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Why Does So Much Marijuana Come from California?

Mention the word “California,” and odds are good your listeners will immediately think of three things: the Pacific Coast Highway, the Golden Gate Bridge, and marijuana. Lots of marijuana.

And it isn’t just the state’s famous medical marijuana system. California also feeds the cannabis black market from coast to coast. More than half the nation’s pot supply comes from the Golden State.

But why? What is it about California that draws so many cannabis farmers and traffickers? And why does the state’s weed have the potent reputation it does?

California provides majority of U.S marijuana

field of marijuanaAs a matter of statistics, California supplies roughly 60 percent of the marijuana in America. That includes the black market from coast to coast and the legal medical market in California.

That’s a lot of pot. And it’s mostly grown in one relatively small part of Northern California known as the Emerald Triangle.

The triangle is a group of three counties near the Pacific Coast north of the Bay Area. Mendocino, Trinity, and Humboldt counties are all famed within the cannabis world because they produce so much of the drug.

These counties are rural and remote, with limited law enforcement resources and a local culture closely intertwined with marijuana cultivation. Most people in these places would be hesitant to inform on pot growers, so police have had little success in eradicating illegal farms.

Hub of marijuana cultivation

As a result, a cultivation culture that started with back-to-the-land hippies in the 1960s has exploded into the area’s No. 1 business.

There are a few reasons for this. For one thing, the hilly, forested countryside has just the right mix of elevation and privacy for covertly cultivating cannabis.

The rich soil is also ideal for pot plants. And the state’s medical marijuana market makes the Emerald Triangle an ideal location for growers.

Of course, weed also grows in other parts of the state. Much of this crosses the state line bound for points east, north, and south. So where does it go?

Californian cannabis goes throughout the country

marijuana-californiaEverywhere, as it turns out. Most cannabis in the United States comes from one of three sources: Mexican smugglers, California growers, and the legal recreational market in Colorado.

These places supply the Midwest, the South, and the East Coast. But the Golden State far outdistances the other sources. Even brick, once a ubiquitous product across the country, is fading from view.

A map of drug runs out of California would look like a series of large arrows pointed east from California, with each breaking down into smaller arrows as the pot moves to every region.

Prices increase as the marijuana moves. Generally speaking, the further from California or Colorado, the more expensive the bud. This isn’t consistent from state to state – South Dakota, a western state, has the highest cannabis prices in the country.

It’s an open question whether California exports its best product, though anecdotal evidence suggests that the most potent product stays in the state while slightly less powerful marijuana makes its way to other places. But this isn’t always true.

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on and

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One comment

  1. “The rich soil is also ideal for pot plants.” Somebody ought to tell Humboldt’s growers about this, because , actually, the outdoor growers buy all the soil they use, every season. This adds up to a gigantic carbon footprint for Humboldt’s “sungrown.” There are many reasons why the marijuana industry needs to move out of habitat. To learn more, please watch our short micro documentary,Humboldt is Habitat

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