Magazine article Reason

Pot Economics

Magazine article Reason

Pot Economics

Article excerpt


Investigative journalist Douglas Fine has traveled from Guatemala to Rwanda to Burma, covering everything from international politics to outdoor adventures for outlets such as NPR, Outside, and Salon. In his latest book, Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution (Gotham), he considers how a single illicit crop worth $35 billion annually could jump-start our sagging economy. In August, Reason TV Associate Producer Tracy Oppenheimer talked to Fine about the state of the new green economy and how the bustling pot industry of Mendocino, California, might translate to the rest of the country. Check out the full interview at

Q: Could you give a sense of the size and scope of the marijuana industry?

A: Anytime there's a prohibition, crime tends to be the profit maker, so we have these super-rich cartels. Most estimates put 70 percent of cartel profits coming from cannabis. What I did was follow the one place at the time in the U.S. where the local government said, "This is what our economy is here." It was in Mendocino County, California. Within that one county, [during] the year, 2011, that the federal government fully allowed it to operate, the program [to tax legit sales of marijuana generated] $600,000 worth of revenue for the county and saved seven deputy jobs. Map that onto the entire U.S., and it would be billions for the legitimate economy while crippling the cartels.

Q: Talk about how Mendocino should serve as a model for the rest of the country.

A: I picked Mendocino because politically and culturally it was ready. The sheriff had this revelation. In his own words, he doesn't like to be thought of as the Cheech and Chong sheriff. It's not like he's out there just saying, "Do whatever you want." He is a law-and-order guy. And he woke up one day after [California legalized medical cannabis in 1996] and said guess what? …

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