Brooklynn Willet, Emerald Employment

Hello, my name is Brooklynn willett. I am the owner of Emerald Employment and Lagniappe Family Farms. I am a cannabis cultivator, business owner, a farm labor contractor, and a mother. I have been involved with cannabis since 1998 and I have lived in Humboldt since 2005.

As an employer and a farmer I feel a huge responsibility to the people that I have been working with, both on the employee side and the farmer side. I do everything in my power to advocate for their rights on both sides.

In the post-legalization era, farmers and employees have entered a new paradigm of safety and respect. Farm labor contractors like Emerald Employment ensure that the workers and farmers are paired for success. We visit every farm to ensure all labor laws are honored including OSHA safety, sexual harassment avoidance trainings, and that farms carry workman’s comp insurance. Over the past several years, our local industry has met and exceeded the expectations of California employee law.

But I stand before you today, to tell you that Humboldt County’s legal cannabis industry, as we know it, is in peril. Because of over-regulation and taxation, many of the businesses that I work with are on the verge of insolvency. There are nearly 1,000 independent, locally owned cannabis businesses, which employ upwards of 5,000+ people. If our local businesses go under, what happens to all of the people who work on our farms? We’ve seen what happened when our timber and fishing industries went under; many people turned to cannabis to support their families. Can Humboldt afford to lose yet another industry?

Today, we are standing here, asking our elected Board of Supervisors to throw cannabis a life line. Suspending Measure S taxes will keep money with the farmers to be able to start the 2022 growing season. Growing quality cannabis is labor intensive and farms need cash in hand to be able to pay their workers to care for the plants through harvest and trimming. Because of the market crash, farmers simply do not have the funds to be able to do both, pay county cultivation taxes, and their employees.

What happens if the Supervisors do not Suspend Measure S? It is likely that we will see upwards of 50% of our local cannabis businesses fail. There may be a temporary vacuum created and the hills get quieter, but it will not likely be long before outside interests take note, seeking to exploit the Humboldt County reputation for their own financial interests.

For the employee aspect, I am concerned that as outside corporations come in, the quality of the work environment will go down. Instead of participating in a meaningful relationship, the workers become a number. One reason our employees want to work for farms in Humboldt is because they have the opportunity to learn from real people, legacy operators.

But our legacy operators are going bankrupt. Morale is at an all time low. For many cultivators, farming cannabis is all they know. Some try their hand as consultants or as employees, but it is difficult knowing how much they’ve lost, including their life savings, hopes, and dreams.

Humboldt County, we do not need to keep heading down this path. Supervisors, you have the power given to you by the voters to Suspend Measure S. We need you to act now, to ensure that legal cannabis farms are able to operate and provide jobs in the future.