Trimmers get paid by the pound
Trimmers are generally paid by the pound of trimmed flowers. While the rate changes year-to-year depending on how much the seller can get from a dispensary, the 2016 standard is around $150 per pound in Humboldt and Mendocino counties. A fast trimmer can get through about a pound per day, working eight hours. Some trimmers report working from August until Christmas, making $3,000 per week, but depending on how much weed is grown, the annual haul varies.
Growing and curing methods ultimately determine how quickly a trimmer can get through a stock. Outdoor, sun-grown weed can have really airy buds that may take a long time to trim, Johnson noted. Cannabis is not nearly the cash crop that it once was, though. According to Lastreto, weed was sold by growers for $4,000 a pound in the ‘90s, and the trimmers made more as a result. A report from 2015 stated trimmers used to earn closer to $300-$500/lb.
Still, some trimmers report making an entire year’s income from working a single harvest -- which might be enough to motivate a young person to follow a stranger into California’s backwoods.
Trimming isn’t all fun, games, and getting high
According to the 352 missing persons Humboldt County reported last year alone, trimming in the Emerald Triangle isn’t exactly the stoner summer camp young artists and wanderers might expect.
While the increase in the number of legal operations and greater regulations (cultivation is legal in both Humboldt and Mendocino counties) have made trimming a safer endeavor, there’s still a strong undercurrent of crime and an air of secrecy still pervades. Trimmers might not fear getting busted by the cops anymore if they’re working for a legal operations, but home invasions by thieves are not uncommon at large operations.
And then there’s the sexual harassment that runs the gamut from “creepy” to criminal. The CIIS recently reported on the rampant sexual abuse endured by female trimmers every year who rarely receive legal recourse. And though Johnson had mostly positive experiences at the many farms she worked at, she recalled male-dominated business practices that would even make the men of Mad Men cringe.
“I can admit to finding a grower who seemed nice then he took me into the trim room and there were girls there (one of which who could not have been older than 14) were all trimming shirtless in their bras. I walked right back out again and didn't look back,” she said.
Extreme caution and self-reliance is required of all trimmers, especially women, as they wait for legalization to usher in greater protections for cannabis workers and consumers alike. Alternet also reported dangerous trimming conditions, including foreign trimmers who had their passports stolen, and “growers not paying them and throwing them off the farm.”
But even the most on-the-up sellers aren’t exactly offering a cushy job. Many trimmers work hunched 10-12 hours per day, sleep outside, and are in remote areas cut off from most amenities, like cell service, and isolated for months at a time. The same Alternet article reported that regular trimmers’ (those who trim for multiple harvests) hands can get calloused and crippled, and there is also a higher incidence of carpal tunnel.
Ganja Ma Gardens farm, by contrast, houses their medical-card carrying employees in what Lastreto calls "fancy tents" -- 12x15 spaces furnished with carpets, raised beds, and lights. When it gets cold, trimmers can move into a guest dorm room.
These legally operating farms are under stricter and stricter regulations: Lastreto files W-2s for trimmers, must disinfect the trim areas daily, and has installed gates to keep animals out of the trim room. Aside from the hair nets now required by law, Lastreto describes trimming as glamping or a WWOOF-like experience, complete with all-you-can-eat fresh, organic food and sacred statues meant to protect the farm.