Legal Pot: Death of the Emerald Triangle?

Therefore, many in the Emerald Triangle have taken the seemingly contradictory stance of protesting a law that would legalize their cash crop. Though she is not one of them, Hamilton said the detractors of legalization argue that the way the proposal is structured leads to monopolies on marijuana production and distribution -- a thinly veiled nod to Oakland's impending factory production.

It's an argument many have likened to the way in which super stores infamously run smaller "mom and pop" stores out of business across the country.

"Now the city of Oakland is going to end the marijuana business," Hamilton said. "What's going to happen to us?"

She said if her home town can no longer depend on the marijuana market, it will simply "dry up and blow away."

Desley Brooks, an Oakland City Council member and "longtime supporter of cannabis," told ABC News the super store comparison is off the mark.

"I don't see that," Brooks said. "I think that some people have made a significant amount of money and they don't want anyone else to infringe on that money."

Last Hope: Becoming the 'Napa Valley of Marijuana'

But there are others in the Emerald Triangle that welcome legalization as an opportunity.

"They are getting ready big time," a Mendocino county official said, referring to growers who have excitedly brought their scales in to the Agriculture department to make sure they function properly. "A lot of people I've talked to, they're not really worried about it. They're kind of excited about the opportunity to take their expertise and release it."

Humboldt's county supervisor, Mark Lovelace, said he believes his county is up to the challenge posed by mass producers.

"If Oakland decides they want to be the Wal-Mart of marijuana, we can be the Napa Valley of marijuana," he said, "if we want our name synonymous with higher grade, outdoor, quality product.

"If this becomes a legal industry in the free market, the way you're going to proceed is with superior product, superior price and with better distribution," he said.

In fact, Lovelace believes the Emerald Triangle already has a step up on the coming competition.

"You go anywhere in the country -- anywhere in the world -- and you mention you're from Humboldt County, you get a nod. That's name recognition to die for. We've lived with that for 30 or 40 years now, treated it somewhat as an embarrassment ... but if this is going to be a newly legitimate industry, shouldn't we be looking for ways to capture the upside?"

Local journalist and photographer Kym Kemp, 50, has lived in the Emerald Triangle all her life -- long enough fear a repeat of the economic devastation the counties suffered when the logging industry collapsed before marijuana took over.

"Humboldt will survive of course," Kemp told ABC News. "[But] things could get ugly. Unless, and this is big, unless local government and growers work together to create rules to foster [marijuana] tourism. Unless the marijuana industry is brought out of the shadows and welcomed -- then Humboldt will not just survive, but could even thrive."

Mendocino County supervisor John McCowen agreed.

"Personally, I can't wait for economic reality to come to the marijuana business," McCowen said. He said after a period of "transition," legalization would drive out criminal elements and in time attract legitimate businesses that have historically avoided the area due to its reputation.

Hamilton is not convinced.

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