Move to Legalize Marijuana in California Sparks Fears About Drop in Prices

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by
The New York Times

Move to Legalize Marijuana in California Sparks Fears About Drop in Prices

by
Robert Mackey

Medical marijuana is displayed in Los Angeles in this August 6, 2007 file photo. (REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/Files)

A proposal to put the legalization of marijuana in California to a vote this November is causing some growers of the plant in the state to worry about a sharp drop in the value of their crop if the measure succeeds.

As The Los Angeles Times explained in January, when supporters of the proposed Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 turned in more than enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot, the initiative “would make it legal for anyone 21 and older to possess an ounce of marijuana and grow plants in an area no larger than 25 square feet for personal use. It would also allow cities and counties to permit marijuana to be grown and sold, and to impose taxes on marijuana production and sales.”

On Monday, The Times-Sentinel newspaper in Humboldt County, a part of Northern California known as the “Emerald Triangle” for the density of its marijuana crop, reported:

[L]ocal business people, officials and those involved in the marijuana industry are planning to meet Tuesday night and break a long-standing silence to talk about what supposedly is the backbone of Humboldt County’s economy — pot. More specifically, the meeting will focus on the potential economic effects of the legalization of marijuana.

While the local newspaper’s report on the meeting quoted the its organizer, Anna Hamilton, by name, it did not state that she was, herself, a grower of the plant — which is legal in the state only when used as medication. According to The Times-Sentinel, Ms. Hamilton “said she is ‘intimately involved’ with the marijuana industry.” That sort of coyness led Frank James to write on NPR’s news blog:

Marijuana growers tend to be a fairly secretive lot, probably even in Humboldt, so I wonder what the attendance will be like and if the Drug Enforcement Agency will be there.

Ms. Hamilton told the local newspaper that if the county’s marijuana industry prepares for legalization, there could be some positives for the area: “We have to embrace marijuana tourism, marijuana products and services — and marijuana has to become a part of the Humboldt County brand,” she said.

The ballot initiative, which is being presented in part as a way to raise tax revenues for California, is supported by Richard Lee, an Oakland businessman who makes his money selling the drug legally. Mr. Lee also founded Oaksterdam University, which trains growers.

A campaign Web site, Taxcannabis.org, prominently features the results of a 2009 Field poll that found that “legalizing marijuana and taxing its proceeds” was supported by 56 percent of those surveyed in California.

The same Web site noted that three columnists for The Orange Country Register recently included the legalization and taxation of marijuana production in a list of ideas to help California balance its books — along with calls to privatize the state’s prisons, suspend the fight against global warming and drill for oil in the waters near the state’s beaches.

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