Matilda reclines on a Northeast Los Angeles couch she’s paid $25 to sleep on for one night. The young woman, who earlier in the day had returned to the U.S. from Mexico, talks about her job as a cannabis trimmer. Matilda (not her real name) gives a heads-up on her epilepsy, and through the night she’ll make a number of unusual sounds in her sleep.

Matilda has worked most in Mendocino on good and bad trimming jobs. At most black-market marijuana grow operations, she’s found there are guns. She grew used to the constant, noisy whirr of the high-powered generator that powered the lights growing the plants. The bad gigs are the grows where weapons are numerous and the bosses are antic.

She left one trimming gig where the volume of open gunplay made her uncomfortable and moved to another one in the Emerald Triangle–– Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties in Northern California–– that featured consistent pay. The farm’s generator that kept the lights going operated at lower decibels, and the guns were out of sight. Sweet gig. Except for the bathroom, which sat a good 30 yards from the house. Every midnight tinkle run was an adventure.

“You shouldn’t have to worry about bears on the way to the bathroom,” Matilda said.

“My Top Boss Was A Retired Russian Clown”

About five years ago I trimmed briefly for room and board in Oakland and Marin County. My top boss was a retired Russian clown who tooled about the Bay Area with a briefcase full of many thousands of dollars and, of course, a heater. In a short time it became clear that without weed trimmers, though narrowly skilled, the industry…