Pubdate: Sat, 23 Feb 2013
Source: Times-Standard (Eureka, CA)
Copyright: 2013 Times-Standard
Author: Kaci Poor


With California marijuana activists gearing up for another 
legalization push following the successful November elections in 
Colorado and Washington, one local banker is continuing to explore 
the economic implications that marijuana legalization could have on 
Humboldt County.

Jennifer Budwig, Redwood Capital Bank vice president and regional 
area manager, will discuss the topic at the Humboldt Institute for 
Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research's speaker series on the HSU 
campus on Tuesday.

Her thesis for the Pacific Coast Banking School graduate program at 
the University of Washington found that the marijuana industry, based 
on conservative estimates, was responsible for pumping at least $400 
million annually into Humboldt County's economy. If that money were 
to disappear -- potentially due to legalization -- it would cause a 
25 percent reduction in local economic activity, Budwig concluded.

Budwig said she will be updating the numbers to include more recent 
data for her presentation. She said she also plans to talk about the 
implications of not including legalization on the 2012 California 
ballot, and discuss what has transpired at the federal level on 
marijuana enforcement.

Sociology professor Josh Meisel, who co-chairs the marijuana research 
institute, said concerns about the economic impacts of legalization 
are ongoing.

"A recent article in the Economist estimates that the American 
marijuana market is worth $50 billion," Meisel said. "If we consider 
Humboldt County as perhaps ground zero, we can't afford to keep our 
heads in the sand. We need to consider what the potential ripple 
effects may be."

With a movement afoot to see legalization back on the California 
ballot in 2016, he said Budwig's research is important for all 
Humboldt County residents to consider.

"Her study isn't about how legalization impacts those who work in the 
marijuana industry," Meisel said. "It's about a community that very 
likely -- and we don't have really hard data on this -- stays afloat 
and prospers because of the influx of cash marijuana production and 
distribution creates."

 From business owners who have received large payments in cash to 
individuals who subsidize their income by working in the underground 
economy, Meisel said everyone has a story about the marijuana 
industry -- and how it has affected them.

"I can't imagine anyone believes the economic impacts are not 
significant and not important," he said.

Greater Eureka Chamber of Commerce CEO J Warren Hockaday agreed.

Hockaday said Budwig, a former chamber board member, has given a 
presentation on the topic to the board.

"I found her work extremely well done," he said. "By its nature, this 
industry is very hard to quantify. But anyway you get your arms 
around it, you have to acknowledge it's here, it's going to stay, and 
it is a significant factor in our economy."

Although the university has taken some flack for the marijuana 
research institute, Hockaday said he finds it refreshing to approach 
the topic of marijuana from an academic perspective.

"There is just so much emotion caught up in the issue," he said. "No 
matter how any individual feels about legalization or use, the fact 
is that there is a lot of money moving and changing hands and 
supporting the local economy in ways that nobody can ignore."

For more information, contact Josh Meisel, Humboldt Institute for 
Marijuana Research co-director, at 826-4446 or visit



What: Speaker series presentation: "The Potential Economic Impact to 
Humboldt County if Marijuana is Legalized"

Who: Jennifer Budwig of Redwood Capital Bank

Where: BSS Native Forum, Room 162 at Humboldt State University, 1st 
Harpst St., Arcata

When: Tuesday, 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.


Looking Forward

Tony Silvaggio, environmental sociologist and Humboldt Institute for 
Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research member, is organizing a two-day 
Earth Day Symposium on Marijuana and the Environment to be held April 
19 and April 20.

To register or suggest panelists for the symposium, entitled 
"Communities and Landscapes in Balance: The Crossroads of 
Environmental Protection and Marijuana Agriculture," visit
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom