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The Trimmer Trade

The marijuana industry depends on bud groomers. What do the workers get out of the deal?



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Casey worked as trimmer but got out of it 14 years ago.

"I think I was one of the only people in the business who did not smoke pot," she says, as she opens a packet of Stevia and pours it into her latte. "It just wasn't my thing."

She works "full-time-ish" in the restaurant business, but at one time, she worked Monday through Friday as a trimmer for a major grower and dealer in Marin County.

"I actually got the job through my mother," Casey says. "My parents were in the pot business as long as I can remember. My dad was a dealer back in the day, the '70s–'80s. He got out of it in the early '90s and gave it over to my mother. She knew 'Alex' from the business, and he told her that he needed trimmers. I needed a job at the time, so I started trimming."

Lisa makes a quick exit through the restaurant doors en route to her car. "Oh, man, I'm so fucking glad that is over," she yells. After what turned out to be a busy night, Lisa is ready to go home. She opens the car door and sinks into the driver seat with a deep exhale.

Lisa is young and pretty, in spite of her years as a methamphetamine user. She's been clean from meth for more than four years, but still indulges in a little weed or "wax pen" or "dab," a distillation of marijuana's active ingredients. Tonight, she goes for the weed. She packs a small pipe with bud and lights up. Lisa is from California's Central Valley and has been trimming pot since she was 16.

ON THE JOB Trimming is labor-intensive work not without hazards like fatigue and respiratory problems—and sticky fingers.
  • ON THE JOB Trimming is labor-intensive work not without hazards like fatigue and respiratory problems—and sticky fingers.

"It started when I lived in Laytonville (Mendocino County)," she says. Lisa and her friends "trimmed weed for lunch, free weed and pocket change." Now 27, she is married and the mother of a six-year-old special-needs child. She trims to supplement her living.

Lisa insists she is not a tragic figure, stuck in the cog that perpetuates welfare and government assistance. She's worked at the restaurant "for over two years," she says, "but as you know, it doesn't totally pay the bills. Quite a few people, almost everyone I know, is involved somehow [in the trimming business]."

Lisa remains tight-lipped about the people she works with. "Everyone is very secretive," she says. "They don't like anyone new coming into the circle. I just go in and do my job, then come home."

Eva is a 20-year veteran of the trimming business and, like Lisa, began her stint in Laytonville.

"I started doing it sporadically about 1990 when my last child was in high school. I was working for a friend who taught me how. I would get $15 and hour, but then a couple of years later, I learned to trim faster and started making more money."

The sunlight in Curtis' trimming room begins to fade and the chill of evening sets in. Curtis turns on a light to illuminate Eva's work area. Because Curtis' makeshift surroundings lack central air and heating, Eva places a sweater over her shoulders. She has been working for seven hours.

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