In November 2016, voters in California approved a ballot measure known as Proposition 64, legalizing adult recreational use of marijuana statewide. The initiative, which took full effect on Jan. 1, will make California the largest legal pot market in the world.
For decades, California has been home to a massive black market cannabis industry, supplying as much as 70 percent of the nation's marijuana. The historic epicenter of that industry and of America's pot culture in general is remote Humboldt County — a rugged coastal region 200 miles north of San Francisco. It is here, at the end of twisting mountain roads, nestled in dark redwood forests, that homesteaders have grown marijuana by the truckload for several generations.
Starting with the "back-to-landers" and free-spirited hippie movement in the late 1960s, growers refined the science of pot farming here. Years of genetic cross-matching and plant testing led to the perfection of dozens of separate THC-heavy strains, catapulting the Humboldt pot business into a billion-dollar industry. While medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996, the vast majority of Humboldt County pot has been a black market product — illegally grown and illegally sold.