Marijuana Taking Root in California’s ‘Emerald Triangle’

Driving north on the scenic highway 101 from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, the terraced vineyards of Sonoma County give way to rocky foothills growing an open secret. Hidden among the rising slopes are groves of cannabis plants, a pillar of the local economy in this area known as the Emerald Triangle.

Marijuana has become an accepted part of the culture in the rural, sparsely populated region that spans the three counties of Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity.

“The parks and the forest lands, they’re just inundated with it,” said Lieutenant Rusty Noe of the Mendocino County sheriff’s office.

Local officials say pot accounts for as much as half of the regional economy in an area still reeling from the decades-long decline in the timber industry. In addition to marijuana sales, pot growing supports everything from garden supply stores to makers of plastic pipe.

Mendocino County Agricultural Commissioner Tony Linegar calls marijuana “a significant part of the economy – the businesses that are succeeding are the ones that are supplying this industry.”

A sociology course this semester at Humboldt State University is focusing on “the growth of the marijuana economy,” and a Ukiah clinic that prescribes medical marijuana sits next door to recruiting offices for the U.S. Air Force and the Marines.

Pot smokers brazenly light up joints on the steps of the Mendocino County courthouse, and pot plants in residents’ gardens peek over schoolyard fences.

“The police say, and I quote, ‘Do it where I can’t see it or smell it,'” said 39-year-old Just, who is known by that single name.

Sheriffs in the Emerald Triangle concentrate on large-scale growing operations, many of which are in state and national parks.

Noe said his office tries not to hassle individuals who have a medical marijuana card, but will not tolerate growers who try to make a profit by cultivating far more than they need for medical purposes.

Medical marijuana use already is legal throughout California, and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a move by two counties to bar patients from using the drug for medical purposes.

Now politicians are considering whether to take the next major step and decriminalize the drug altogether. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said recently the time is right for a debate on legalization, though he remains opposed to such a move.

State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has introduced a bill that would make California the first U.S. state to treat marijuana the same as alcohol. His proposal would make the use or sale of marijuana legal to anyone 21 or older.

Ammiano points to a recent poll showing 56 percent of Californians favor legalizing and taxing marijuana. His bill would impose hefty taxes on marijuana sales that state officials estimate would bring US$1.3 billion annually to financially stressed California.

“With the state in the midst of an historic economic crisis, the move toward regulating and taxing marijuana is simply common sense,” he said. “California has the opportunity to be the first state in the nation to enact a smart, responsible public policy for the control and regulation of marijuana.”

California became the first U.S. state to allow the sale and use of marijuana for medical purposes in 1996 when voters passed Proposition 215. There are about 200,000 licensed medical marijuana users in the state. During the administration of former president George W. Bush, federal authorities routinely raided California medical marijuana dispensaries. Though it remains illegal to grow, buy, sell or possess marijuana under federal law, the administration of President Barack Obama said earlier this year it would not target California dispensaries.

Many law enforcement officials oppose such a change, and are against legalization. The California Police Chiefs Association released a report in April that said marijuana dispensaries are illegal under federal law “and should not be permitted to exist.”

The group said such dispensaries invite more crime and “compromise the health and welfare of law-abiding citizens.” But with state and local budgets facing huge deficits, many officials see marijuana as part of the solution.

The value of California’s marijuana crop has been estimated by legalization supporters to be as high as US$14 billion annually.

Even if the actual value is only half that amount, it still would nearly equal the state’s top cash crop and be double that of grapes, valued at US$3 billion a year.

The state already collects US$18 million a year in sales tax on medical marijuana. In Ukiah, a recent legalization rally drew only about a dozen supporters. Though some legalization advocates think marijuana could do for the Emerald Triangle what wine has done for the Napa Valley, many growers want to avoid taxes or government regulation. “I would be happy if the public acceptance level that came with legalization were there,” said Just, who moved from Missouri to Northern California in large part because of its marijuana culture.

– Article from Agence France-Presse



  1. btree70 on

    Money rules the WORLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you don’t have money…..U aint got shit!!broke ass fukka. Dont u know that u can MURDER someone in THIS COUNTRY and BUY you’re way to the house…FREE my nucca!!!!

  2. Adam on

    My name is adam r. And too whom ever reads this I’m looking to move from my little home
    town in Peru, NY. To the location in Cali were it’s legal to grow and smoke. Plzzzzz!!!!!!! Contact me on myspace and or my cell at (518)335-1683. Call or text. [email protected] on myspace with more information and were a great place to start living my life will be.

  3. Anonymous on

    Do you really think these huge drug cartels are going to let you muscle in on their profits. they’ll let you set up and if its legal they’ll price you out.Just like a dime a dozen farmer. You could organise but they wil probably kill you.You don’t sell drugs in this country unless its with them. You are all to young to remember “Super Spade” he ended up in sleeping bag rolled of the marin side of the bridge with 37 bullets in him VERY DEAD. I talked to him one week before he died. it wasn’t informants that were turning him.You guys need a brain enema, your definatly smoking to much of your own product.

  4. Oni Maru on

    For someone who’s going on and on about needing a college education, you sure as hell make a lot of “grammor mistakes”. Bigger guns and ruthlessness, that comes from more than just pot. If you’re growing, selling, smoking or anything else that has to to with strictly pot, the culture is much more laid back. Also, most teens seem to resort to harder drugs based on false facts upon marijuana.
    Your rant sounds like you’d rather sit here, just as uneducated and unschooled as the rest of us, then actually look at a larger picture.

    With pot, comes peace.

  5. 1340glide on

    Do we really wonder why this country is in such deep debt? We hav elected the same idiots who for years promise a big change. They spend our money trying to irradicate the very thing that could be taxed @ provide a profit & a surplus of money in the treasury. The Tea party is a start, but we cannot stop this after we overthrow the government at the polls. Hemp is given to man by Almighty God who is the source of all inabailiable rights (Genesis 1:29) Who than is a government of the people for the people to take away from it’s citizens a God given herb. George Washington called for the growing of more hemp as it could be used to build ships. George was a brewer of alcohol & a naturalist, do you think he never took a toke? It helps my asthma, & my sight is sharper after I toke. That’s why your eyes get bloodshot when stoned, you get more blood flow to the eyes & therefore sharper sight. We could toke our way out of national debt with grins on our chins. Wake up America & smell the buds.

  6. Anonymous on

    I’ve read all the posted statements what their lacking is facts. Unless you have a college education , don’t bother coming to California. Stay were you are and smoke your pot YOU WILL SIMPLY NOT MAKE TI HERE. There are SIMPLY no jobs if all you have is a high School diploma, and you will be competing with Mexican Nationals for the low paying jobs. Houses her star at $4 to 500,000 , so you will have to rent. What are you going to do grow pot in a rental and get arrested? You don’t have enough money to buy land or make it here. The truth hurts. The minute you arrive you are told to stay near the beaches and not to go in the woods, “don‘t bother them they don‘t like it“.. Its turning into a cess pool. People her don’t talk to each other its just safer . There are wonderful people up here but some old timers are starting to leave because the drug scene is ugly up , and things are starting to change. There is little law enforcement because the area is so big and rural.
    What this means to you is — if you get into a beef with somebody , the guy with more guns wins, and the guy that’s prepared to be the most ruthless win. It’s not about right or wrong and you can end up dead, pushed off a cliff or drugged and simply have a car accident. If you get in an argument with the wrong person. There is no fare play
    The rents here is expensive even in the rural areas, because the land lords are usually x- sellers and they want money. That’s what this all really about. MONEY… .Their were two kids around 20 years old, they went to Mendosino, they inherited some land and decided to try living on it –they both turned up DEAD because of a squabble over a few pot plants.
    These drug town are unfriendly to strangers but they love tourist, that’s how they wash their money. So if your CALIFORNIA DREAMING–your about 40 years late.
    In California any local city councils have been taken over by crooks. They want to build houses at any cost because they can make so much money, so they need to bribe local officials to get their way. The problem is water, and they are prepared to build on watershed or whatever it takes to make money. The well water is contaminated with arsenic and lead . They are in the process of running environmentalists out, there are many ways to get rid of you without breaking the law. ( The state tree is the oak, I find it funny that no one has put it together that the trees are only dying of sudden Oak disease were investment groups want to put in grapes)The oil companies want the off shore oil, the cartel want you to start growing pot for them and the mob wants the gambling and the big real estate wants to break all the limits and build, build ,build in California. WHY because they can make so much money. California is dying of greed and people are starting leaving because the corruption is prevalent.

    If pot is made legal, it will be as cheap as celery and pricing will be controlled by the mob or t he cartel — do you really think they are going to let you muscle in on their profits? They’ll let you set up and then put you out of businesses with lowering the price and buy you out. You will get the offer you can’t refuse. it’s a huge industry ( this is not the last free enterprise, start caring about this country. This is the land of opportunity , the problem is your letting them take it away from you ) If pot stays illegal the mob will move in anyway– the prices stay high and they operate the same as usual
    It’s a no win

    California has always been liberal and you have been able to smoke, and do pretty much what you want. Most of you come in from other states you don’t vote, and if it gets tough you go home , California has suffered from this and many environmentalist who really cared are know being forced out, they use hired goons. Pot is sold in the city by gangs and these gang are destroying life in California. The rich are insulated and to busy making money or really care and will simply move if it gets to bad, or put in fences and gates and hire security. CALIFORNIA IT’S LIFE STYLE IS DYING A SLOW DEATH–
    You don’t have to agree with me, but please use your brain, THINK!

  7. Anonymous on

    Duh – Don’t you mean ‘Their favorite herbs, try spelling’ – try grammar AND spelling yourself, doofus!

  8. Anonymous on

    There favorite herbs
    sry spelling

  9. Anonymous on

    It was the reason they banned cannabis to begin with
    to many mexican imagrent workers so ban they favorate stuff

    capitalism – Definition
    (n.) An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market

  10. Anonymous on

    Just thought I’d put that out there!

  11. Biglungs on

    Noe said his office tries not to hassle individuals who have a medical marijuana card, but will not tolerate growers who try to make a profit by cultivating far more than they need for medical purposes.


  12. Cory on

    The more we keep pushing on legaliztion the more sucess we get from it, tell one friend then he tells more and so one its a never ending subject. If it becomes legal in california that is going to effect every country in the world – tis will help canada to legalize and the u.s. more. Keep the good work up
    standup and say something
    don’t hid in the shadows

    It’s so close to happening