Oakland has homeless camps like Paris has restaurants.
Now, one's sprung up with a new feature, one that takes legal-ish marijuana to new highs.
Out in the open, in a vacant lot in West Oakland, a handful of dudes planted three dozen weed plants last May.
Now the flowers are bushy and fragrant, popping out of trash bins, a mini-forest in the middle of a city, set for harvest around October. The "holy grail," and a "field of beauty," the dudes called it.
Social media noticed. Neighbors complained. Soon, the city of Oakland sent the cops.
And, after looking into it, Oakland cops did a remarkable thing: walked away from the rogue grow, turning a blind eye.
So the mini-farm is still out there, flowering, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Each man claims six plants as their own. California law says adults can grow six plants "in a secured area." The men fenced in their treasure with wood panels they found in a dumpster.
The middle-of-the-city outdoor pot camp is like a mash-up of two of California's biggest issues: homelessness and cannabis. As thousands of ganjapreneurs stuff their pockets with green rush money, so their is misery on the other ends of the spectrum, and the homeless population grows.
The promise of legal pot was that it would solve many problems: jail overcrowding, school funding, addiction. And it has, in fact, helped. Legal states have saved hundreds of millions of dollars by not busting pot users, and, by the same toke, raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.
But the promise of weed work and freedom to smoke also brought in a bunch of poor people to places like Colorado, compounding problems. When many didn't find legit jobs in weed, they started buying weed from dispensaries or growing it in apartments and shipping it home, an underground pot road.
So now this Oakland field of weed is logical end point: homeless outdoor grows.
But there's one more twist here. Online chatter is that homeless weed grows could solve a problem, rather than be one.
After all, community gardens help struggling folks, at the very least, have something to do. The Denver Urban Gardens, for one, is a space for folks experiencing homelessness to grow vegetables and fruits to share in their local shelters. Gardening, too, is like outdoor therapy. In the book Lost Connections, Johann Hari tells the true story of a bunch of addicts in Britain who transmogrify a place called Dog Shit Alley into a sweet garden park. They found that meaningful work — sprouting seeds into fruiting plants, pulling weeds and trimming leaves — gave scraggly lives purpose, and hope.
Well, why not switch out those fruits for flowers — marijuana flowers? No other crop pays as well per plant.
Of course, permits and all, and taxes, and regulation. The men at the Oakland outdoor grow don't much care. They claim their ganja is just for them — they smoke a grip of weed morning, noon and night. But they will trade their weed for food, beer or cigarettes.
Sounds as much like a solution as a problem to us.