Report: California Marijuana Industry Gateway to Sex Trade

AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo
AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo

California’s multi-billion dollar underground marijuana industry has, according to a new report, become a gateway to the sex trade and is riddled with abuse against women.

An exposé by from The Center for Investigative Reporting and published in Cosmopolitan reveals a little-reported epidemic of sex trafficking and abuse on marijuana farms located in an area known as the “Emerald Triangle” — an area that encompasses Humboldt, Trinity, and Mendocino Counties.

“Women believe they are getting hired for trimming work, and then they’re drugged and raped,” Maryann Hayes Mariani, a coordinator for the North Coast Rape Crisis Team, told Cosmo. “Everybody looks at (the region) like it’s the Land of Oz. I’m just so tired of pretending like it’s not happening here.”

Cosmo notes that in the male-dominated growing field, “growers often prefer to hire female trimmers (known as ‘trimmigrants’) because they’re supposedly more dexterous and thus more efficient workers. But over the past five years, young women have begun emerging from the woods with tales of being forced to give their bosses blow jobs to get paid or asked to trim topless for wage increases.” It adds, “The hidden nature of the industry has led to an epidemic of sexual abuse that’s rarely reported or investigated.”

In an industry that is unmonitored, it is easy to take advantage of people, which is why so many workers have also gone missing.

In 2015 alone Humboldt County reported 352 missing people. That number is reportedly “more per capita than any other county in the state.”

Further, it is noted that these “Trimmigrants also serve at the mercy of their bosses, who are themselves vulnerable to the risks of operating in the black market — ranging from robberies to law enforcement stings.”

One female trimmer reportedly said she became involved in the sex trade after she realized she could make more money by selling her body and would meet growers at motels in the Northern California town of Garberville; sometimes she would trek hours into the mountains.

“The guys on the hills pay $500 an hour,” Deanna Hirschi told Cosmo. A woman named Elle Snow, who is a trafficking survivor from the pot industry, said she posted fake escort advertisements on the classified ad website Backpage and reportedly received over 400 inquiries from interested clients in Humboldt County over the course of two months.

“Traffickers call Humboldt County not just green for the weed, but green for the bitches,” Snow said, reportedly referring to the money traffickers can make selling women and sex.

As the marijuana industry and its “trimmigrant” population grows, so does the number of human trafficking victims.

The article notes that last year alone, “Humboldt Domestic Violence Services answered more than 2,000 crisis calls last year, an increase of about 80 percent in four years. Executive Director Brenda Bishop attributed the increase to a surge in sexual abuse and trafficking on marijuana grows.”

In one case, a grower named Kailan Meserve became the first in Humboldt County to be charged with raping a trimmigrant. He was reportedly found guilty of 15 felony counts, including rape and false imprisonment, and sentenced to 23 years in prison.

The entire Cosmopolitan story can be found here.

Photo: file

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter and Periscope @AdelleNaz


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