Ed Vullimay of The Observer newspaper in the United Kingdom came to the heart of California cannabis country recently. And after a visit to the Mendocino County medicinal marijuana garden of Jim Hill, he wondered in a lengthy Sunday report: Could Marijuana Save California?
Vullimay, making multiple stops in California's renowned, pot-producing Emerald Triangle, was impressed with the medicinal enterprise of Hill, whom he called "a respectable figure - neither old stoner nor criminal." Hill runs a medical marijuana collective for 1,200 registered patients.
The Observer article, an Our Man in Mendo report in the Queen's English, eloquently observes the California phenomenon and prospects of marijuana tax revenues for the Golden State - or, Vullimay says, the former "Orange State."
Here's an excerpt:
According to the law, the collective and its members "remunerate" Hill - he is not paid commercially. But he makes a tidy living.
If only the same could be said of the Californian economy. It may be the eighth largest in the world, but the state government has issued IOUs and unemployment is at its highest for 70 years. In his final budget in January, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed what he called "draconian" spending cuts aimed at fixing a $19.9bn (Â£13bn) budget deficit. He has said previously he would welcome a public debate on proposals to legalise and tax marijuana to help plug that hole.
Tax revenues from medical marijuana (amounting to roughly $200m) barely scratch the surface of what might be raised, given that marijuana is now by far the largest cash crop in what used to be known as the Orange State. It is this that has made an unlikely bedfellow of the actor who played the Terminator and those who might feel themselves closer in spirit to Dennis Hopper's character in Easy Rider.