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Pot Economics: What's the Future of the American Marijuana Market?

With widespread legalization more than just a pipe dream, the U.S. now grapples with an influx of a new form of 'over the table' income.

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But he stresses that not all is lost. Local government initiatives in Humboldt and Mendocino counties have proven promising to advocates for a sustainable, independent producer-oriented pot industry, with groups like the Emerald Growers Association lending their support in the effort to keep “homegrown” truly homegrown.

As to whether or not marijuana will ultimately go the way of alcohol and tobacco with such an enticing multibillion dollar carrot dangling on the horizon, Greacen gives the only answer he can so early in the game: “We’ll see.”

For the broader legalized market, the future may come sooner than some might think, given how much interest has been stoked by the ongoing experiments in Colorado and Washington. Those still skeptical of the march towards legalization and regulation ought to understand that the current early stage is the best time to shape the industry’s future character. Certainly not later, when entrenched interests will be fighting tooth and nail to protect their slices of the pie.

So for anyone with an alternative view of what the future landscape ought to look like — whether informal, independent growers and sellers, nonprofit and community-oriented organizations, or a small business — the time is ripe to get ahead of the would-be cannabis carpetbaggers.

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SOURCES: Marijuana Business Factbook 2013, Medical Marijuana Business Daily ( mmjbusinessdaily.com); Washington Office of Financial Management, August 2012, ( ofm.wa.gov); Michael Montgomery, “Plummeting Marijuana Prices Create a Panic in California,” National Public Radio ( npr.org); Jon Gettman, Ph.D., “Marijuana Production in the United States (2006),” Bulletin of Cannabis Reform, December 2006 ( drugscience.org); Renée Johnson, “Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity,” Congressional Research Service, July 24, 2013 ( fas.org/sgp/crs); Charles Brown and Phyllis Resnick, “The Fiscal Impact of Amendment 64 on State Revenues,” Colorado Futures Center, Colorado State University, April 24, 2013 ( webcom.colostate.edu); American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), The War on Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests, June 2013 ( aclu.org).

Dan Schneider is a freelance journalist and a member of the Dollars & Sense collective.