Finding Humboldt’s Heartbeat
Lizandro Salazar may not be a Humboldt County native, but that’s part of the reason why he has such a deep appreciation for the region. “A lot of people who grew up here perhaps take some of the natural beauty and resources for granted,” Lizandro comments. Hailing from Santa Cruz, Lizandro’s first encounter with Humboldt’s pristine beauty was at Reggae on the River, a music festival that would ignite his fascination for the region. “This river is huge, this water is amazing,” he recalls, captivated by the natural grandeur surrounding him. Humboldt seemed to pulse with a spirit of its own, an infectious energy that beckoned him closer.
The second time Lizandro and his friend Case went to the reggae fest, they were officially enchanted. It seemed like this wasn’t just the high spirits of a music festival but that this was the lifestyle that this community embodies year-round. Then, they sort of figured out that many of these people were involved in cannabis cultivation. And Lizandro and Case began to wonder if they could live like this, if there was a place for them here.
And so, driven by the allure of Humboldt’s unique culture and nurtured by his love for reggae and surfing, Lizandro and his friend Case took a leap of faith. They traded their settled lives for the promise of something more authentic. As Lizandro reminisces, “We sold all of our stuff and hightailed it up to Humboldt.” Their journey led them to the heart of a tight-knit community that had mastered the art of blending work and play.
The Rise From Humble Beginnings
The hills of Humboldt became their new canvas. Lizandro and Case threw themselves into the world of cannabis cultivation, starting from the bottom rung. “Started from the ground up,” Lizandro chuckles. As many people in the industry know, that means trimming. Years of trimming and other work as they got to know the plants, the land, and the people.
As the seasons rolled on, Lizandro’s journey in Humboldt continued to unfold. “Once trimming got boring and took its toll, we started working every job we could in this space,” Lizandro recounts, reflecting on the evolution of his journey. Five years of trimming, cultivating, and embracing the region’s rhythm had molded him into an integral part of the community. But as with any tale of growth, challenges arose that would test his determination.
Lizandro was living on a friend’s property, filled with cannabis, veggie gardens, and sustainable living – basically exactly what he was after. However, it was during this phase that an unexpected twist of fate tested not just his commitment to cannabis but his strength of character.
A Brush with Authority: A Tale of Resilience
On a seemingly ordinary morning, Lizandro ventured down to grab a cup of coffee. Little did he know that this routine would be disrupted by a sudden intrusion.
“There were seven authoritative vehicles and guys with guns and dogs in the driveway…
…Gun to my head, cuffed me, did the whole ‘you’re a criminal’ thing, and grilled me for the next 4-6 hours.” – Lizandro
“There were seven authoritative vehicles and guys with guns and dogs in the driveway,” he says with a mixture of disbelief and vivid recall. The atmosphere shifted, and what was once a tranquil morning turned into a tense encounter.
With the weight of suspicion hanging heavily in the air, Lizandro found himself at the center of an intense interrogation. Guns drawn, cuffs tightened – he was subjected to the harsh treatment reserved for criminals. “Gun to my head, cuffed me, did the whole ‘you’re a criminal’ thing, and grilled me for the next 4-6 hours,” Lizandro recounts. It was a battle between good and evil, a clash of perceptions and prejudices.
However, a resolute spirit emerged amidst this confusion and fear. In the face of adversity, Lizandro and his companions turned to meditation and prayer, seeking solace and clarity. Hours stretched on, an eternity of uncertainty.
And then, just as abruptly as it had begun, the storm passed. “The cuffs came off, we were treated differently, and they left. They didn’t touch the plants,” Lizandro recalls. The dawn brought not just a new day but a new perspective. The episode had left an indelible mark, reshaping his outlook.
“The next day, I remember going back up to this plot, and I just didn’t feel like I belonged. It wasn’t right anymore,” he shares, his voice carrying a mix of disappointment and revelation. The once familiar landscape had been altered by the intrusion of authority, leaving a lingering unease.
Yet, adversity often becomes the crucible in which resilience is forged. During this same time, Lizandro had heard of a conditional use permit in Arcata. “Everyone wanted to grow, but no one was manufacturing at this time. I had to take a leap into uncharted territory. It was like the leap I took going into Humboldt in the first place.” The spark of innovation ignited, urging him to embrace the unknown once more.
Crafting Cannabis Artistry
With the same passion that had fueled his ascent in the cannabis world, he ventured into the manufacturing world, adding another layer to his already multi-faceted narrative. Yet, the extraction sector demanded more than just enthusiasm; it required mastery. After some initial runs with crude oil, Lizandro embraced the challenge with an unwavering determination to produce only fire extracts.
“We quickly pivoted to highlighting quality above all else.” – Lizandro
“But then we saw that some of these brands were extracted for submitting their product into the Emerald Cup and winning awards, and it was a pivotal inflection point – we should be doing this for our brand,” says Lizandro. It was time to transition from manufacturing solely as a service to adding their own brand to the market. The team went to work and hustled to submit an incredible entry into the Emerald Cup.
It was this relentless pursuit of excellence that led to a momentous milestone – a first-place win in the Emerald Cup, one of the most prestigious cannabis competitions. “Our first product took first place in the Emerald Cup, and I was just speechless,” he says, his voice filled with a blend of pride and astonishment.
It was that win that confirmed he was on the right track. “How can we make the best cannabis extracts in the world with the world’s best cannabis and the world’s best growers?” he asks, his voice brimming with passion. With a focus on exotic, rare, and unique strains, Arcata Fire’s product line reads like a love letter to Humboldt’s diverse terroirs.
Lizandro’s approach is meticulous and grounded in data-driven decisions. Every strain undergoes rigorous testing and evaluation before becoming a part of the company’s repertoire. It’s a process that demands attention to detail, from the moment of harvest to the final extraction. Lizandro’s refined sense of smell is his compass, guiding him through a ritual of experiencing each product’s nuances.
A Vision for the Future
As Lizandro navigates the ever-evolving landscape of the cannabis industry, his gaze remains fixed on the horizon. He envisions a future where cannabis consumption is a mindful experience, where the plant contributes to holistic well-being.
“We’re coming out of this prohibition phase, and there’s going to be this mass consumption phase. Then people are going to take a breather and realize they need the plant to work for them for the long term.” – Lizandro
Lizandro’s commitment to the community remains unshaken. He sees himself as a collaborator, working alongside other brands to elevate the cannabis experience. “Being of service in this industry is always going to be a part of our business,” he emphasizes. It’s a philosophy that echoes throughout Arcata Fire’s journey – a dedication to excellence, innovation, and fostering meaningful relationships.
In the heart of Humboldt, where cannabis weaves through the culture like a thread of connection, Lizandro Salazar’s story continues to unfold. It’s a narrative of passion, perseverance, and the pursuit of crafting cannabis artistry. As the sun sets over the Arcata hills, a sense of purpose lingers in the air – a purpose that drives Lizandro to shape the future of cannabis with every extract he creates and every relationship he nurtures.
And as for Case? He went on to found a company called CannaDips, and the two of them still like to get together to hit the links and talk shop.