Marijuana legalization: Could it hurt Colorado's booming medical-pot business?

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

While lawmakers hammer out regulations on Colorado's nascent yet booming medical marijuana industry, an even bigger political showdown is looming in California, where voters will decide whether to legalize marijuana altogether in the November election.

While marijuana activists have been pushing for legalization for decades, some of those associated with California's medical-marijuana industry are nervous about what such a development could mean for them.

Anna Hamilton, a California medical marijuana worker, recently told the Times-Standard newspaper in Humboldt county that legalization could be "devastating" to the Emerald Triangle, the so-called northern California region that's home to Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties -- the biggest marijuana producing counties in the county.

In other words, full-scale repeal of marijuana prohibitions could wreak havoc on the thousands of people who quietly grow, process and sell weed in the area -- and that could mean trouble for the entire region. A Mendocino County study found that pot accounted for up to two-thirds of the county's economy.

That's why, last week, Hamilton held an unprecedented meeting of local business people, area officials and those involved with medical marijuana to consider a "pot-pot economy." (Such meetings aren't as unprecedented in Colorado; lately our medical-marijuana industry, though considerably smaller, has been less clandestine than California's.)

While there's no word yet as to the meeting's results, Hamilton told the Times-Standard she hoped the area could leverage in its "Emerald Triangle" designation after potential legalization -- embracing branded marijuana products and services and even marijuana tourism.

As Colorado's medical-marijuana industry matures and advocates like SAFER's Mason Tvert move toward putting a similar legalization effort before this state's voters, medical-marijuana workers may be faced with the same conundrum. So they may want to start preparing now.

We can see it already: Ganja tours of Denver hosted by colorful bus driver Banjo Billy -- and the transformation of Boulder County into the Napa Valley of pot.

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.