A new book by Emily Brady details the insular community of Humboldt County, where marijuana production and distribution is a way of life. For years the federally outlawed plant has been cultivated and distributed by farmers of Humboldt County who see nothing wrong with supplying America with one of its most popular drugs.
The proceeds from their production of marijuana have helped support such institutions as local fire departments and schools. Despite the federal law banning the use and distribution of marijuana, these marijuana pioneers have brought new meaning to small town living, breaking down the barrier between the taboo of illegal drugs and the federal prohibition against them.
Observers have asked whether or not Humboldt County can be a model for the rest of America; as of now, 18 states have legalized marijuana for medical use while another 2 states, Washington and Colorado, have legalized the plant for recreational use. While more studies are being conducted on the benefits and consequences of legalizing marijuana, Humboldt County has proven to be an interesting test subject for the potential of marijuana production, setting a precedent for a community that survives primarily off the revenue generated by the crop.
The economic benefits of marijuana production showcased by places like Humboldt County have led to a swing in public opinion on the benefits of the crop, and have opened the dialogue to new and exciting possibilities. Meanwhile businesses and investors are taking advantage of the emerging market, flocking to states like Colorado and Washington to be the first to seize stock in this lucrative commodity.
Humboldt County as of now has no big name investors or companies arriving at their doorstep, and the possibility of full legalization and the big business it would bring to the community has worried members of Humboldt County.
As of now, the way of life for Humboldt county residents depends on the inflated price of marijuana in the black market. The regulation and competition for marijuana sales and production by government and big companies could drive the price to record lows, making the product affordable for the consumer, but at the expense of small time marijuana producers like those in Humboldt County.
Some in Humboldt County welcome legalization, seeing it as a way to legitimize the lifestyle that they have struggled to hide for so long from federal authorities. Others see the change as a way to drive control of marijuana sales and production away from local farmers to big business and corporations.
Is marijuana legalization a good thing? This is a tricky question. It really depends on who you are. It’s a good thing if you’re the average marijuana consumer who worries about being picked up and arrested for buying or using the drug. It’s also a good thing if you’re a potential investor looking to break into the emerging marijuana market. It’s most definitely a good thing if you’re a local or state government; taxes on the crop could generate millions in tax revenue.
It’s a bad thing if you’re a drug dealer who depends on the black market for their profits. It’s also a bad thing if you’re a private prison who makes their money off the incarceration of petty drug offenders.
So it seems that at the end of the day, legalization will hurt those who seek to benefit off of the illegality of the crop, while legalization will benefit those who are willing to pursue the channels of the law to make a living. As more and more people are enlightened to the possibilities that a marijuana-driven market could provide for their home towns and states, observers say less people will be willing to utilize the crop’s illegality, but instead find use in its legality.
For now, marijuana remains a way of life for Humboldt County, and their persistence in the face of federal law remains unabashed.
by John Amaruso