What Are "Trimmigrants" And Why Are They Flooding Northern California?

By McCarton Ackerman 11/30/15

People from all over the world are flocking to NoCal, but some residents are not welcoming their presence.

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An influx of world travelers are flocking to Northern California this fall to take on marijuana-trimming jobs, but their presence in the region is being met with a mixed reaction, according to the Mercury News.

The annual boost of migrant marijuana workers, commonly referred to as “trimmigrants,” isn’t a new phenomenon in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, but the numbers this year are bigger than ever before. The traditional fall cannabis harvest season, which runs roughly from mid-September through the end of November, allows trimmers to earn as much as $400 per day. They wind up playing a major role in getting California's pot crops, worth about $15 billion annually, into the hands of local businesses.

But the surge in people looking for marijuana trimming work is now creating problems in the area. Many people who landed jobs trimming for several seasons were unable to find work this fall, leading them to become stranded in small towns throughout Mendocino and Humboldt counties. They often turn to panhandling or frequenting food banks that were intended for locals.

Although growers typically provide workers housing or a place to camp during the season, these trimmigrants often go on to camp illegally afterwards in parks, alleyways, or along railroad tracks. Many of those coming from abroad also lack papers to legally work in the country.

"I have to figure out how to get enough money to get gas to get back to Canada,” said Eugene, 28, who hails from France and is now stranded in the town of Willits after being unable to find trimming work. "I don't encourage people to come here for that (trimming pot). There's too many people.”

Local residents also have mixed opinions on the flux of trimmigrants. Humboldt County Sheriff's Sgt. Jesse Taylor said she now carries a Taser at all times after being threatened and physically assaulted by trimmigrants, some of whom she believes were on drugs.

Although it’s estimated that trimmigrants spend about $1,000 each during their time in Northern California, that boost to the economy is often balanced out by an extra need for social and police services.

"It's really a kind of fascinating phenomenon," said Willits City Councilwoman Holly Madrigal. "[But] economically, I think it’s going to be a wash.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.