Pubdate: Sun, 13 Jan 2013
Source: Times-Standard (Eureka, CA)
Copyright: 2013 Times-Standard


Television host Jimmy Kimmel earned a few easy laughs back in 
November at the expense of Humboldt State University's new Institute 
for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research.

Now the university's made headlines again after the school extended 
Kimmel an invitation to speak at this year's graduation ceremony.

Late-night laughs and YouTube yucks aside, the marijuana institute, 
which has been in the works since 2010, dovetails quite well with the 
strengths of the school. HSU has built an international reputation on 
its natural resources research. A marijuana institute is no joke 
because pot is more than a punchline, especially on the North Coast.

Consider this: Local banker Jennifer Budwig, after months of 
gathering information from documentaries, newspaper accounts and 
county sheriff's office statistics, as well as interviews with law 
enforcement, local officials and growers, concluded that at least 
$415 million in marijuana money circulates through the county 
annually -- roughly 26 percent of the county's entire $1.6 billion economy.

Those are figures that earned some press back in 2011. More recently, 
this newspaper has covered the environmental impact of high-powered 
rodenticides used at outdoor marijuana grows, as detailed in a UC 
Davis study, as well as the successful effort in Arcata to pass 
Measure I, a tax aimed at electricity-hungry grow houses that 
penalizes households that exceed PG&E baseline usage by 600 percent.

In Humboldt County, whether you like it or not, pot cultivation, or 
the effects thereof, wind up in everybody's wallet, on everybody's 
street, on public and private land, in the electricity that lights 
your room, in the water you swim in and in the air you do -- or do 
not -- choose to breathe.

It's here. Even if it were going away anytime soon, it would be to 
Humboldt County's benefit to have someone studying an industry that 
accountS for, at the least, just over a quarter of its economy.

The nation is changing. While federal attitudes have yet to shift, 
voters in Washington and Colorado embraced legalization in November. 
Should other states, including California, eventually follow their 
lead, it would behoove Humboldt County to have a body of scholarly 
knowledge at hand to help prepare for the transition -- no matter 
which way you'd like this county to move.
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