decay. One resident recently scratched at the front door, ‘Please do not break glass. Times are hard enough. Thank you.”
Residents who were skeptical about cannabis often say they have been conquered by the economic imperatives.
Tim Rundel, who took over as city manager last year just as the coronavirus pandemic swept through California, said many members of his staff were not convinced that the cannabis industry in Weed could take root until he showed them how the locks tax does not decrease. income.
“You can accept or resist it, and when I see our financial statements, I see it as a possible opportunity,” he said. Rundel said.
Work at the proposed cannabis facility, which is still being investigated by the environment, is expected to start at $ 20 per hour and be accompanied by health insurance according to the business plan. The local community college offers a training program in the fall on the ins and outs of the marijuana and hemp industry.
“We need to move on,” said Dawnie Slabaugh, director of public relations at the College of the Siskiyous, the community college in Weed. “Or we’re just going to be another ghost town.”
According to the license of the city’s logo, the city can earn $ 400,000 a year, according to Mr. Rundel.
The money depends on the success of the production facility. But the bet on cannabis already pays dividends. In January, the city began raising about $ 10,000 a month from the city’s two marijuana pharmacies.
Elizabeth Tabor, the owner of the city’s first pharmacy, La Florista, which started as a medical marijuana business but is now allowed to sell to all adults, has struggled to win over skeptics. She became an award at city hall meetings and patiently answered questions. To churchgoers, he portrays his cannabis as a plant placed on earth for human use, quoting from the book of Genesis: “And God said, ‘Behold, I give unto you every herb yielding seed, earth is. ‘”
City leaders say Ms Tabor helped refute her critics.
“I think they thought we would end up with a riffraffie,” she said. Tabor said at her pharmacy, where the list of marijuana products for sale contains seven pages.
Inside the pharmacy with turquoise walls hawker vendors chocolates, cookies and s’mores with cannabis application. There is also marijuana for pets. (‘Helps support calmness, joint mobility, brain function.’) And for $ 23, customers can walk out with a marijuana plant that California law allows them to plant in their backyard.
Mrs. Tavalero, the cannabis critic named mayor of the marijuana, praises Tabor’s venture.
“You used to drive through the city center and there was no car in sight,” the mayor said. “Now there is no parking space in sight.”
On a sunny afternoon outside the Weed Store, a souvenir shop where visitors were lined up at the cash register with T-shirts, Cindy Stensaas, who owns the shop with her husband, admitted that jokes about Weed could be annoying. But the sales of the store, Ms. Stensaas remarked, brought her two children through the university.
“We are a poor rural community,” she said. “We will take whatever we can get.”