The High Road

Growers who cashed in on illegal pot now welcome legalization and taxation.

Harris and Jones, on the other hand, use organic fertilizer for their custom strains, which this year include Green Crack, OC Kush, and Diesel. There will also be Headbands, a killer combination of Kush and Diesel. "Intellectually stimulating," Jones says. "Doesn't sap your energy." He points to another plant he called Blue Dream, but on the tag it said something different: Blue Balls. When asked about this, Jones laughs, then explains that it was a combination of Blueberry and Monkey Balls. How were they not going to call that Blue Balls?

"It's a vigorous plant," he says. "Come back and you'll see."

By August, you won't be able to walk back here, Harris adds. These plants were going to get 15 feet high, as tall as the deck.

Although Harris had brought in a decent salary as a statistician, it was these plants that allowed the couple's lifestyle to change dramatically. Over the first several years of growing pot, they were able to pay off their Jerry Garcia debt. Eventually, they were taking those long vacations in Hawaii, putting money into real estate, donating to political campaigns, and giving to charity.

Now, Jones says, they'd like to start moving their money from the ground into the bank. "By paying taxes, you can do that," he says. "It's not washing money."

"It's just making money legal," Harris adds.

In May 2009, after 15 years of making and selling their own tie-dye without a storefront, they opened Tie Dye 2. Jones recalls that at concerts in the '70s, when people on LSD saw the clothing, they used to come up and say, "Wow, those are really groovy clothes." These days, rock star friends like David Nelson, who once played with Jerry Garcia; and Rob Eaton of the Dark Star Orchestra are wearing Tie Dye 2 apparel. Wavy Gravy also wears their tie-dye. Harris and Jones themselves wear it almost every day. There was one day, Harris remembers, when Jones didn't: "I barely recognized him," she says.

Although the passion for tie-dye is clearly there, Harris and Jones have yet to turn a profit from it. "A lot of people in town might know that we're growers, but they think our business is our life and that [tie-dye] is supporting us," Jones says. "The truth is, we're supporting the business."

Harris and Jones also have plans for three acres they've purchased across the street from the store. They want to erect a nonprofit vegan restaurant and community event center, where they can invite their favorite bands to play. They already pay some musicians to put on concerts at events center Area 101, and though those concerts usually lose money, Harris and Jones consider them a kind of community service.

That's hardly the extent of their generosity. Around the holidays, Harris and Jones used to walk around town handing children envelopes stuffed with Benjamins, but they stopped that after it caused a scene, Jones says. They continue to give hundreds of dollars at bake sales, and they donate several thousand dollars to the yearly North Pole Toy Express, a toy drive benefiting impoverished families.

Harris and Jones also give away plenty of their pot, and come harvest season, they pay their most dedicated trimmers upward of $25 an hour. After their pot is trimmed, dried, and bagged this year, it will go to a handful of predetermined customers.

About half will go to the Peace and Love Collective, Jones says, and a small amount will wind up in dispensaries in San Francisco. The rest will be sold to a buyer from Philadelphia, who will ship it himself. According to state and federal law, everything about the Philadelphia deal is illegal. Medical marijuana growers are not permitted to sell to people outside of the collectives they have formed, and the pot is not allowed to be sold or transported outside of California.

A few years ago, Jones remembers, a woman transporting the pot he had sold got pulled over in Iowa with 170 pounds. She was an illegal immigrant from Brazil, and she was deported, he says. He was surprised it didn't end worse than that.

Although Jones won't say exactly how much he expects to make this year, you can be sure it's more than the $55,000 salary he reported last year. Each year, he reports a little bit more of his earnings, because he wants to pay tax, he says. He wants to be totally legal, and he can come closer to that goal by registering his grow with the county sheriff's department.

The Mendocino Board of Supervisors has a few dozen rules for people hoping to collectively grow and zip-tie 99 plants. Growers cannot be convicted felons. None of the water or electricity can be illegally procured. The garden must be on five acres of land, out of sight, and at least 100 yards away from any neighbor.

Harris and Jones say they will eventually be able to comply with all of those rules. Theirs is one of six applications currently in the sheriff's office, although Allman says he's heard that about 10 more may be coming, and believes he'll end up with about 30 this season.

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