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October 21, 2010 12:28 PM The Marijuana-Industrial Complex

By Daniel Luzer

This isn’t really about college (well, except for stuff like this and this) but I’m pleased to announce the early release of one of the articles that will appear in the Monthly’s still embargoed November/December issue.

When Californians go to the polls on November 2nd to vote on Proposition 19—officially known as the Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act—they will not only be deciding whether to make marijuana legal in the most populous state in the union. They’ll also be determining the shape of a large new American industry.

In his new article, “The Closing of the Marijuana Frontier,” Monthly editor John Gravois offers a fascinating look at the existing black market economy of cannabis production in Northern California, where prohibition has created a bizarre refuge of the old American agrarian ideal. Outlaw farmers in rural marijuana strongholds try to brand themselves as the new Napa Valley of pot, where day-tripping connoisseurs might sample organic, sustainably grown weed at a premium. In such a system, the profits and power from the state’s largest cash crop would remain in the hands of thousands of small producers—an outcome someone like Thomas Jefferson might rather have liked.

But that vision is already undermined by political deals cut by some of Prop 19’s biggest backers: the prominent urban middlemen who increasingly control pot distribution in the existing medical marijuana retail market. Their efforts favor a much more consolidated and centralized industry, one that could set us on a path towards a world of marijuana lobbying groups, Super Bowl spots for “Marlboro Greens,” and a cannabis sector that cannot be easily controlled by the democratic process.

Check out the article here.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer