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As we head into the New Year unemployment in Oakland pegged at 17 percent (in contrast to 12 percent nation-wide), and with many Oaklanders deeply under-employed, tales of the underground economy--what we all do to get by that the Department of Labor doesn't track--take on new resonance.

Oakland is California’s center for the regulated medical marijuana movement. Not only did Oakland recently pass Measure F to tax cannabis businesses at a higher rate, the city is also posed to become the first in the nation to legalize, regulate, and tax grow houses that sell medical marijuana. Partly because of such new developments, the cannabis economy has been called a growth industry and even a “new gold rush” by some because of the amount of revenue and jobs it can produce.

As training programs surge, what are the opportunities, what are the risks? 

So, in that spirit, Oakland Local is digging into marijuana economics. Our starting place is with the human story—the cannabis-related enterprises that are being created by these new laws.  

Oakand Local’s story will take a look at training programs that teach attendees who plan to operate grow houses, become certified dispensary owners, or seek employment in cannabis-related industry.  The story will help readers understand who’s getting involved, what the economics are, and just how much these new training programs are booming.

(To give an example of the money and impact already at play, consider that Harborside Health Center, one of the city’s certified dispensaries, has gone from 43 to 75 full-time employees over the last year’s recession.  Harborside brought in $20 million in annuals last year.  Richard Lee, founder of Oaksterdam University, also runs Blue Sky—part coffee shop, part medical marijuana dispensary--which brought in over $3 million last year.)

This is the first installment in Oakland Local’s Sagas of the Underground Economy series.

How will it help?

This package will answer the following questions:

Who’s becoming a grower—and why? Based on talks with students and growers

Dispensary owners: how do you get into this biz—and why?

Pot jobs: What are they—and what are the risks?  The sale, cultivation and possession of marijuana remain strictly illegal under federal law. California law permits the sale of marijuana for medical purposes.  The Drug Enforcement Agency has raided dozens of medical marijuana growers, clubs and caregivers in California since the enactment of Prop. 215.  How common are raids and prosecution against growers in Oakland? Is this an issue and what do people do about it?

 
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