Cannabis News Media Awareness Project
  Medical Marijuana's Eco Boomtown
Posted by CN Staff on September 05, 2008 at 05:50:33 PT
By Mary Spicuzza 
Source: ABC News  

medical Arcata, Calif. -- When Stephen Gasparas arrived in Humboldt County in late 2004, he was driving a VW Westfalia pop-top camper on the verge of breaking down and had only $100 in his pocket.

Gasparas, who ran a flooring business in Chicago before heading west, seems to have found far greener pastures in Humboldt County's medical marijuana industry.

Less than four years later, the owner of the Arcata iCenter, a collective marijuana dispensary, is now driving a new hybrid Toyota Highlander and bringing in about $100,000 a year. (And judging by the foot traffic in and out of the iCenter, that figure is a modest estimate.)

But Gasparas, 38, is just one of many in Humboldt County and throughout California benefiting from the booming medical marijuana industry.

Exactly how much the Golden State has made in pot profits is a hazy figure, mostly because California doesn't keep exact numbers on medical marijuana sales taxes.

It's estimated that $143 million in medical marijuana sales have netted $11.4 million in state and local taxes annually, based on registered businesses, California State Board of Equalization spokesperson Anita Gore said. And those estimates are small compared to a 2006 report co-authored by California NORML state coordinator Dale Gieringer, which said that Californians consumed between $870 million and $2 billion worth of medical marijuana per year.

Of course, marijuana is nothing new to Humboldt County.

Humboldt, part of Northern California's Emerald Triangle, has long been known for its high-grade marijuana crop, which has been immortalized on merchandise including "Got Humboldt?" T-shirts, skateboards that feature weed and the words "Humboldt Gold," and an upcoming movie named -- what else? -- "Humboldt County." One recent study by Steven Hackett, an economics professor at Humboldt State University, estimated marijuana brings in as much as a half-billion dollars to the county's economy.

Those who think Hackett's number is much too high probably have not wandered through the streets of cities like Arcata, enjoying the sights -- and scents -- of Humboldt.

At the recent I-Block Party, a fundraiser for Arcata's sister city (Camoapa, Nicaragua), the heavy scent of pot hung in the warm air as the crowd grooved to a reggae band.

Humboldt Glassblowers, a local shop featuring work by local artists, offers a seemingly endless supply of gorgeous swirled glass pipes -- not to mention hookahs, Frisbees and magazines like "High Times" and "420 Magazine." There, it seemed hard to go anywhere without smelling ganga, or at least spotting some reference to it.

For years, Humboldt County has enjoyed the benefits of a booming underground economy. But changes to state laws -- such as the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996, when voters approved the medical use of marijuana -- mean that many engaged in cultivation and sales are trying to follow state medical marijuana laws. Or, at least some of them are making an effort, and in doing so are pouring money into local and state tax coffers.

The City of Arcata declined to disclose specific taxes paid on medical marijuana sales by local businesses, calling that "proprietary information." But the city's finance director, Janet Luzzi, said one dispensary in town is among Arcata's top 25 producers of sales tax, and has been for several quarters.

"It's not always there," Luzzi said. "But it's often there."

Other medical marijuana dispensaries, however, recently received written reminders from Luzzi.

"Not all of them were paying taxes," she said.

And taxes aside, most here acknowledge marijuana sales have for years contributed to county finances.

Vocal medical marijuana advocate Martha Devine was sitting on a park bench in the flower-lined Arcata Plaza, near a large circle of people kicking around a hacky sack and dozens of dancers. A steel drum band was playing for an enthusiastic crowd, and shoppers were wandering in and out of stores.

"The economy of Humboldt County would have ceased to exist a long time ago without it," said Devine, glancing around the plaza. "This county was built on marijuana."

Devine, who's known to some here as "Granny Green Genes," said this place was a ghost town when she arrived in Humboldt 32 years ago. She's witnessed the decline of the county's other traditional industries, like timber and fisheries, and believes marijuana is largely responsible for Humboldt's progressive culture and thriving businesses.

"I think it's really kept our economy going," Devine said.

While Devine acknowledged that Humboldt's cannabis cash crop has brought in the bad with the good -- things like harder drugs and guns -- she said she hopes medical marijuana will help the industry fight the negative aspects associated with black (or even gray) market economies.

She said she does not have a medical marijuana I.D. card "at the present time," but believes many ill members of the community have benefited tremendously from their "medicine."

Despite widespread support for medical marijuana, tensions seem especially high in towns like Arcata, where people are struggling to agree on the details of medical marijuana, such as rules for growing and limits for medical marijuana possession.

It's a debate that's playing out in counties around California, from historically pot-friendly places like Mendocino County to Los Angeles.

The City of Arcata recently was reviewing the standards of its own marijuana guidelines when the new guidelines by the California Attorney General's Office were issued late last month.

City staff members are currently reviewing the new statewide guidelines, which set clearer policies on medical marijuana identification cards, plant limits and mandate that dispensaries operate as collectives or cooperatives. Arcata hopes to soon send guidelines to the City Council for its approval.

But whether the new state and local guidelines can help bring peace to Humboldt remains to be seen. In the meantime, many local residents seem uncomfortable in their current position, caught between conflicting and confusing state and federal laws, where medical marijuana dispensaries that pay their state and local taxes may be raided at any time by the Drug Enforcement Administration or other federal agencies.

Some residents complain that a few grow houses have grown out of control, causing problems ranging from skunk-like odors to house fires.

So, even as California's attorney general seems comfortable delving into the medical marijuana debate, stores like Humboldt Hydroponics refuse to even discuss the topic.

When asked about the issue of medical marijuana and the economy, a man behind the counter of Humboldt Hydroponics shop in Arcata seemed on edge as he immediately insisted he had nothing to say because his shop had "no affiliation" with medical marijuana.

But while standing outside his Arcata iCenter dispensary, Stephen Gasparas seemed to be making a sincere effort to bring medical marijuana out of the shadows and celebrate its contributions to California's economy. He warmly greeted many of the patients -- many of them 20- or 30-something guys -- who stopped in the business.

Gasparas, who had battled over permit issues at previous business he ran a few doors down from his medical marijuana dispensary, talked about his efforts to pay sales taxes and give back to the community. He talked about his new fire relief fund. And when an employee came outside to ask him about a patient's form, Gasparas insisted that personal contact must be made with each doctor who's suggested a patient try medical marijuana.

"I'm here seven days a week," he said. "I wouldn't screw around."

Note: Humboldt Country's High: How One Community Thrives on Legal Pot.

Source: ABC News (US Web)
Author: Mary Spicuzza
Published: September 5, 2008
Copyright: 2008 ABC News Internet Ventures

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Comment #19 posted by afterburner on September 08, 2008 at 07:33:15 PT
ekim #13
Biofuel researchers look for the good in stinkweed. Sep 03, 2008 07:31 AM. Be the first to comment on this article... MICHAEL HILL, The Associated Press { ALBANY, N.Y.–The request caught dairy farmer Brian Ziehm off guard: Would he devote an acre of his fields near the Vermont line this fall to grow stinkweed?

"It was like, 'What the heck? I've been trying to get rid of these things for 30 years. Now you want me to plant them?'''

But Ziehm happily agreed to grow the hardy weed called field pennycress – a.k.a. stinkweed – to help test a potential new source of fuel for the booming biodiesel market. A handful of fields around upstate New York will be planted with pennycress later this month under the pilot program launched by an Albany-based biodiesel company, Innovation Fuels Inc.

Past promises of cheap fuel grown on American soil have sometimes become, umm, stuck in the weeds as prices for commodities like corn and soybean oil rose. But a number of researchers now believe that this winter weed with oily little seeds has an advantage in that it is not a food crop.

"Our intention is to create a crop that has a niche and does not displace anything else that is already growing," said Steve Vaughn, a plant physiologist with the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Ill.

Biodiesel, as the name implies, is a fuel derived from vegetable oils or animal fats that can power diesel engines and be used for heating. It also can be blended with petroleum diesel. Biodiesel production has skyrocketed with the spike in fossil fuel prices, from 25 million gallons in 2004 to 500 million gallons last year, according to the National Biodiesel Board.

Biodiesel can be produced from animal fat, used cooking oil and a host of plants, though most biodiesel in the United States comes from soybean oil. Soybeans, like corn, are a commodity in demand for both food and fuel. Prices for soybean oil have more than doubled since 2005, giving the industry added incentive to experiment with other potential sources of fuel.

"The rise in commodity prices has really driven20us to focus on other alternatives," said John Fox, Innovation's chief executive officer. Innovation relies primarily on animal fat to make biodiesel at its Newark, N.J. refinery. }

Halfway there:

First, consider non-food sources.

Then, realize that hemp is an excellent source.

Go Michigan.

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #18 posted by FoM on September 06, 2008 at 13:00:21 PT
I don't like any of them. I think people become accustomed to what might hit where they live and they learn to live with it. I was in LA after Northridge and the weather was beautiful even though I felt the ground moving. Back in Ohio we were having ice storms which kill people in car accidents.

[ Post Comment ]
Comment #17 posted by mykeyb420 on September 06, 2008 at 12:49:02 PT
earthquakes are normal life here in SF. I am a 4th gen SF native, and I'm used to em. We all know the big one is coming, but we have no idea when. The east coast gets a week heads up for huricanes, I wish we got 1 minute heads up for quakes. During a quake, NOBODY gets to evacuate. rich, poor, old, young, black, white, we all go through it together. Given the choice of natural disasters,, I'll take an earthquake anyday.

tornadoes, huricanes, floods, fires,,,no way...

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #16 posted by FoM on September 06, 2008 at 06:31:53 PT
Off Topic: HBO
I just checked on DirecTV and HBO is open this weekend. It's a rainy Saturday and a great time to be able to watch movies. I thought I'd pass it on.

[ Post Comment ]
Comment #15 posted by FoM on September 06, 2008 at 05:36:52 PT
I hope the quake you had was all that you will get. Stay safe.

[ Post Comment ]
Comment #14 posted by mykeyb420 on September 05, 2008 at 21:41:31 PT
OT earthquake NEWS FLASH
@ 9:00pm PT a 4.2 quake hit SF Bay area. No injurys or damage. 1.9 aftershock.

(a 4.2 is small, 1.9 is very small )

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #13 posted by ekim on September 05, 2008 at 20:18:32 PT
Like Moore said dont bring a pea shooter

duzt please before you leave think about how you and your friend could use his knowledge to help start a hemp ethanol industry here and help the people to spend money for fuel here that is grown here and made here so the money will more likely stay here. I have heard that we use 20 million gals a day. at say 3.50.

I have heard that the big three make cars and trucks that run on ethanol plus farm tractors buses small airplanes run on ethanol and many more other operations running on ethanol. We need every station to offer ethanol but better yet we need co-ops as in growing areas you can locate a plant every 50 miles -- If in fact Jerry Brown does run for Gov. he will need Mr. Obama to push for Industrial Hemp to fight the pressure to Drill Baby Drill----

There is only 60 days left before we will have a chance to make and use new fuels--

Where are those smart people that have worked on projects that have shown the growing plants will allow us to offer cheaper fuel that will also help in global warming.

> Genencor Meets First Technical Milestone in Biomass to Ethanol Project > > Genencor Labs, Palo Alto, California > Genencor International, Inc. announced that it has achieved its first > technical milestone in its three-year contract with the U.S. Department of > Energy Biofuels Program. Genencor developed and validated processes for > improved cellulase enzymes that meet the intended objective at one-half the > cost of currently available technologies. > > "Advances in molecular biology and functional genomics enable us to push the > frontiers of commercial development and we're pleased to be making progress > toward developing new enzyme systems to accomplish the goal of this > project," said Michael Arbige, Ph.D, Senior Vice President and Chief > Technology Officer. > The goal of the program is to develop new enzyme systems for the economic > conversion of plant matter into ethanol and other valuable materials. DOE > has determined that the cost of converting biomass into useable form is a > critical stumbling block to producing biofuels and chemicals from renewable > raw materials. > > Specifically, Genencor and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are > working to deliver enzyme systems enabling a 10-fold improvement in the > economics of breaking down cellulosic material (plant matter) and other > complex carbohydrates into fermentable sugars. "The United States is the > world's leader in agriculture and biotechnology and the Department's biomass > research and development efforts take advantage of that position," said > David Garman, the U.S. Department of Energy's Assistant Secretary for Energy > Efficiency and Renewable Energy. "The President's Energy Policy promotes > the development of renewable energy sources and we look to biomass for > significant contributions to reducing America's dependence on foreign oil."

The 15th Annual HIA Convention & Annual General Meeting will be held on Sunday and Monday, October 19-20, 2008 at the Best Western Roundhouse Suites in Boston, Massachusetts, USA - directly after Natural Products Expo East & BioFach America. Please click here for more information.

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #12 posted by FoM on September 05, 2008 at 18:50:15 PT
Brazil sounds really nice. If I didn't live far away from lots of people I would be a nervous wreck and probably would be an angry person. The country allows me to feel like I'm still free.

[ Post Comment ]
Comment #11 posted by duzt on September 05, 2008 at 18:46:30 PT
Yes, I have. By law in Brazil every fuel station must offer alcohol. They make their alcohol from sugar cane (a close friend of mine owns the second largest sugar mill and plantation in the world) and it is much more efficient in producing fuel than corn. Brazil is far ahead on many issues, they have their problems as well, but the people make it such a wonderful place to be. They are positive, encouraging people that aren't as judgmental as americans. I'm so tired of Republicans trying to force us to do everything the way they do, I can't take them anymore. Brazil will pass us economically in the next 10 years and they really don't care about anybody else, they just love their country and work together to make it better. I've never seen a more divided america (I'm 36) and I don't have the patience to deal with it anymore. Brazil will be the next major power for sure, and I plan to do everything I can to support that.

[ Post Comment ]
Comment #10 posted by FoM on September 05, 2008 at 18:46:28 PT
Michael Moore's New Movie
He is giving his new movie away free. That is so kind of him.

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #9 posted by FoM on September 05, 2008 at 18:18:32 PT
Thanks. I just turned it on.

[ Post Comment ]
Comment #8 posted by ekim on September 05, 2008 at 18:00:17 PT
Michael Moore on Larry King
we need to be more like Brazil and make all kinds of ethanol from many different feed stocks.

I bet duzt has seen all different autos and trucks running on ethanol.

to read more on what we can make ethanol out of please read

David Blume --Alcohol can be a gas

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #7 posted by FoM on September 05, 2008 at 17:26:11 PT
I know what you mean. Now is a time of planning. I am quiet and waiting. If Obama doesn't win we won't move forward for years but we'll slowly go backward like we have during this administration. Prop 215 was a happy time and look what they have done to it. If they stay in power I can't see a future for any kind of reform.

[ Post Comment ]
Comment #6 posted by duzt on September 05, 2008 at 16:44:19 PT
Yes, my brother never moved back and never wants to. The Brazilian people are amazing, very kind and not cynical like Americans. I have so many friends there that I miss, and in 7 years being back in the US I have about 2 real friends. People in this country are very unfriendly and cliquish. I want to respect my country but it gets harder every day. I'm going to wait until November to see if Obama gets in, if McCain rigs the election somehow and wins, I will be leaving in January (just in time for Carnaval, yaahhhh). I went down to our local cannabis coop and they were in the middle of packing the new store they just moved in to. It took one week for the feds to find them, threaten their landlord and get them kicked out. Seems the feds can get things done as long as it isn't real crime or national security. I know these guys were doing things by the book and paying taxes as well. The feds are going after anybody they can get info on, not just the big guys. I would like to believe that Obama will end the federal raids, we shall hopefully see.

[ Post Comment ]
Comment #5 posted by FoM on September 05, 2008 at 11:34:34 PT
Are you going back to Brazil soon? It must have been a hard decision to make.

[ Post Comment ]
Comment #4 posted by FoM on September 05, 2008 at 11:33:06 PT
Comments From ABC News MJ Article
The comments are getting much better then they were just a few years back.

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by duzt on September 05, 2008 at 11:25:34 PT
That's too bad about Eddy. He's a great guy and a danger to nobody, as well as being a vietnam vet. I go to his parties a couple of times a year and set up and sell my glass and he is always a great host. He does nothing but help people and gets this treatment. Of course if he were building bombs or producing toxic chemicals or dangerous pharmaceuticals, he would be a great businessman. Our country deserves everything it gets with it's new conservative idiotic approach to everything. The US is no longer going to be dominant in the world as our economy crumbles and we deserve it. I'm looking forward to my move back to Brazil, the growing is more dangerous, but the country is so much more prepared for the future.

[ Post Comment ]
Comment #2 posted by rchandar on September 05, 2008 at 08:11:05 PT:

This Article
This article is very valuable indeed--nice reporting. If state-run programs responsibly collect taxes from MMJ, and growers are following guidelines in the production of a large tax base, then a precedent is set similar to the Dutch model. In Holland, coffee shops remained in business for about four years before the Dutch government rewrote their soft drugs policy.

A change in federal policy is often based upon programs and legal requirements set in state laws and practices. As more states adopt less restrictive policies and slowly incorporate MJ into the world of revenue, federal legislators will be pressured more to change their approach. Nice work.

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by FoM on September 05, 2008 at 06:10:34 PT
Lake County Pot Grower Lepp Guilty
September 5, 2008

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