Brand name pot? Legalization measure raises economic questions
by Catherine Wong/The Times-Standard
With the possibility of a marijuana legalization measure on the 2016 ballot, economics experts and local representatives are weighing in on the idea of Humboldt brand pot.
”After prohibition, who knew Jack Daniels would do so well?” 1st District Supervisor Rex Bohn said. “Anything can be replicated anywhere, but the best products come from the right climate and the right expertise, which I think we have plenty of.”
Bohn cited Lost Coast beers and Fox Farm soils as two brands that originated in Humboldt County and gained recognition on the national market. He also said anyone could replicate a product anywhere, but certain locations have the advantage.
”Look at Napa Valley. Wine is just grapes in a bottle, but they have the right climate for it,” Bohn said. “The same goes for sourdough bread and marijuana.”
Bohn said all eyes are on how Colorado and Washington are dealing with marijuana legalization.
”Hopefully, by the time it gets to the ballot, Colorado and Washington will figure out what worked and what hasn’t,” he said. “They’re good guinea pigs.”
Erick Eschker, a Humboldt State University economics professor and co-director for the Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research, said that while he is not for advocating marijuana legalization, he could think of two extreme cases that may come with legalization — the rosy scenario and the doomsday scenario.
”On the one hand, the economy does just fine,” he said. “If it becomes more legal, meaning on a federal level, Humboldt could maintain prevalence. It could also be that case if forward-looking officials allow large scale production which can produce at lower cost.”
He said a lot of the effects of statewide legalization depends on how things are zoned within the county.
Eschker, whose research interest is measuring the impact of marijuana on the local economy and the impacts of possible legalization, said in order for production to not leave the area, the county would have to meet the demand for a cheaper, less potent, lower grade product.
”The county needs to figure out if it wants to let go of the premiere weed,” he said. “Although, it could have both.”
Eschker said in the doomsday scenario, marijuana growers leave the county to move closer to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento.
”Along with production leaving, you also have population decline, and we would be like the rest of rural America.” he said. “In that doomsday scenario, we may not know it, but we may be heading down that path already.”
With population decline comes loss in property value, loss in real estate value and a decreased demand for services, Eschker said.
”Many people working up here are here because they are from the cities and enforcement is harder in the woods. If it becomes legal, that advantage is gone,” he said. “The decisions we make now in terms of production and what we allow is critically important. If we don’t let the industry thrive here, they’ll go elsewhere.”
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