Oliver Bates is the president of the Big Sur Farmers Association and a thirty-year veteran of the cannabis industry. A native of California's Central Coast, Bates began growing cannabis in the secluded mountains of Big Sur where he applied the methods passed down from elder farmers in the community. With the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996, which legalized medical cannabis in California, he became one of Monterey County's earliest open cultivators. The medical boom of the next two decades would see him involved in growing operations in the Emerald Triangle (namely Mendocino and Humboldt counties), Oregon, Colorado, and Santa Cruz. In 2012, Bates returned to Big Sur with the aim of growing organic, legacy strains of cannabis. With the passage of Proposition 64, which legalized cannabis for recreation in California, he helped found the Big Sur Famers Association, a mutual benefit non-profit that works to support, protect, and advance the rights of cannabis cultivators in the region. In this interview, Bates discusses growing up in Carmel and Big Sur; the history and culture of cannabis in the region; the hippie trail and importation of cannabis seeds into Big Sur; the development of strains such as Big Sur Holy Weed, Big Sur Chamba, and SAGE, among others; the family networks connecting Big Sur and Northern Mendocino and Southern Humboldt counties; the impact of the War on Drugs; early experience growing cannabis; opportunities of the medical cannabis market; growing in Big Sur and Northern Mendocino/Southern Humboldt; working at Spyrock community; shifts and consumer impact of the medical market; stepping into indoor hydroponic cultivation; growing in Oregon and Colorado; coming back to California and opening his operation in Santa Cruz; further development of strains and THC products in medical market; coming back to Big Sur and returning to a natural, low-impact cultivation; his hopes and anxieties around full legalization; the passage of Proposition 64; forming the Big Sur Farmers Association; and his reflections on the evolution of cannabis culture in Big Sur.




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