Emerald Triangle: The Silicon Valley Of Cannabis Growers

The Emerald Triangle is a region in California made of three counties that have produced some of the highest-quality marijuana since the late 1970s. The triangle consists of three counties – Mendocino, Trinity, and Humboldt. 

Emerald Triangle: The Highlights

  • The Emerald Triangle is a marijuana cultivation epicenter in northern California that has been known for its superior, environmentally-friendly weed cultivation for generations.
  • The Emerald Triangle started with a small group of hippy, off-the-grid seeking environmentalists who wanted to cultivate sustainable living and ultimately found a way to do this through lucrative cannabis farming ventures.
  • The Emerald Triangle has also been labeled “Murder Mountain” due to a large number of missing persons in the area.
  • Recent laws enacted to legalize cannabis in California has, on one hand, helped farmers who can afford the taxes and fees associated with owning a legal cannabis business while on the other hand, has further hindered cannabis sellers who can’t afford these expenses.
  • The Emerald Triangle has over 20,000 cannabis growers.

What Is The Emerald Triangle?

The Emerald Triangle is a North coast region of land in California consisting of three counties – Mendocino, Trinity, and Humboldt – that has become a famous marijuana-producing territory currently having over 20,000 cannabis growers

Birthed in the late 1960s by young hippy environmentalists, the Emerald Triangle now serves as one of the most popular and successful cannabis epicenters in America. This success and fame are seen in its large production yields, unique strains, and its unwavering dedication to sustainable, clean farming. 

From the beginning, the Emerald Triangle cannabis farmers took pride in their organic crops and continue to do so, thus producing superior weed grown in rich, chemical-free soil.

How The Emerald Triangle Started

Cannabis Plants In Garden

The Emerald Triangle started out as a remote haven where environmentalists, Vietnam veterans, and others who wanted a quieter lifestyle could go and live a simple life.

The land offered not only a refuge from mainstream living and more pure way of life, but it also offered an abundance of beauty and the potential for natural prosperity.

The people that settled on this land had to find a lucrative way to make money while maintaining their environmental integrity. So along with other crops that fed them and gave them a small income, they started to grow cannabis as an added source of income.

These small groups of people quickly realized that growing marijuana was highly profitable, albeit a tricky feat considering the prohibition laws during that time.

A couple of factors lead to success for early farmers in the Emerald Triangle:

  • An ever-growing demand for pot in the area.
  • the availability of solar power and adequate drip irrigation systems.
  • an ideal terrain in which to grow their cannabis.

To add to this rapid growth and expansion, in the 1980s Emerald Triangle’s timber industry collapsed, leaving many in the community without jobs and an economic base.

This caused many community members who had previously been opposed to the marijuana farmers and the growing cannabis industry in general, to turn to the cannabis market for jobs.

Growing weed was becoming a big business and this desperate community needed the economic boost.

An Off-The-Grid Rural Environment

The Emerald Triangle has always been the perfect place for people who no longer desire to be a part of mainstream society to come and essentially disappear from the public eye.

Many thousands have gone “missing.”

Some of this is due to actual murder happenings in the area. However, it is suspected that in many cases, people simply did not want to participate in traditional civilization but rather, live under the radar with a simple and peaceful life.

Another reason is due to the fact that until 2016, marijuana was illegal in California. Therefore, a lot of people in the Emerald Triangle who chose to grow their own cannabis or be hired to work on someone else’s weed farm were constantly worried about being caught and persecuted by the local law enforcement.

Therefore, laying low and off-the-grid seemed the best choice for these individuals.

Additionally, many veterans with PTSD and other individuals who suffered from mental or physical handicaps needed the relief that medical marijuana could give.

Due to the criminalization of what we would now call medical cannabis, these individuals would hide out so that they could get relief from their symptoms.

The Effects Of Cannabis Prohibition on Emerald Triangle

Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana, A road highway sign with a marijuana leaf with sky background

Emerald Triangle did not come without its struggles. Growers dealt with:

  • criticism and judgment
  • law enforcement hunt-downs
  • being held at gunpoint
  • the burning of their crops

In the 1970s when the cannabis industry was still in the process of growing into a lucrative cannabis business, conservatives in the area fought heavily to keep it from expanding.

Additionally, in the 1980s, federal and state law enforcement agencies created the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, or CAMP, act.

This campaign caused a decade of massive warring between the county sheriff’s office and cannabis growers as the government-at-large fought hard to eradicate the Emerald Triangle’s cannabis industry.

However, despite the push-back from conservative prohibitionists and the law enforcement agencies, prohibition did not hinder the Emerald Triangle’s growing cannabis market.

If anything, it helped it grow. Knowing how important the marijuana industry was to the region’s economy, cannabis growers sought to protect their black market efforts by becoming as discreet and careful as possible.

How Legalizing Marijuana Changed Emerald Triangle

The irony is that legalizing medicinal and recreational marijuana for Californians did not make it easier for previous black market cannabis growers.

Rather, it has more times than not made it harder for them. With the legalization of marijuana came all the state and country taxes as well as the state permits.

This is expensive, potentially costing cannabis growers thousands of dollars – dollars that they likely do not have. Small businesses have to either shut down or remain on the black market. Many choose to remain in this black market. 

Only big-time businesses that grow and sell a significant amount of pot can afford these taxes and fees.

Therefore, many of Emerald Triangle’s cannabis growers are increasingly becoming large business owners while many small businesses are becoming less predominant, shutting down their beloved dispensaries. 

The worry that many in the Emerald Triangle community have is the growth of illegal drug-trafficking. Due to many growers choosing to still sell their cannabis on the black market, the worry is that it will continue to cause increasing numbers of illegal drug-sellers to flood the Emerald Triangle. 

Cannabis Growing Regions To Watch In The Future

Many regions within the Emerald Triangle that are particularly optimal zones for growing high-quality, cannabinoid and terpene-rich cannabis are working towards having appellation standards set into place.

Mimicking the Napa Valley grape and wine appellations, these weed appellations will distinguish a certain region or county’s unique cannabis production methods as well as how the topography contributes to the uniqueness of the buds themselves.

These appellations also allow each region’s brand to be safe and secure from larger corporations who would seek to use their brand attributes for their own cannabis profit efforts.

More specifically, these appellations will factor in such things as topography and average annual rainfall – both of which heavily influence the growth and development of cannabis flowers, just as it does in wine grapes.

Silhouette of a man on a cannabis plantation in sunlight

Also, they will factor in the chemical composition of their plants such as the levels and types of terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids. They also factor in traditional knowledge within a zoned area.

This means that generations-old families and friends have a familiar knowledge of the region’s unique cultivation practices work as well as their specific marijuana plant genetics.

The bottom line is that every zone will have their own appellations on which they will base their unique brand.

Although it is yet to be seen what appellation standards are chosen for their branding, these zones are nonetheless working diligently to have their appellations clarified and eventually set in stone by the California Food and Drug Administration.

Below are three zones of the Emerald Triangle that are considered the best places to grow unique and superior cannabis.

It is well to note that these are zones will support environmentally friendly and ethical farming, thereby supporting the high standards of the Emerald Growers Association:

Hayfork Valley

Hayfork Valley is around the Trinity River with its many streams and creeks and offers dry, hot summers and dry, cool autumn nights – a valley perfect for optimal cannabis cultivation.

Bell Springs/Spyrock

This zone is made up of ridgetop communities that are situated on the edge of inland and coastal influences. This means that their weed plants still get the heat but also the dry, crisp exposure at night due to the elevation.

Mattole Valley

Mattole Valley encompasses the Petrolia and Honeydew sub-regions, both of which produce superior cannabis. This zone receives some of the US’s highest rainfall measurements but also has super dry summers.

Murder Mountain: A Show Exploring Emerald Triangle’s Missing Persons

One of Emerald Triangle’s counties, Humboldt county, has an average of 717 out of 100,000 people that go missing every year. That is the highest missing person number in the state of California. 

Additionally, Humboldt County has a famous place called Murder Mountain, which was made well-known by two serial killers who had killed three people in the 1980s. This information piqued the interest of filmmaker Josh Zeman. 

Therefore, he put together a team of people using the production company Lightbox to film a nine-month investigation of the war between the cannabis growers of Humboldt County and the state and country law enforcement. 

The goal of the film was to expose the damage done to the county’s inhabitants by the constant warring between the law and the county’s cannabis growers. 

Much violence and persecution has been enacted upon Humboldt farmers over the years and can be a possible solution for some of the missing people of Humboldt County. 

The Future Of Emerald Triangle

Cannabis farm

Due to the fact that legalization of cannabis in California is still so new, many factors need to be ironed out in order for the Emerald Triangle to have a smooth-running, successful cannabis culture.

These factors include:

  • Giving small businesses a financial chance at joining the white market.
  • Protecting counties and regions that already have their own uniquely branded cannabis traditions through clearly labeled appellations.
  • Making the cannabis lifestyle comfortable enough for people to not want to disappear or go missing.

There are many factors that will influence the future of the Emerald Triangle.