About 2 months ago, CNBC Originals did an expose on the marijuana industry in California called Marijuana, Inc. Intrigued by the topic and called to watch the series for an article I was writing, I was surprised by what I learned takes place in California's "Emerald Triangle", and discovered a lot of information about marijuana and its status in California that I didn't know.
For instance, The national market of marijuana is estimated to be in the tens of billions of dollars and an increase in border protection as a result of 9/11, has created a huge domestic market. Growers sell their marijuana similar to the way farmers sell their crops with their own version of commodities trading (think Trading Places). A pound, which cost $450 to grow, can net the final seller up to $6000.
The segment begins in Northern California- Mendocino County where Marijuana is grown in homes, backyards and in the wild and apparently it is legal to grow up to 25 plants for personal and/or recreational use. Growers allowed CNBC and their camera crews into their homes, gardens, and back yards to view their "cash crops" and to give her intimate details into how crops are actually bought and sold. Growers interviewed, stated that the plant was the backbone of the county's economy- pot is 2/3rds in fact per a county commission study. Residents interviewed in a bar playing pool, who happened to be former and current law enforcement members admitted that cessation of the marijuana business in Mendocino would be as detrimental "as if Apple closed their plant in San Jose".
CNBC also sheds light on the "dark" side of the industry- guns, fierce dogs, robbery, and even murder can occur when the stakes are high and their is significant money to be made or lost. The Tuckers, who are leaving the county because of the crime, estimated that there were about 13 gardens within a mile radius of their home. Also, apparently, large grows create environmental damage. Chemical run off, diesel pollution from generator is all parts of a major grow house and can cause long term harm to the surrounding environment.
In the second part of the segment, you get an inside view of the medical marijuana process, and the dispensaries that sell it. The crew heads over to Oakland, CA where Trish stops into Oaksterdam, University where people from all sorts of backgrounds- old, young, soccer moms, business men/women, etc have paid $200 dollars to learn how to grow and harvest marijuana in the comfort of their homes without getting arrested. She spoke with the founder of Oaksterdam and discusses his theory and business model behind turning parts of Oakland into a mini-Amsterdam. She notes that although federally illegal, the state reaps a major profit from the marijuana industry; for instance, in 2006 the State of California collected more than 11million dollars of revenue from marijuana sales.
The show finishes with an interview with one of the most famous drug smugglers in America whose multi million-dollar business was brought to an end by his leaving a notebook with crucial info inside a restaurant where a DEA agent picked it up.
All in all, I think the special did a wonderful job covering both sides of the marijuana argument while dispensing some cold hard facts about the impact of marijuana on the economy, crime, environment and residents of Mendocino County and the State of California as a whole. The show maintained an objective slant while educating viewers on how expansive this industry really is.
April 2 update: Since writing this review I have seen a number of articles that indicate that the American government should consider the Marijuana trade as a economic resource in these shaky financial times!
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About the reviewer
Shannon Johnson (Bohemianliving)
A freelance writer whose favorite topics are organic foods, healthy living, and all things green. A professor of career communications, an avid yogi, a vegetarian, and a mommy.I am a beach … more
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