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California vote to legalize pot scares Humboldt

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POSTED March 25, 2010 2:15 a.m.
Get ready for the economic collapse of Humboldt County.

News that the move to legalize marijuana has qualified for the November ballot was greeted with the same amount of enthusiasm in Eureka and its hinterlands as if it was an edict from the federal government ordering the clear cutting of the entire Redwood National Park.

The worries in the land where San Francisco comes across as a conservative bastion are simple. Legalize pot and it will send the price of Humboldt County’s top cash crop spiraling downward. And when that happens, the fear is that it will lay waste to the entire economy of the region that will make the collapse of the lumber industry seem like good times.

They fear corporations – Weed Mart if you will – will flood the market and drive the price down. They also don’t like the idea that they would be subject to taxes knowing the vast array of resources the government can bring to go after tax cheaters is 10 times more devastating than anything the California criminal justice system could do to them.

So after decades of leading the charge to legalize pot, the Marijuana Mecca is having second thoughts. It explains why you are starting to see stickers popping up around the region that read, “Save Humboldt County - keep pot illegal.”

This has prompted pot growers to start doing something that pot growers rarely do - meet openly with elected leaders in a standing room only gathering to brainstorm ways that Humboldt can deal with the threat.

That’s right. The pot growers, not law enforcement, think legalizing marijuana is a threat.

One of the more interesting ideas to come of that meeting was to make Humboldt County to marijuana aficionados what Napa Valley is to wine connoisseurs. Such a vision would include pot farm tours and pot tasting with resorts and all the tourist trappings you’d find in the Wine Country.

Such a proposal would build on one that is equally business-like: Creating and protecting the Humboldt brand of pot.

Humboldt County become an ideal place for illicit pot growing due to its relative remoteness and lush forests but because of its climate. That allowed Humboldt County to do what the North American Free Trade Association could never do for a United States industry which was wipe out one of Mexico’s top cash crops – high end marijuana.

So instead of “Acapulco Gold” being bantered about in song and underground newspapers we may one day see big billboards proclaiming “Humboldt High”. There’s even a proposal to build a cooperative to enforce high standards for marijuana and stamp the product that passes muster with an official Humboldt seal of approval.

For those who still don’t believe that where people take stances on many issues has to do with money, consider this: Law enforcement raids in the past few years have seized billions of dollars worth of plants. Virtually everyone is in agreement from law enforcement to the growers – that what was seized was only a tiny fraction of the crop.

The Humboldt growers are worried that big agri-business will come into the county and start growing pot that will ultimately drive them out of business by flooding the market with inexpensive corporate-grown pot.

Who would have ever thought saving the family farm would have entailed keeping big business out of marijuana cultivation?

Humboldt County’s concern is just one unexpected consequence of the move to legalize marijuana in California. It also underscores concerns of how prevalent pot use could become.

Do we really need to legalize marijuana beyond its use for legitimate medicinal purposes?

Civil libertarians would argue otherwise.

Of course, they aren’t the “civil libertarians” who happen to make a living selling illegal pot which naturally has a higher value than something you can purchase without risk.

The concern over money and such makes the argument pro-pot legalization forces have made over the years seem a tad too pious.

In the end it is clear the only reason pot growers do what they do is not to strike a cause for personal choice and freedom but to line their pockets.

They are not the civil libertarians as they like to portray themsleves but opportunists.

Voters need to think long and hard about legalizing marijuana if for no other reason than to make sure that we’re not putting law breakers who are avoiding paying millions in taxes on their profits out of business.
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