From ABC News: Travel

Humboldt County High: California Community Thrives on Legal Pot

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When Stephen Gasparas arrived in Humboldt County in late 2004, he was driving a VW Westfalia pop-top camper on the verge of breaking down and had only $100 in his pocket.

marijuana

Long-time local activist Martha Devine, also known as “Granny Green Genes,” says that the economy of Humboldt County “would have ceased to exist a long time ago without it. This county was built on marijuana.”

(Mary Spicuzza/ABC)
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Gasparas, who ran a flooring business in Chicago before heading west, seems to have found far greener pastures in Humboldt County’s medical marijuana industry.

Less than four years later, the owner of the Arcata iCenter, a collective marijuana dispensary, is now driving a new hybrid Toyota Highlander and bringing in about $100,000 a year. (And judging by the foot traffic in and out of the iCenter, that figure is a modest estimate.)

But Gasparas, 38, is just one of many in Humboldt County and throughout California benefiting from the booming medical marijuana industry.

Exactly how much the Golden State has made in pot profits is a hazy figure, mostly because California doesn’t keep exact numbers on the sales tax on medical marijuana.

It’s estimated that $143 million in medical marijuana sales have netted $11.4 million in state and local taxes annually, based on registered businesses, California State Board of Equalization spokeswoman Anita Gore said. And those estimates are small compared with those in a 2006 report co-written by California NORML state coordinator Dale Gieringer, which said that Californians consumed between $870 million and $2 billion worth of medical marijuana per year.

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Of course, marijuana is nothing new to Humboldt County.

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