Pubdate: Sun, 25 Apr 2010
Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Copyright: 2010 The Press Democrat
Author: Glenda Anderson
Cited: Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)


The Good and Bad for North Coast's Marijuana Industry

Marijuana enthusiasts from across the country flocked to Ukiah
Saturday to talk about the future of pot should California voters in
November legalize its use for all adults.

"I think this is huge. Everybody is watching," said Lacey Story, an
oriental medicine practitioner and herbalist from Nederland, Colo.

More than 200 people attended a day-long forum to address concerns
that legalization could lead to a collapse of the North Coast's
lucrative underground pot industry.

A smattering of government and business representatives attended, but
the greatest number were associated with the marijuana industry.

Many attendees asked not to be named because it remains illegal to
profit from marijuana production, medical or otherwise.

"I have a felony," explained a tan young man whose long blond hair was
twisted into a bun.

The November ballot initiative would make it legal for anyone over 21
to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and to grow it for personal
use. Commercial operations would require government approval. The
measure also would authorize local governments to regulate and tax
pot, which remains a primarily underground economy despite being legal
for medicinal use.

Some marijuana growers fear legalization will draw corporate tobacco
companies into the business, flooding the market and causing pot
prices to plummet.

"The golden goose will be dead," said Anna Hamilton, a musician and
Humboldt County public radio show host who organized the first
marijuana economy forum in Humboldt County last month and helped with
Mendocino County's meeting.

Tens of thousands of people who rely on marijuana cultivation to make
ends meet could wind up financially destitute, she said.

Others, however, said they don't think the market will drop
significantly unless marijuana is legalized worldwide.

California already is a marijuana export state, law officials

Many growers see legalization as an opportunity to brand and promote
their products. The North Coast already is reknowned for its pot.

Marijuana advocates and county officials alike see Wine Country-style
tasting rooms and pot-garden tours in MendocinoCounty's future.

"I want to see tasting rooms. This really could be a model for
anti-capitalism, small business," said Ellen Komp, of the newly formed
Emerald Triangle division of the National Organization for the Reform
of Marijuana Laws.

Marijuana already is a huge part of the local economy, with value
estimates ranging from $1.2 billion to $4.4 billion.

"The whole county is lubricated, baby," said Les Tarr, a radio show
host at a small local radio station, KMEC.

A California Board of Equalization analysis estimates that legalizing
and taxing pot in California could yield $1.4 billion in revenue for
the state if a $50-per-ounce levy were to be placed on retail sales in
addition to sales tax. Sales taxes alone could yield $392 million,
according to the report.

The Board of Equalization analysis estimates that marijuana prices
could drop by 50 percent, while consumption could increase by 40 percent.

Prices already have dropped because the market has been flooded by
medicinal marijuana growers.

"The market is glutted. I can't sell anything," Mendocino coast
medical marijuana advocate Pebbles Trippet said during an interview
last week.

But that's a good thing for medical marijuana patients who often must
pay high prices for their medicine, she said.

Medical pot in dispensaries sells for about $60 for an eighth of an
ounce, which equates to more than $7,000 a pound, Hamilton said.

Growers currently are getting from $1,800 to $2,000 a pound, down for
a high of about $4,000 several years ago, she said. Many called for
the creation of a regional stakeholder group to help negotiate prices
with cannabis clubs and to lobby legislators.

Most growers attending Saturday's meeting at an old but airy meeting
hall downtown indicated they are willing to risk a price decline in
favor of legalization.

"Do you really think we should keep putting people in prison to
protect the price of marijuana?" asked Mike Johnson, who runs a
Ukiah-area medical marijuana dispensary.

"No," those in the audience resoundingly replied. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake