The Emerald Triangle: What is it and How Did it Come to Be?
Updated: Jan 8
If you've ever wondered where the bulk of cannabis comes from in the United States, the Emerald Triangle is your answer. The area has a history of producing high-grade ganja and housing a slew of legacy cannabis farmers. This trio of counties boasts beautiful rolling mountains, tall redwood trees, wide-open spaces, and the magical NorCal coast - a recipe for lovely views and cultivating fields of stacked cannabis colas.
Made up of Mendocino County, Humboldt County, and Trinity County, the Emerald Triangle is sometimes referred to as the capital of cannabis. That's because at least 20,000 cannabis farmers reside in the sparsely populated Emerald Triangle, and 1.7 million pounds of cannabis is produced each year here, making it the top domestic supplier of cannabis in America. Mendocino County alone generates an estimated $1 billion a year in cannabis revenue, representing almost two-thirds of their local economy. Cannabis is a massive part of life for those in the Emerald Triangle, and we have history and the natural climate to thank for that.
Due to the natural climate and micro-climates found in this area, cannabis plants often reach fifteen feet tall before the harvest season arrives in October (or "croptober," as many locals call it). The temperate Mediterranean climate is perfect for cannabis cultivation. Its rainy winters renew the land, and its dry summers keep mold out of the ripening buds. Excellent sun exposure, fertile soil, and nourishing morning fog compliment the hot days and cool nights, a blend of environmental factors that the cannabis plant craves for optimal growth. Much like Napa's region for grape production, the Emerald Triangle provides an adequate environment for high-quality sun-grown cannabis. And because legacy farmers have been around here for so long, there are micro-climate specific strains that have been bred to flourish in this region specifically. The quality is so untouched by other areas of the United States that strains grown here sell for a higher price, which is why brands will often stamp their county of origin on the packaging.
The history of the Emerald Triangle dates back to the 1960s when the back-to-the-land movement started. This movement embraced the idea of self-sufficiency and community values, and in 1967, during the "Summer of Love," more than 100,000 of these progressive individuals came to San Francisco to advocate for peace during the Vietnam War. These individuals also had an affinity for cannabis, and we have them to thank for creating the cannabis culture we experience in this area today. It's because of these back-to-the-land pioneers that many cannabis enthusiasts moved to the area upstate we now know as the Emerald Triangle. Due to the illegality of the plant at the time, the land provided tall trees and remote locations for them to hide their crops until almost thirty years later when Proposition 215 passed in 1996, legalizing medical cannabis cultivation. These farmers then began taking their illegal operations and licensing them so they could legally provide for their families while doing what they loved.
Because of how this area got started, most cultivators in the Emerald Triangle have great respect for their land and cultivate without harmful chemicals or pesticides. The natural soil in this area is ideal for organic farming, and the culture surrounding the industry encourages craft cultivation over mass-scale commercial operations. The local land has been deeply loved by generations of cannabis farmers who appreciate and seek to protect the natural landscape. This is why local regulations have been put into place with the intention to keep irresponsible cultivation out of the area.
It's many of the original trailblazers shaping the industry in the Emerald Triangle today. They are the farmers producing the top-quality, sustainably grown cannabis that's sought after by consumers all over the state. It will be the small, craft cannabis farmers that continue the respectful cultivation practices that keep this area's inherent terroir in place. These legendary farmers in the Emerald Triangle preserve the tradition and artisanal techniques that create outstanding cannabis, and they will carry them forward into future generations to come.
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Photo by: Chris Butler