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Take a California road trip into the heart of the Emerald Triangle, where marijuana is grown in lush and pungent abundance, where it is the number-one cash crop, and where it is often the mainstay of the local rural economy.

The California Green Rush has taken root as the culture formerly known as the counter culture comes of age and is seen by many as a growing solution rather than a growing problem.

The original Emerald Triangle counties of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity have expanded southward and east throughout California. In many areas, marijuana has replaced the once thriving timber and fishing industries.

Time Magazine noted in 2009 that “Pot is, after all, California’s biggest cash crop, responsible for $14 billion a year, in sales, dwarfing the state’s second largest agricultural commodity – milk and cream – which brings in 47.3 billion a year …”  In 2006, marijuana policy researcher Jon Gettman concluded that “marijuana has become a pervasive and ineradicable part of the American economy,” generating $35.8 billion dollars in business, making it the number one cash crop in 12 states and in the top three in 30 states.

After passing prop 215 in 1996, California’s breakthrough medical marijuana law, there are now similar statutes in 14 states, with decriminalization in others.  On November 2, 2010, Californians will take a further step, voting on Proposition 19, the ballot initiative to legalize marijuana and allow the cash-strapped state of California to tax and regulate its sale. Fourteen other states have similar proposals up for a vote. Yet, as director Adam Ross discovered, there is a lot more to the business of marijuana than just money.

Cash Crop” follows the historic Spanish Camino Real up the California coast to the heart of the Emerald Triangle in an epic West Coast adventure to the heart of the American Dream. This endless summer of weed portrays unique and colorful characters; from people living off the land, hoping to keep the mom and pop spirit of their farming operations to a Mendocino County sheriff, tired of spending 30 percent of his time enforcing marijuana laws, who says “Let’s move on.” As plainly stated by a County Supervisor: “The fact of the matter is, Americans like their marijuana.”

“We began filming ‘Cash Crop’ in the summer of 2007. We tried to stay off the radar and our hope was to approach the subject without an  agenda. We discovered that there were lots of tales to be told. I consciously set out not to make an advocacy film or a tedious didactic talking heads polemic. My interest has been to humanize these issues through the characters and their stories. I have let the characters speak their truth and take the viewer on a beautiful experiential road  trip,” Ross explains.

“Cash Crop’s” California road trip begins at the Mexican border, traverses through San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Francisco and lingers in the counties of Sonoma, Butte, Lake, Mendocino, and Humboldt, exploring not just Californian but American culture. In fact, Ross says he was struck by how “quintessentially American these people, their stories and the issues are.”

The heart of ‘Cash Crop’ focuses on issues from states’ rights to entrepreneurialism, self- government, freedom of choice, immigration, Mexican drug cartels, environmentalism and greed,” Ross says.

As one Santa Cruz activist explains, “The story we are talking about is not about marijuana. It smells like marijuana, it looks like marijuana but it is really not; it’s about civil liberty.”

“‘Cash Crop’ presents a microcosm of issues facing the nation,” Ross continues. “For instance, as California has produced its own crop of marijuana, it has alleviated much of the need for imported Mexican cannabis and the violence and drug cartels that come with that. In terms of medical marijuana, it begs the question of what is medicine exactly and who decides this?  Pharmaceutical corporations, insurance corporations, or individuals with their caregivers? Sustainability has been central to areas in Northern California that have been exploited and ravaged by logging, fishing, government contracted chromium plating plants, and water use issues. The Emerald Triangle is the heart of the back to the land movement. Mendocino was the first county in the U.S. to ban genetically altered crops and animals and has our first organic winery and organic brew pub.  So all these things are related to marijuana in California but they are also issues that, it seems to me, everyone can relate to on some level.”

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