Letter from California

An archive of the weekly "Letter from Calfornia", written by Jim McCarthy.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Letter from California-March 14, 2005

As a rule, people don’t like eating poison. We put up with it sometimes, but given a choice, most would just as soon pass as knowingly scarf down something toxic. We’re a sensible species that way. Of course, we all know that the foods we eat have various nasties in them, either because of the pesticides used to grow watermelons to the size of Mini-Coopers or some chemical that causes candy to be bright pink. It’s not a color that shows up in nature too often, so if you see bright pink pressed into the shape of a fish and covered with sugar granules, it’s a good bet what you’re eating didn’t grow from a tree.

In times past, people might have worried a little bit less about this. During the 50s, for example, I’m pretty sure you could buy a countertop appliance that would bomb your casserole with a stiff dose of nuclear radiation. The idea was that living things, collected freely from nature, tended to get dirty, and if they got dirty, germs and so forth could be the result, and that might be unhealthy. If, however, you just hit the family’s dinner with a deadly blast of radioactivity, the food would become free of anything natural, and therefore be safe for you to eat.

Or maybe I read that in a comic book. Anyway, in the 60s and 70s, there was something called a “green revolution” wherein anything that could be done to grow more food was done. If putting cows on steroids and a rigorous workout schedule that alternated weight training with Aerobicise made them give more milk, then by golly, somebody would find cow-sized leg warmers and get the whole thing started. Of course, it wasn’t usually something as wholesome as diet and exercise for the cows. More often, it meant soaking the cows in cyanide or giving them enough steroids to make Barry Bonds nervous. In short, they got exposed to all kinds of weird drugs and treatments whose side effects wouldn’t be known for years to come. Until about now-ish actually.

Modern day California has an answer of sorts to this issue: organics. Organic crops are certified by the State of California to be grown within a set of guidelines. First, the crops must be raised under the strict supervision of a hippie. Now, just because you haven’t showered in a couple days and always wear the same gamy-smelling poncho doesn’t make you a certifiable hippie. You actually have to be able to produce something out of the ground that people would want to consume without using any of the poisons that so many growers are fond of. Being a successful organic farmer isn’t easy, but the reward is that yuppie moms all over California will choose your earth-loving products to take home to their kids in the back of their luxurious and energy-efficient SUVs.

Nevertheless, organics have gotten serious. In some cases, a discriminating consumer simply won’t lay out good money for crops grown the “conventional” way. Because of this, Mendocino County, in northern California, recently asked the State to certify some of their bounteous marijuana crops as organic. Uh, the State pointed out, you guys know Marijuana is illegal, right?

Oh, yeah, Mendocino County replied. Then, unexplainably, they broke down into giggles.

That’s one of the downsides of being the master of this particular crop. You probably get confused about things like this a lot. Asking the State to certify the crop sounded like a great idea when they first thought of it at 2 in the morning. Another downside is that you also have to put up with Woody Harrelson dropping in on you all the time raving about the many benefits of hemp and then asking you where the good stuff is. That acts gets tired really fast.

You have to love, or at least be amused by, the simple honesty of this pitifully failed attempt to get the State’s seal of approval on something that’s completely illegal. Mendocino County is pretty far out in the boonies, and apparently, marijuana grows by the acre in the backcountry there. It’s easy to imagine how living out there for a while could cause you to forget about things like laws or brushing your teeth. Trust me when I say that this wasn’t a stunt designed to get publicity for the “unfairness” of the laws against Marijuana. That kind of things takes a lot of energy, and for the marijuana farmers of Mendocino to stage something that elaborate would be like Scooby and Shaggy going into a haunted house without being offered Scooby Snacks in return. Very unlikely.

So for the time being, the wacky weed coming in from Mendocino County may or may not have been blasted with DDT as far as you know. Blame it all on the squaresville State of California, who totally harshed their certification mellow.

Something tells me that in this case, unlike at your local California grocery store, sales won’t suffer.


Post a Comment

<< Home