"Keep Pot Illegal"

Humboldt County afraid of being uprooted from pot perch

Recently, "Keep Pot Illegal" bumper stickers have been seen on cars around the county. In chat rooms and on blogs, anonymous writers predict that tobacco companies will crush small farmers and take marijuana production to the Central Valley. With legalization, if residents don't act, "we're going to be ruined," said Anna Hamilton, a radio host in southern Humboldt County.

Humboldt State economists guess that marijuana accounts for between $500 million and $700 million of the county's $3.6 billion economy.

Legalization could take many forms. But the conventional wisdom here is that fully legal weed might fetch no more than a few hundred dollars a pound, as more people grow it and police no longer pull up millions of plants a year.

Illegal marijuana "is the government's best agricultural price-support program ever," said Gerald Myers, a retired engineer and former volunteer fire chief who moved to the county in 1970. "If they ever want to help the wheat farmers, make wheat illegal." [...] Talk of legalization raises a question: Is Humboldt's competitive advantage in growing pot, or in growing pot illegally?

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9 Responses:

  1. fivetonsflax says:

    Appellation contrôlèe, people, have you heard of it?

    • el_bandito says:

      Not surprisingly, yes. A "Post-Marijuana Economy" forum was held down in Southern Humboldt last month that discussed (among other things) labeling, branding, and marketing. It's a divisive issue up here, since legalization would mean a drastic change in the way of life for most long-term residents/growers/businesses. However, if/when it does happen, plenty of the more forward-thinking stakeholders involved are already working towards solutions. The Cover story for the North Coast Journal from a few weeks ago gives a pretty good overview of what our county's been thinking about. :)

      It's also worth noting that Mendocino county is hosting a similar forum later this month.

      • 205guy says:

        Very interesting comments on that story, thanks for the link. I had never thought of this issue as a town (big demand for legal) vs country (destruction of a niche economy) issue. ButI couldn't help but notice that some of the comments sounded a bit (ahem) paranoid. Though, I really do have to wonder about big tobacco planning and jumping into the market.

        Should legalization pass, the inevitable lawsuits succeed, and pot become just another ag commodity, I think it'll look a lot like dairy: factory farms where it's cheap and organics co-ops in places that can grow quality. Hopefully all the illegal growers will have a leg up for getting good positions in the new industry.

        I do feel for the people whose lives will change so drastically and so out of their own control.

  2. browse says:

    Growing quality pot is harder than you think. I don't think Humboldt has much to fear from the Average Joe growing weed. But the fears about larger corporations getting involved are entirely valid.

    • dasht says:

      They (Humbolt) are predicting that the commodity price drops to a few hundred per pound which, at least according to various news and other sources, is about 1/10th of today's commodity price. How would you like hearing that the decimal point on your paycheck was going to shift one place to the left?

      I think that's a realistic price guesstimate. The day it passes, the fully illegal market will start dumping inventory. That same day, I'd *guess*, some - what - wanna say 6 figures of newly born entrepreneurial growers will be born? So supply-side will be initially flooded by people exiting the market and then right afterward flooded by people entering.

      I don't think they have a damn thing to worry about anytime soon from big Ag, including big Tobacco. Those guys are all interstate and usually international so they won't touch the schism between state and federal law with a ten foot poll. But a gazillion under-employed Californians? You betcha'.

      I'm curious what the dispensary industry will do. A lot of them (I gather, never been in one) seem oriented to then try to become Amsterdam-style cafes. I think they'll win really big, at least initially. I can't imagine the current federal administration cracking down hard. I wonder if it will lead to legislative reform at the federal level.

      DON'T FORGET TO VOTE or you've nobody but yourself to blame if it doesn't pass.

      Also, the entrepreneurial opportunities this thing creates for ancillary products and services seem, to me, to be vast. It's only that dance with the feds (or the failure of the proposition) that can stop a unique good idea in this space.

    • pavel_lishin says:

      Growing quality pot is harder than you think.

      Sure, but I bet most people drink Bud Light as their beer of choice. For most people, quality isn't their highest concern.

  3. latemodel says:

    I'm so starting an "I hate Humboldt", yes-on-420 campaign.

  4. ritcey says:

    rent seeking - it's as American as sugar tariffs