With all the talk about legalizing pot as a means of refilling the government’s coffers – one Harvard economist estimating that legalization could save the government $13 billion a year in prohibition costs and raise $7 billion in annual revenues – California’s Emerald Triangle is worth a closer look.
The Emerald Triangle is made up of the three Californian counties of Mendicino, Trinity, and Humboldt. Tucked away between the Pacific Coast and the Redwood Forest, this quaint piece of land is a world unto itself. The two major highways connecting the area are narrow, winding, and underfunded, and I-5 barely breaches the eastern border of the Triangle.
With a population of just 225,835 spread sparsely across the woody hills that make up the 10.260 square miles that make up the area, the Emerald Triangle is an ideal place for growing marijuana. And, boy, do they grow it! There aren’t many plants that will flourish in these hilly conditions, but marijuana seems to be completely at home and positively thrives. When one local took CNBC on a tour of his garden he claimed, “these marijuana plants in Mendocino County can sometimes reach 14, 15, 20 feet.” Such plants, he said, would yield 2lbs of weed – or $5,000 worth. Bearing in mind that he had 20 plants, he had a potential crop worth $100,000.
According to another resident “everyone has a hand in the game.” He was referring to the marijuana industry. Ninety per cent, he said, grow and one percent get busted.
The man with the twenty plants in his back yard said, “There’s a very developed system of brokering marijuana that exists all throughout California; it’s just like a commodities broker on Wall Street. They’re getting it for the lowest price they can get it, and they’re bringing in the buyer and trying to get the buyer to pay the highest price they can. So, the margin in between is where they make their money.”
It’s not rocket science; it costs an estimated $400 to grow a pound of pot, which is sold on for $2,500 to a middle man, and then sold on again on the street for $6,000. Start-up and overhead costs are low.
In the Emerald Triangle, marijuana is increasingly filling the gap left by other failing industries like lumber and fishing; with the crash of the economy, it’s little wonder that the government seem to be having a major rethink about cannabis prohibition. While moral arguments about prohibition and the breach of civil rights fell largely on deaf ears, the realization that weed could get the country out of its financial difficulties seems to have added some urgency to the clamors for legalization.