Move to Legalize Marijuana in California Sparks Fears About Drop in Prices

A proposal to put the legalization of marijuana in California to a vote this November is causing some growers of the plant in the state to worry about a sharp drop in the value of their crop if the measure succeeds.

As The Los Angeles Times explained in January, when supporters of the proposed Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 turned in more than enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot, the initiative “would make it legal for anyone 21 and older to possess an ounce of marijuana and grow plants in an area no larger than 25 square feet for personal use. It would also allow cities and counties to permit marijuana to be grown and sold, and to impose taxes on marijuana production and sales.”

On Monday, The Times-Sentinel newspaper in Humboldt County, a part of Northern California known as the “Emerald Triangle” for the density of its marijuana crop, reported:

[L]ocal business people, officials and those involved in the marijuana industry are planning to meet Tuesday night and break a long-standing silence to talk about what supposedly is the backbone of Humboldt County’s economy — pot. More specifically, the meeting will focus on the potential economic effects of the legalization of marijuana.

While the local newspaper’s report on the meeting quoted the its organizer, Anna Hamilton, by name, it did not state that she was, herself, a grower of the plant — which is legal in the state only when used as medication. According to The Times-Sentinel, Ms. Hamilton “said she is ‘intimately involved’ with the marijuana industry.” That sort of coyness led Frank James to write on NPR’s news blog:

Marijuana growers tend to be a fairly secretive lot, probably even in Humboldt, so I wonder what the attendance will be like and if the Drug Enforcement Agency will be there.

Ms. Hamilton told the local newspaper that if the county’s marijuana industry prepares for legalization, there could be some positives for the area: “We have to embrace marijuana tourism, marijuana products and services — and marijuana has to become a part of the Humboldt County brand,” she said.

The ballot initiative, which is being presented in part as a way to raise tax revenues for California, is supported by Richard Lee, an Oakland businessman who makes his money selling the drug legally. Mr. Lee also founded Oaksterdam University, which trains growers.

A campaign Web site, Taxcannabis.org, prominently features the results of a 2009 Field poll that found that “legalizing marijuana and taxing its proceeds” was supported by 56 percent of those surveyed in California.

The same Web site noted that three columnists for The Orange Country Register recently included the legalization and taxation of marijuana production in a list of ideas to help California balance its books — along with calls to privatize the state’s prisons, suspend the fight against global warming and drill for oil in the waters near the state’s beaches.

– Article from The New York Times.


Humboldt County worries about life after legal pot

by The Associated Press

Marijuana growing has long been a way of life in Humboldt County, especially in recent years as timber and fishing jobs have disappeared along California’s North Coast.

Now some residents worry that their way of life is being threatened — not by law enforcement, but by efforts to legalize marijuana in the state.

Community members are gathering Tuesday night to consider the consequences. They worry about the ripple effect that a drop in marijuana prices could have on the county as a whole if legalization undermines the black market.
“We have to recognize that if we have something that is this big a piece of our economy that is subsidized by being illegal, that this is an unsustainable situation,” Humboldt County Supervisor Mark Lovelace said.

In recent years, anti-drug agents have seized hundreds of thousands of marijuana plants in the county, mostly from massive gardens in remote mountain forests that have earned the region the nickname Emerald Triangle. Law enforcement estimates put the street value of the crop in the billions of dollars.

The eradication efforts have not halted marijuana growing in Humboldt, but the number of plants seized does give a sense of the scale of the industry.

Meeting organizer Anna Hamilton of Shelter Cove said she believes legalization could be “devastating” to the region and that Humboldt County should plan ahead by capitalizing on its name recognition as a marijuana destination.

“We have to embrace marijuana tourism, marijuana products and services — and marijuana has to become a part of the Humboldt County brand,” said Hamilton, who describes herself as “intimately involved” with the marijuana industry.

Supporters of a ballot measure to legalize marijuana in limited quantities are still waiting for official word that they’ve submitted enough signatures to qualify for the November statewide ballot.

– Article from The Associated Press.

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