Rudy Espinoza Murray

Rudy Espinoza Murray

The country is progressing on the issue of marijuana even though it remains illegal at the federal level. According to Pew Research, in a poll conducted this year, 91% of Americans think it should be legal for either recreational and medical use. In San Mateo County, growing cannabis has only been legal since 2017, and it maintains broad support across voters. Cannabis production must occur only on lands designated for agriculture. Although many cities have a marijuana business tax, the county decided not to add marijuana tax at the request of farmers so that it would keep costs lower for the industry. But like any issue, there are two sides. 

In the Latinx immigrant community, the consumption of marijuana is generally frowned upon, and youngsters that use it can be labeled marijuano — a term that connotes laziness, without direction, and even criminal. So for many farmworkers, the idea of growing cannabis is problematic. Some choosing to earn less before having to tell their children that they produce “weed.” Over the hill, consuming cannabis is normalized and seeing a white techie smoke is no big deal. But for Black and other minority youth, it’s a different story.

At the end of 2020 and into early 2021, Castillo Seed Company, a hemp farm located on Cabrillo Highway in Half Moon Bay, didn’t pay its farmworkers for about eight weeks. Farmworkers there made less than $30,000 per year, so a two-month pay gap was disastrous for extremely low-income people. If it were not for the community organizations and community activists, the consequences could have been far worse for these families. This case was anecdotal evidence for anti-cannabis folks that the hemp and cannabis industries would only bring more trouble to farmworker life. Hemp and cannabis are different legally; although they’re the same plant, they contain different levels of THC. 

To add salt to the wound, this past July, two cannabis producers that share a property in Half Moon Bay were robbed: Half Moon Grow and Dark Heart. This case involved an armed robbery with shots fired, but luckily, no one was hurt. This incident caused outrage and concern in the local Latinx community and seemed to further confirm for many that cannabis was no good. I reached out to one of the farm owners to learn more about what happened and asked for an opportunity to speak with the farmworkers to get their opinions. He welcomed me with open arms. 

I was immediately impressed by the transparency and friendliness of one of the owners. It’s not common to meet young farmers anymore. He provided a tour of the operation and answered all my questions about paying taxes, environmental impact, safety, labor, etc. Having a degree in agriculture and rural development, as a former FFA member and as a former employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, I have seen many farms in my lifetime. Half Moon Grow is truly an example to follow regarding production, labor conditions, housing and stewardship. One farmworker told me, “this is the best farm in the whole region.” 

At Half Moon Grow, the farmworkers shared that compensation is higher than any other farm in the county, around $20/hour — which is considered extremely low income by county standards. They provide full-time employees with health care coverage, paid sick leave and some receive housing benefits. Of course, this is made possible by a high-value crop, and cannabis can go for $800 to $1,400/pound. To compare, corn is about $150/bushel, and one bushel is 56 pounds. That means that corn is about $2.67/pound. However, cannabis’ regulations are the strictest in the agriculture industry, which skyrockets costs that a traditional crop does not face — it comes down to margins. 

The county’s ag industry has been steadily declining and is losing jobs, tax revenue and a way of life for our costeños (from the coast). As an advocate for agriculture, I’m concerned that we’ll no longer have farmworkers and their families living here in a matter of years. Yes, we can probably retrain many farmworkers to enter other industries, but it’s not that easy, with education and language barriers often being an issue. I’m also concerned that some communities are not being heard, but based on my experience at Half Moon Grow, I hope they can find a middle ground and share the fruits of a thriving business.  

Cannabis is here to stay, and being “frenemies” is a better option than antagonizing an industry that isn’t leaving. Cannabis may be the ag industry’s Hail Mary. 

Rudy Espinoza Murray is a resident of Redwood City, husband and father. He has a degree from Cornell University in agriculture and rural development, is passionate about the ag industry, and is the director of marketing for a national pro-housing nonprofit.

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(25) comments

Tommy Tee

Wilfred--relax, bro. Perhaps you need some cannabis to mellow you out. After all, it is legal in CA.

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

My golf name is Chill Will. I don't need intoxicants to have a glad heart. I don't begrudge those that do.[wink]

rudytudi

Maybe Half Moon Grow should give these trolls some free samples. They take themselves way too seriously. 😂 I love their commitment to commenting on my pieces. Maybe it’s because they’re not used to brown, gay men voicing their opinion. 😂

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Rudy,

Who you love is of no interest to me. I will wager I am a shade or two darker brown than you. So why not refute our comments rather than use the weak ad-hominems.

Dirk van Ulden

Wilfred - that is all Rudy's got. Reverts to silly answers and hides behind his sexual orientation, as if we care. I would venture that Cornell has graduated more interesting and educated folks than Rudy so he proves that there are always exceptions to the rule.

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Hi Dirk,

I would agree that acquiring knowledge is not the same as knowing how to use it. Putting to use for the benefit of others, for me, is the ultimate.

rudytudi

Hide? I'm literally writing to the public. I think y'all should really think about what you write before clicking "post comment." The cognitive-dissonance volume is turned up real high.

Terence Y

Oh dear, I’m afraid we’ve offended Rudy’s sensibilities. Sounds like he needs some free samples as he seems to be taking himself way too seriously. However, you have to love his commitment to responding to our comments. Maybe he’s not used to readers (sorry, trolls, according to Rudy) voicing a differing opinion.

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Rudy,

You know that there will always be people working their way up the socioeconomic ladder. Until grunt labor is replaced by a marketable skill, yours is but a fanciful "pipe dream". ROTFLMAO

Tommy Tee

Dirk--"illegal substances."

In case you just did a Rip Van Winkle, it's legal in CA.

Dirk van Ulden

Federally illegal and why would we want to encourage more gateway drug use? Also, since when do we have to create work for immigrants? Shouldn't they move to a place where there is work for them? Isn't that what we have doing for a few centuries? I am an immigrant myself, moved around for work and did not expect the Rudy's of the world to come knocking on my door with a job offer.

rudytudi

😂😂😂

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Tommy Tee,

In our country, the Supreme Court claims Federal law trumps State law. Until the Feds decriminalize or legalize pot, it is an illegal substance in the U.S.A. SMH

Tommy Tee

It is not in CA--wake up, Wilfred! SMH is right!

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Tommy,

Don't be a dolt, California is part of the U.S.A. Do you need an explanation of how that happened?

Terence Y

Wilfred, you may have to excuse Tommy today – perhaps he’s still looking up the definition of equity.

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Terence,

Let's hope he finds it soon. [smile]

wlydecker

"Hail Mary" used in both headline and story. Don't Catholics find this use offensive? Seems today everybody finds anything offensive.

Dirk van Ulden

I find Rudy's racist comments far more offensive. But, what would you expect from someone who would encourage the production of illegal substances only to support the immigrant community. Isn't that how the Mexican cartels justify their existence?

rudytudi

Oh Dirk, you're the funniest troll on this site... Would love to hear how I can be "racist" against my own community - do some verbal origami there!

Terence Y

Actually, Mr. Murray, as for how you can be “racist” against your own community, maybe a perfect example is Erika D. Smith, a black columnist from the LA Times, who called Larry Elder the Black face of white supremacy. Many folks find the use of the term Latinx to be offensive and racist. Maybe a scientific poll from your own community?

rudytudi

Latinx = racist? the term has nothing to do with race. 🤦🏽 Try again.

Terence Y

Rudy, one person does not a scientific poll make. Please try again with a more representative sample.

Tafhdyd

Terence,

Looks like the pot calling the kettle black to me. You say one person does not a scientific poll make, yet you quote one study or one source that agrees with your "masks don't work" malarkey when dozens of others say they do. BTW, how are you doing with your bamboo fibers?

Terence Y

Well Taffy, if there was only one source, I guess your Democrat idols, Newsom, Pelosi, and Obama, to name just a few, must have read and agreed with that same source since they’ve been prancing around sans masks. BTW, since you’re still unable to come up with a bumbling Biden accomplishment, let me help you out… Did you see treasonous Biden taking a knee in Pennsylvania to pledge his fealty to the Taliban? After all, he’s already given the Taliban aid and comfort.

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