The Locals: Medicine Box’s exploration on community
It’s not just me that made Medicine Box; standing alongside of me in the greenhouses are the Nevada County, CA OGs and the Squaw Valley shredders that both make these communities unique. Communities possess unique healing capabilities, for certain. If they didn’t, I could do Medicine Box anywhere in the world. But I owe so much to The Locals, both in Squaw Valley and Nevada County, CA.
This month, as I kick off Medicine Box’s exploration on community, I want to give a shout-out to Nevada County, CA and Squaw Valley, two communities that have healed me, helped me and guided me in my personal and professional lives. Not only have I benefited from them, but anyone who has been healed by Medicine Box has as well.
The Eureka Moment: Nevada County, CA
Back in the days of the ‘49ers, Nevada City, CA was the biggest city in the state of California. While that’s no longer the case (and I for one am thankful for that), a unique collection of Bay Area retirees, hippies, back-to-the-landers, ranchers, New Agers and world-class cannabis growers have all struck their own version of gold around these parts. The organic food movement was spearheaded in part by Michael Funk, who started his Mountain People’s Warehouse distribution company by selling fruits and vegetables from the trunk of his VW. (He would later merge with Cornucopia Fine Foods on the East Coast to become UNFI, the world’s largest organic food distributor. Brian Malin would later pioneer organic farming techniques in the cannabis industry through Vital Garden Supply, his organic fertilizer store. He’s helped countless growers make the jump from synthetics to healthier organic techniques, myself included. For a county as dedicated as we are to truly medical cannabis, being ahead of the curve has made all the difference in what we grow and how we all see our industry.
As a growing area, we may not have the name recognition of a Humboldt County, and we certainly don’t have as many big grows as Santa Barbara County. But thanks to our Mediterranean climate and our wide range of elevation, we can grow a diverse variety of plants (generally Indica in the 3000-4000 foot range and sativa in 1200-1800 foot regions) without stressing over the molds that often overtake Indicas growing in the damp Humboldt hinterlands. Here in Nevada County, CA, we really do have the best of both worlds, what with the microclimates and exposure of the North with the warm, dry summers and mild wet winters the SoCal people enjoy.
Yes, you’ll find reiki salons, yoga studios and crystal shops in Truckee and the San Juan Ridge. But you’ll also find Republicans, too. District 1, which includes Nevada County, CA alongside Butte, Yuba, Sierra and Placer County, leans red, but ultimately, we’re purple with strong cannabis support. We voted down the restrictive Measure W bill with 58% of the vote and voted for Prop 64 with 52%. This support is bolstered by the smart and capable advocacy of the Nevada County, CA Cannabis Alliance, of which I am a member. Our local radio station even hosted the “Cannabis Radio Hour,,” which features many of the leading voices of our region’s industry. In short, we’re here to stay.
Of course, we’re going through a huge transition with legalization. Those who pioneered the industry and helped the plant reach its fullest potential are now being over-regulated out of the market. Many of these people are longtime residents with families – the very backbone of this community. The dismantling of the OG grey market has also impacted on the taverns, the restaurants and the shops that once catered to the transient workers.
I’m of two minds with these changes. Medicine Box is strongly committed to keeping family farms, such as the one my friend John from Yellow Dog Farms runs, thriving. Because of this, we source our product exclusively from these farms. However, change is ultimately good. While I will miss the vibe of the old days, I’m optimistic about new businesses, from cannabis tourism to tasting rooms, that can flourish in this new reality. As the old “reefer madness” attitude disappears, we’ll begin to see a new community come forth from the old. That’s what I’m here to support.
Hooray for Squallywood
I grew up fantasizing about shredding down the slopes of resorts like Squaw Valley. Founded by legendary skier Wayne Poulsen, Squaw Valley gained initial fame for hosting the 1960 Winter Olympics. But Scot Schmitt and Glen Plake would soon follow, bringing the age of freestyle skiing to the sport. Perhaps most inspiring for me was the late and lamented Shane McConkey, who brought real fun and humor along with extraordinary skill and bravery to the Squaw Valley ski lines. He and his friends constructed the Game of GNAR (Gaffney’s Numerical Assessment of Radness), essentially superimposing the entire game upon the topography of the mountain. You can win or lose points depending on how you ski the lines of the slope, and you can also win ECPs (extra credit points) as well, too. Declaring “I’m the best skier on the mountain” earns you 500 pints and doing “the BN” (butt naked) will win you a few thousand. Needless to say, McConkey pulled off a lot of BNs in his day.
Squaw Valley is like that, I find. Locals call it “the campus,” where it snows in feet, but when the sun shines, it feels like spring (incidentally, another great ECP is asking a stranger who has the best goggle tan: 500 points) The Squaw Valley peaks have gotten crowded, particularly with the advent of cheap season passes over the past five-six years. While some locals have abandoned Squaw Valley for the back country or smaller areas like Mt. Rose or Sugar Bowl, some diehards still remain. For me, those are the heart-and-soul community members whose love for the sport and for the lifestyle created the Game of GNAR and helped skiing stay relevant and fun when snowboarding was stealing its shine. I come out for them as much as I do for the pow.
Skiing is definitely in my blood. I’ll always thank my dad for introducing it to me when I was 8 years old. The east coast had Sunday River in Maine and Wildcat and Attitash in New Hampshire. Once I got to Vermont for college I did Stowe and Sugarbush. But the ski regions of California pulled me out west from an early age and once I finally saw it for myself at 18, I was hooked. At one point, I pursued skiing alongside a self-destructive lifestyle, but I’m thankful that skiing can now be part of my newfound sobriety. Rock Garden, Dead Tree, ANYTHING on “the mothership” KT-22 (the best ski lift in America IMHO) and perhaps my favorite run, Chute-75 offers up new possibilities every time I ski down them, much like a surfer finds new inspiration in a wave. Sharing this experience with people you see every year is its own natural high, one I’ve been on for 17 years – and hopefully will be for many more.
The People and the Product
I think of the Nevada County, CA OGs and Squaw Valley as the silent partners to Medicine Box. I’ve managed to have a blast with all of these people, but I’ve also found healing and understanding through them as well. As I’ve learned, every Frodo needs his Samwise, and it’s the locals of both of these communities that have healed me and pulled me through.
JRR Tolkien once said, “Not all who wander are lost.” And when you think about the dreamers, daredevils and mavericks which populate both Squaw Valley and Nevada County, CA, who made their survival conform to their desires, you’re talking about people who forge their own path. Call them “ski bums” or “outlaw growers,” but they always find a way, and managed not only to create something special and world-class in their backyards, but have a damn good time doing it. That is its own unique medicine. I’m glad it’s in my box.