Story By: Marty and Laura Clein
Editor: Jude Thilman
A Journey Begins With Healing
Nestled in the hills above Round Valley in Mendocino County, California, Martyjuana™ is a 27-acre farm devoted to sun-grown, high-quality cannabis. Martyjuana™ founder, Marty Clein, began his journey to legal cannabis from a desire to secure natural, effective medicine for his wife, Laura. They were motivated not only by their own personal health challenges but also by their experiences with the negative impact of prohibition on their lives.
In the late 1990s, Laura became disabled due to cascading health issues: beginning with EBV/mono, which developed into pneumonia; then suffering a dislocated tailbone, resulting in chronic pain; followed by an ongoing series of health conditions that have lasted for 24 years, including fibromyalgia, ME/CFS, endometriosis, IBS, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, MCAS, dysautonomia, ankylosing spondylitis, a hypersensitive immune system, and various neuropathies. The years of pain medications prescribed for her just made her sicker.
Marty also suffered from pain due to an old sports injury, and he shared Laura’s belief that there is a better, more natural treatment for pain and ill-health. They both were living in Florida, and Marty had been working at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens in Miami and was a longtime cannabis fan. An early experience of discrimination unfairly disrupted his life. 1986, Marty was arrested at the age of 14 for having marijuana in his school locker. After court-mandated rehab, he “cleaned up his act” and became a star football player, state champion wrestler, and president of his high school in 12th grade. He then excelled at Wentworth Military Academy and planned for a future military career. After a few years, he was up for a promotion to work with horses in the Army. The job required top clearance, and when his background check turned up the 9th-grade pot bust, he not only did not get the job but he was honorably discharged from the military. This experience shaped the values that he lives by to this day, applying the same determination, discipline, diligence, and duty toward his cannabis business as well as he does to all his endeavors.
After California passed Proposition 215 and legalized medical cannabis, Laura and Marty moved across the country and became legal cannabis patients. They landed in Sonoma County, where, for ten years, they cultivated for themselves and other medical patients to the legal limit of 99 plants per patient. While growing their medicine, Marty always had a diverse resume, including a decade in the wine industry, from working seasonally at Benziger Family Winery to Tasting Room Manager at a wine co-op in Sonoma Valley, CA. They were designated legal caregivers for medical marijuana patients so they could cultivate additional plants with patient/doctor recommendations. As Laura puts it, “Cannabis has been an industry of patients caring for patients for over 25 years. …
I continue to rely on this organic sun-grown plant medicine every day. It’s clear that it has quite literally saved my life a million times.”
Growing Pure and Potent Medicines
By growing their own cannabis, Marty and Laura could be sure that there were only organic amendments and sunshine added to pure, clean soil. They plant their seeds in spring on and around the new moon. They harvest their flowers in autumn on and around the full moon. The Martyjuana™ tag line is “Plants by the Moon with Sun, Soil & Soul!”
Sustainable. Regenerative. Organic.
Marty and Laura do not focus on one certification but work toward sustainability in every way possible. They also appreciate 3rd party verifications, like “Non-GMO verified” labeling on foods, and they recognize their value to consumers. They are in the process of obtaining Sun & Earth as well as OCAL certifications. As Marty describes, “We are attuned to the sun and moon cycles with our biodynamic focus; we love the permaculture model of seeing the entire farm as one working system, using only organic amendments, planting fruits, flowers, and veggies as insectaries so that the good bugs can fight the bad bugs. Our packaging says, “GMO-free, PESTICIDE free, WORRY free.”
Laura makes her own extracts for personal use, using organic oils or spirits because cannabis is alcohol and fat-soluble. They always test their products, because they are competing with an indoor market and believe it is important to prove that their outdoor cannabis has a high value and is not only clean of contaminants but contains a large percentage of cannabinoids and terpenes. As Marty states, “We have always tested our medicines at labs like Steep Hill or SC Labs. Long before it was required, we wanted to know what was in it. To keep it clean and green is always our goal.”
Hurdles They Faced
Marty and Laura moved to Mendocino County in 2013 and became part of the County’s legal 9.31 zip tie program, which charged the County Sheriff with monitoring all medical cannabis growers. But the political climate soon changed. And while they did not vote for Proposition 64 in 2016, which legalized recreational as well as medicinal use statewide, the Cleins chose to step into the light of the regulated market. They always maintained all of the necessary paperwork to be as legal as possible in every way, including by hiring multiple consultants, land use experts, engineers, lawyers, and others to navigate the complex local and state permitting/licensing systems. They were rewarded with obstacles and onerous expenses.
First, the County zoned them out cultivating on their place near Willits, so they set up a new farm in Covelo to cultivate medical cannabis. They were able to obtain an annual County permit which they’ve held since 2017. However, due to changes in the ordinance, they are still waiting for certain application and CEQA approvals, which are needed to obtain an annual state license to replace their current provisional state license.
Marty’s and Laura’s medical cannabis history and experience were impacted by unfair County regulations. They applied to become a permitted and licensed farm in 2017 in spite of the County’s requirement that all cannabis cultivation be 10,000 sf or less.
Laura’s doctor’s recommendations for her medical cannabis stated that because she was using cannabis through so many delivery systems, such as tinctures, salves, and others, she required a larger amount of raw plant material than the regulations permitted for patients.
Overall, the burdens of excessive and expensive regulations and requirements have had a negative impact on Laura and Marty’s lives, as well as on the cannabis that they cultivate. Because of the restricted amount the County will allow them to grow, they have had to partner with another party. Laura describes what this has meant for the craft that they so cherish:
“Until now, [cannabis] was part of our backyard garden. But our farm is now an hour away from home. Marty is my full-time caregiver, and traveling regularly so far to the farm for work puts much greater burdens on both of us. We still grow with our same eco-conscious standards. When the medical cannabis we grew was in our garden, we were able to work with it in a specialty, artisanal quality, boutique, craft farm style. Our way has always been to keep it small scale and at home so we can tend it daily with the rest of our biodynamic and organically grown veggies and herbal medicines.”
Dealing with the Hurdles Through Community
Marty & Laura have known each other since childhood. They are old family friends, taught early on to always advocate for their own needs as well as on behalf of others in need. They extend this practice to the earth itself, to their community, and to the plant medicine they provide. One of the best feelings they have had since 2018 was in donating products to those who need it most through cannabis compassion programs, like Sweetleaf Joe’s, in many dispensaries throughout the state.
“We have since day one wanted to be part of the cannabis community more than the cannabis industry. Herbal medicine as compassion is at the heart of our ethos; Marty grows for Laura and himself. Growing up in the Reform Jewish Movement, there was a big emphasis on Social Justice called Tikkun Olam, which means ‘Repair the World.’ We want to share what we love and what we have found works with as many people as possible.”
Marty and Laura have always been community-minded. From the time they grew their first pound, they took half of it to a local collective, knowing they wouldn’t make a lot of money, but they simply wanted to be a part of the community! Now they, along with many of their friends and neighbors, had an even bigger reason to get involved. They were fighting for their very existence.
As Marty puts it, “It has been expensive and arduous. I could see that there was much confusion at the local level as well as the state with regard to cannabis policy. So I began to go to meetings.”
Marty showed up to many, many Board of Supervisor meetings, while Laura wrote letters to their representatives and watched it all online.
Marty and Laura participate in their County-wide trade association, the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance, and their local advocacy organization, Covelo Cannabis Advocacy Group. They also support Origins Council and NORML. They are involved with the Mendocino Producers Guild, which is hosting four cannabis farmer’s markets this spring and summer, where Martyjuana™ will be featured among all the other small farms’ cannabis.
for details and dates.)
Like many small cannabis farmers in northern California, individual cultivators have sought creative ways to share resources with their community and survive these difficult times. Marty is a founding member and sat on the board of the RVCC / Round Valley Cannabis Cooperative, which is a dedicated group of cultivators working together toward shared goals. The RVCC has evolved through a very slow-moving process, impeded by complications inherent in the state legislative language written specifically for cannabis co-ops. These severe restrictions don’t exist for general agricultural co-ops but are imposed on cannabis farmers, largely as a residue of the Prohibition mentality.
Things have changed so much since adult-use legalization and the Martyjuana™ business model has had to change as well. Marty and Laura believe that direct access between cultivator and consumer could be the savior of the small farm culture. The Martyjuana™ Garden is a Featured Farm in the recently published final edition of Ed Rosenthal books, The Cannabis Handbook. Their cannabis flowers are in a handful of dispensaries in Northern California as well as the rest of the state and benefit from collaborations with Fully Melted Hash and Rove vape cartridges.
Martyjuana™ can be found through the Producers Guild at https://mendocinoproducersguild.org/martyjuana/ Also, go there to learn about Marty’s demos, called “Marty parties” that he will hold at the Mendocino Producers Guild Farmers Markets. There are four scheduled for Spring/Summer 2022. And Martyjuana™ will be a part of the upcoming Kure Invitational Box set, coming soon.
Marty Clein is a longtime cannabis consumer, a seed breeder, and top-notch plant cultivator. He will serve as an Ambassador for the 2022 California State Fair’s first-ever Cannabis Competition. Marty has always been an entrepreneur, owning various small businesses. While it seems like a natural step, nothing could have prepared him for the chaos of California’s cannabis industry.
Laura Clein worked as a recreational therapist in retirement communities and an event coordinator on college campuses. She was in graduate school for an MSW at the University of Southern California and wrote a paper for a Social Policy class on medical marijuana in 1996. Although she lives with chronic pain and illness and has for 24 years, she helps with the back end of the business as much as she can. She has trimmed and processed in the past and writes many articles, and manages their social media.
Editor: Jude Thilman serves as Co-Chair of MCA and is owner of Dragonfly Wellness Center, a medically-focused dispensary on the Mendocino Coast, between Fort Bragg and Mendocino Village.
What’s so Special about Mendocino cannabis, culture, and community? As the premier trade association in our county, the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance is devoted to serving our world-renowned cannabis cultivators and businesses through sustainable economic development, education and public policy advocacy. MCA promotes the Special. Watch this space….