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January is the month for beginnings. We are expected to leave the past to molder and go forth to new adventures.

It was with this in mind that I read the headline — big headline, lead story — in the New Year’s Day newspaper: “Legalized pot poised to transform region.”

While “poise” is not a word I would normally associate with pot, so be it. The region is about to be transformed. Again.

I suppose, along with our northern neighbors, we will become Pot Country, just as we share the Wine Country label with Napa and Mendocino.

Some of us aren’t sure what to think about this.

Those who look back seeking answers have ceased comparisons to Prohibition since cannabis has long outstripped bootleg liquor as a disruptive part of the economy.

The other three crops that have had their own time in the spotlight and earned their capital letters would be Gravenstein Country, The World’s Egg Basket and The Buckle of the Prune Belt.

When you think of how many identifying slogans have come and gone through the 195 years of recorded North Bay history, the mind boggles.

Each of these eras, ages, phases, for lack of a more socially scientific term, has a beginning. Everything has a beginning.

Where and when these money crops got started would seem to be a matter of historical record, often pointing back to a single individual (which is probably too easy, but we persist). Agoston Haraszthy, the enterprising Hungarian nobleman wasn’t the first to plant grapes, but he gets the credit because, in the 1860s, he persuaded the state of California to pay for his trip to Europe to bring back cuttings of varietal vines.

They flourished and wine grapes survived Prohibition, the Depression and war to earn the capital letters on Wine Country.

Amasa Bushnell came here in 1858 from the East Coast with, of all things, hop plants. Pioneer farmers were trying all sorts of things in this new land. Bushnell and his partner, Otis Allen, speculated that these exotics, grown in a few special places around the world, might do well in the alluvial soil along our streams. They planted some trial vines, and, for the next 100 years, Sonoma County was the go-to place for America’s brewing industry.

In Petaluma, in the 1870s, Lyman Byce, more tinkerer than inventor, devised the first commercial incubator, enabling hatcheries to provide baby chicks by the hundreds — and turned Petaluma into the World’s Egg Basket.

Warren Dutton’s happy notion about planting French prunes in the Russian River Valley didn’t make us Prune Country (thank heavens!) but it did put money in orchardists’ pockets and give Healdsburg the honor of being capital of the Prune Belt.

A Laguna rancher named Nathaniel Griffith worked with his friend Luther Burbank, who had 500,000 apple trees of his own, and together they made the Gravenstein orchards more productive. Burbank, who also had his hand in development of Dutton’s prunes and in the early wine industry, earned worldwide fame, but Griffith claimed his capital Gs as Grandfather of the Gravenstein.

The craft beer industry, which brings beer-lovers on pilgrimages to savor the flavors, has a number of more recent pioneers but it is Byron Burch and Nancy Vineyard who get some pioneer credit for awakening home brewing skills here in the 1970s, Burch and his then-wife Vineyard started The Beverage People, bringing interested start-up brewers to his doorstep for tutorials.

Burch wrote his book, “Quality Brewing,” in the ’70s, because, he said, he was tired of answering questions about how to make good beer.

Those are just some of the beginnings. But these stories — truth or legend — beg for a preview of what some local historian, half a century hence, will say about the start of Pot Country.

There won’t be a figurehead — or if there is one, I don’t know who it is yet. There may be candidates out there, waiting in the shadows, ready to step out and claim the crown as the first-ever pot grower in the county. Or maybe there was no “first,” just a lot of rural entrepreneurs.

Maybe the vote last November and the current social issues will be considered the beginning.

Digging through the old PD clip files from the ’60s, I find darn little about marijuana cultivation. Arrests, yes. But the supposition was that it came with urban dealers in the Bay Area — who probably got it from Mexico.

By the ’70s, big city culture rode the back-to-the-land wave into our rural areas.

Although pot was undoubtedly a fact of life at Morningstar and Wheeler Ranch and small, less noticeable gathering places that sprung up here after San Francisco’s Summer of Love, it was pushed from the limelight by the perils, new to the area, of the hard drugs and hallucinogens.

Pot, although illegal, with possession drawing a jail term, didn’t make it into the drug abuse stories reporters followed.

Before the “great awakening” of the ’60s, the mention of marijuana generally evoked images of jazz drummers — because everybody knew that they had to be “hop heads” to play that way.

Those of us who came of age in the ’50s might have been introduced to marijuana, as I was, when a lecturer came to a Sonoma Valley High School assembly and passed a reefer around the room so we could all recognize the product and hear dire threats about the dangers involved.

Santa Rosa High School students heard that same lecture a decade later, I have been told, and legend has it that when the joint was passed around, it came back with two more beside it, creating something of a stir.

Maybe that was the beginning. Or perhaps it was earlier when Santa Rosa police liberated a marijuana cigarette from a transient and the veteran police chief, Dutch Flohr, took it to The Flower Shop by the bridge on Santa Rosa Avenue and asked owner Tony Campiglia to try to sprout the seeds inside to grow a plant, so his officers would learn to recognize it.

That bold move didn’t make the newspapers. It was told several decades later by old cops who loved to the tales of the way policing used to be.

By the time it became big business in Sonoma County, pot had already earned its capital letters as the Emerald Triangle — referencing Humboldt and Trinity and Mendocino, where it all began.

The plant itself already had a rich history. The earliest of British colonizers were growing hemp in the Virginia colony in the 1600s. Hashish — Asian hemp — was a fad in France in the late 1800s, which was imported to some small degree by the Eastern upper crust returning from Paris.

Marijuana, as a product to smoke and forget your troubles, came from Mexico during the Depression years of the 1930s, as Mexican workers began to cross the border.

Citizens were taught to be wary – fearful, even — by a late ’30s film called “Reefer Madness.”

It began as an amateur cinematic endeavor that made the rounds of church groups and schools under various titles including: The Burning Question, Dope Addict, Doped Youth, and Love Madness.

Purchased and enhanced by a movie company, it was shown in theaters, with great fanfare, through the ’40s and into the ’50s.

Originally intended to frighten the audience with the horrors of pot, its success can be measured by the fact that “Reefer Madness” came back to theaters in the 1970s — as a satire.

It’s going to be interesting to see what comes of all of this.

At what point in time will future historians, writing their treatises on “Cannabis Culture and Its Impact on Sonoma County Agriculture” place the true beginning?

That’s my first question. My second is: What would Luther say?

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