When I was in high school in Southern California, we heard of Humboldt County as the Mecca of cannabis production in the United States … whispered rumors of weed that was far superior to the seedy stuff that came across from Mexico. That was it, for me, for quite a while.
In the early 2000s, Tish and I moved here. Cannabis production had nothing directly to do with our move although, as I thought about it later, the cool properties of the community that we found attractive probably had some roots and funding in the cannabis world.
Time passed, and I was serving on Eureka’s Economic Development Commission. Eureka was just thinking through the role cannabis might play, and that residents would want it to play, as we planned for the city’s future. As this was happening, I worked for Sequoia Personnel Services, a local personnel agency; we were also finding our way in how we might serve this industry as it came into the light. Sequoia performed some human resources consulting and hiring services. I spent days at cannabis events, talking with people and occasionally speaking on panels on things like how HR regulations worked, what makes for an employee versus a contractor, and how often labor law changes.
During this period, Papa & Barkley, a startup cannabis company, became one of our/my clients. There were probably fewer than 20 employees company-wide at that time. I got a chance to see the trajectory of the company. People I respected went to work for them. I saw how the company treated the people we sent to them.
The Eureka business community was far from united on whether this was a good thing. There were discussions about whether cannabis companies would be allowed to join the Eureka Chamber of Commerce. (Arcata’s chamber had long since welcomed cannabis companies. Donna Wright changed the conversation at the Eureka Chamber when she arrived as CEO.)
Somewhere in there, Papa & Barkley offered me a job managing government relations and compliance stuff. Given what I knew of the company, it was easy to say “yes.” Some people were aghast. A few more wondered why I would leave a good thing (candidly, a fair point). The great majority, however, were supportive.
Eureka seemed to be changing, and in a direction I liked.
Another year passed. Now, Papa & Barkley has about 100 employees in Humboldt, and another 100 in the rest of the country. We’ve earned remarkable penetration in California’s licensed dispensaries while, nationally, our CBD line is gaining attention.
A little over a week ago, at the Eureka Chamber’s annual dinner, what was recently unthinkable happened. Not only is Papa & Barkley a member of the Eureka Chamber of Commerce, and not only are two cannabis businesses represented on the Eureka Chamber Board, but Papa & Barkley won an award voted by the membership: 2019 Extraordinary Business of the Year. (We also have been nominated for the New Chamber Member award in Arcata.)
Cannabis has arrived at the awards dinner. It was a proud moment for Papa & Barkley, of course. We’re used to winning product awards; to win a business award in what we consider to be our adopted hometown is an honor. We are grateful for the community embracing our company and our mission to unlock the power of cannabis to improve lives.
You can view the Eureka Chamber award video here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=187222672393121&external_log_id=8a74c72e79abe1c13a58ae99940bda6d&q=papa%20%26%20barkley.
Michael Kraft lives on Humboldt Hill with his wife Tish and three whippet dogs.