CNBC 'Marijuana Inc.' lifts the lid on weed business
Thursday, January 22nd 2009, 4:00 AM
Trish Regan's show on CNBC is no puff piece.
MARIJUANA, INC.: INSIDE AMERICA'S POT INDUSTRY Thursday night at 9, CNBC
Don't worry that you're having a weed-induced flashback, dude, if you think there's something familiar about Trish Regan's CNBC report Thursday night on the American marijuana industry.
Lisa Ling reported the same story about two months ago on the National Geographic channel.
But a certain amount of overlap doesn't diminish Regan's solid feature, which focuses on Mendocino County, Calif, where entrepreneurs grow marijuana the way Washington, D.C., grows cherry trees.
And in most cases, almost as openly.
For better or worse, pot has become a major player in American agriculture, and Regan matter-of-factly notes that what corn is to Iowa, marijuana is to a fertile triangle just outside San Francisco.
Fittingly for a CNBC production, Regan focuses more on the economics than the sociology of marijuana, and the numbers make her point eloquently.
It costs about $400 to grow a pound of marijuana. The grower sells it to a wholesaler for about $2,500. It's then broken down in smaller quantities that can bring in about $6,000.
You see the incentive here.
One of the growers interviewed by Regan values his plants at about $5,000 apiece. He has 20 of them, which makes him a small grower, but still adds up to more than small change.
It also puts him into a gray legal area, Regan points out.
California several years ago started allowing residents to grow small amounts of marijuana for personal medicinal use. But no court has definitively ruled what constitutes a small amount, and then there's one other complication: Growing any marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
Most of Regan's interview subjects, who don't mind showing their faces or wares on national television, seem unbothered by the potential for prosecution.
Nor do her interviews with law enforcement officials suggest much cause for concern. The main response of the marijuana police, local and federal, is frustration that they can do so little about an enterprise that some officials figure may in some way involve up to 60% of county residents.
Without marijuana farming, Regan's sources all agree, the county's economy would implode.
"Marijuana Inc." adds up to a solid special with a well-supported and inescapable conclusion: The commerce is unlikely to change and the law has only a slim chance of doing more than containing the most violence-prone offenders.
When it comes to marijuana, a whole lot of people voted some time ago to just say yes.
David Hincley, NY Daily News, January 22, 2009