The Eureka Times-Standard editorial board issued a plea on Saturday to Humboldt County, urging residents and local government to be prepared for the inevitable legalization of marijuana in California.
“Legal pot is coming to California whether we like it or not,” the board wrote. “Plan now or fail.”
The problem with fully legal marijuana in California is that medical marijuana accounts for roughly 25% of Humboldt County’s entire economy. Introducing legal marijuana to California would eviscerate that marijuana-based economy.
“There is a high probability marijuana will be legalized at some point and there most likely will be an economic fallout to this county because of it,” Jennifer Budwig concluded in a 2011 University of Washington study.
The county faces several critical problems with regard to legalization, and must act quickly to rectify them, the paper argued. First, direct spending on travel to Humboldt County rose just 40 percent between 1992 and 2012, to a paltry $339 million. For comparison, Napa County, or “wine country,” saw direct travel spending rise from $358 million to $1 billion over the same time period.
For Humboldt to become a world-class marijuana travel destination, “it has to get serious about improving its transportation infrastructure,” the editorial argued. “We’re too remote to offer ourselves as a premier tourism destination on one airline alone.”
The second problem the county faces is that the solution may not be as simple as creating a “Humboldt brand” of weed. With marijuana accounting for 25 percent of the county’s economy, the marketplace for high-end, “branded” buds may not be enough to sustain it. As the paper put it: “How many of you who enjoy a good glass of sparkling wine on New Year’s or Sunday brunch actually insist on the stuff from Champagne, France?”
Some in Humboldt County are preparing for legalization properly, the paper acknowledges.
California Cannabis Voice Humboldt, a pro-legalization outfit in the Golden State, is working to bring a marijuana ordinance before the Board of Supervisors, according to the paper. That would provide area growers with legal advice related to the necessary licensing and permitting requirements.
The editorial also singled out the Board of Supervisors and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board for their work preparing for legalization; the former for dealing with “nuisances” of those growing in unincorporated areas, and the latter for addressing water quality and pollution problems caused by excessive growing.
Ultimately, however, the burden of preparation falls on everyone in Humboldt County to be as ready as possible for the full legalization and regulation of marijuana in the state.
“When it comes to the end of cannabis prohibition, the train is leaving the station,” the editorial board concluded. “Better to hop on board and find a good seat than to stand unmoving on the tracks as the future rolls over us.”