Anybody involved in California cannabis cultivation will tell you that, while they are still making money, prices have fallen significantly with the increase in marijuana being grown, predominantly in Northern California. This cash crunch is trickling down to the workers who tend and trim marijuana, resulting in lower pay and now, for some, taxes.
We spoke with *Katie*, a 35-year-old Pennsylvania native who has worked as a bud-trimmer in California for nearly 15 years about her job and how it has changed along with the advent of medical marijuana and now recreational use.
How did you get into trimming?
I knew some people who knew some people. When I started it was really, really underground. It was obvious who grew weed and who didn’t, but it was very secretive still. That led to a lot of people being safe and only having people they could trust work for them. It was more underground and secretive you had to be invited in through people you knew. In past 8 years people realized ‘Oh, I can make a shit-ton of money growing weed in Humboldt. Younger people wanted to get involved. Now you see people sitting on the side of the road with scissors in their hands just trying to get jobs. I worked with people who came from Brazil. They flew out here, got a truck and a camper and started trimming.
You’ve said the cannabis industry can be dangerous for women. How?
Because you have a lot of paranoid growers who will get ranches, properties like two hours away from anything else. And women who work there will be stuck out there in houses or farms where there’s men, coke, meth, guns. Women can get paid more per hour to work topless, or even paid to fuck the guys who run the grow. There became a term ‘Grow-hos,” for girls who fuck growers because they have tons of cash.
You’re just not as safe as a woman in general. A lot of the growers have guns. There are more robberies, home invasions, farm invasions. Everyone is greedy and kind of gross. I’ve talked to younger girls, college girls and even some in high school who have started working on indoor grows or outdoor farms. I tell them ‘Never go to a new scene by yourself. I haven’t. Only work for somebody you know or have met and talked to. Have your own vehicle. Don’t be dependent on anybody else until you get the vibe. You can tell when you roll up what the vibe is like.
Take me through your typical work day.
You find your place at the table, you have lights right over your head. You gather your scissiors a cup for alcohol. Trim tray to catch kief. Nothing is wasted. There’s a bucket for bud and the trim and shake gets bagged up too. That’ll get processed to become wax or pre-rolls. You go get a plant or a box and get the big stem and sticks out of the way, then you trim the buds with scissors. I usually wear pajama type clothes. Most people work in smocks. If you wear cotton you’re going to be covered in weed. I can trim between 2 and 3 pounds a day. I’ve done five pounds in a day before. The body mechanics of it are awful. You’re hunched over. Your cutting arm is constantly moving and it puts strain on your neck and lower back. Your ass hurts from sitting all day. It takes a huge toll on the body.
Do you get to take home anything that you trim?
Nobody’s getting gifts. You can get paid in weed instead of cash, so you can get bud at a seriously reduced rate, but there are guidelines now with legal job. Theft is an issue but no they don’t really give it away. But some jobs treat you better than others, at one the boss had a fridge full of champagne, beer, soda.
How much of what you trim do you think stays in California versus being exported to other states?
I think about 75 percent of it leaves the state. Colorado was running out of weed when they first legalized and came to California to get product. Oregon it’s hard to grow or sell there. So much of Oregon’s weed comes from here. And then there’s people who come out and drive it across the country. As trimmers, you’re kept away from money transactions, but you definitely see people rolling up and leaving with huge trash bags full of weed. There are managers.
What do you see as the future of trimming?
I used to get paid $200 per pound. Now that’s more like $150 per pound. I got $30 an hour last year from one boss, but he’s trying to figure out a 2017 rate and pay system where it’s hourly but you can get bonuses based on your work and your rate of production. He said ‘I don’t know if you’re going to want to work for me. You won’t make as much as you’re used to.’ It’s really turning into more of a basic job. It’s definitely saturated here and it drives prices down. You can get a pound of weed out here for $1,500. That pound might cost $3,000+ in Philly.
I see trimming becoming a low hourly rate of $15 per hour. I think a lot of warehouse jobs are going to be open for people to fill pounds, or fill pre-rolls. I think trimming will now be lowest on totem pole. It used to be fairly important job, but now will be shit job. Legalization will cost everybody money. Prices dropping. Everything goes down. There’s still going to be a blackmarket though.