By Shoshana Walter.
In the Emerald Triangle, trees are ever present. They peek over small towns and dip into valleys, sheathing this cluster of remote Northern California counties in silence.
For decades, the ancient forests here have provided cover for the nation’s largest marijuana-growing industry, shielding pot farmers from convention, outsiders and law enforcement.
But the forests also hide secrets, among them young women with stories of sexual abuse and exploitation. Some have spoken out; a handful have pressed charges. Most have confided only in private.
Students from the nearest college, Humboldt State University, return from a summer of trimming marijuana buds with tales of being forced to give their boss a blow job to get paid. Other “trimmigrants,” who typically work during the June-to-November harvest, recount offers of higher wages to trim topless.
During one harvest season, two growers began having sex with their teenage trimmer. When they feared she would run away, they locked her inside an oversized toolbox with breathing holes.