When I was in Bali a few years ago, I met a surfer from Southern California whom I’ll call Roxanne, who saw firsthand the drastic change the area has undergone. She was one of many Hawaiians and Californian surfers I met in Indonesia during that period making stacks of cash from the then-unregulated weed fields of California and using it to travel the world surfing.
“(It) was awesome; growing your own food, getting your water from a spring, not having power lines all around you or neighbors or traffic,” recalls Roxanne, who admitted to making up to $10k/month during that time. “I went all around the world because I made a shit ton of money trimming in a month.”
When Roxanne and her boyfriend Kevin first arrived in Humboldt, trimmers consisted mostly of surfers, ‘Burners,’ (aficionados of the Burning Man festival) and similar like-minded folk.
“You lived free range back there,” Kevin told me. “You’re an off-grid human not tied to society, you get to live free. You’re almost one with nature and yeah you get pretty damn good pay.”
That all changed, ironically, with the legalization of marijuana in the US, bringing with it prohibitively high taxes imposed by government, which in turn forced the many small-time farmers who set up the industry to sell up and move on.
“The permits that you need to have to be a legal grower is over $80,000,” says Roxanne. “Most people don’t have that because they’re mom-and-pop growers making just enough to survive for the year.”
As the mom-and-pop growers left, according to Roxanne, the presence of large-scale, organized crime operations in the area became more pronounced.
“[I’d] go to the grocery store and you could definitely tell who the Russian mafia members were ‘cause they were all in their Adidas tracksuits with their chains and shit,” says Roxanne. “You could tell who the Mexican mafia members were. The grocery store is a small place… We’d all convene in a town that was like two blocks long.”
Then came the “trimmigrants”, naive backpackers from Europe and elsewhere in search of adventure and a quick buck. It wasn’t long before missing persons cases were popping up all over the place.
“It’s become a huge problem,” says Roxanne. “All these foreign people show up in these towns and have signs or just walk up to you at the grocery store. [One time] I was putting groceries in my car and these French girls tried to get in. They were like, ‘Take us to go work.’ I was like, ‘What the f–k? I don’t know you!’ I talked to a few people telling them, ‘This isn’t safe, you shouldn’t get in someone’s car that you don’t know that’s gonna take you up a mountain with no phone service to who the fuck knows where.”
And read on for even more scary stuff…
Watch Murder Mountain – Netflix https://www.netflix.com/au/title/80217475