REDWAY, Calif. -- The smell of pot hung heavy in the air as men with dreadlocks and gray beards contemplated a nightmarish possibility in this legendary region of outlaw marijuana growers: legal weed.
If California legalizes marijuana, they say, it will drive down the price of their crop and damage not just their livelihoods but the entire economy along the state's rugged northern coast.
"The legalization of marijuana will be the single most devastating economic event in the long boom-and-bust history of Northern California," said Anna Hamilton, 62, a Humboldt County radio host and musician who said her involvement with marijuana has mostly been limited to smoking it for the past 40 years.
Local residents are so worried that pot farmers came together with officials in Humboldt County for a standing-room-only meeting Tuesday night where civic leaders, activists and growers brainstormed ideas for dealing with the threat. Among the ideas: turning the vast pot gardens of Humboldt County into a destination for marijuana aficionados, with tours and tastings -- a sort of Napa Valley of pot.
Many were also enthusiastic about promoting the Humboldt brand of pot. Some discussed forming a cooperative that would enforce high standards for marijuana and stamp the county's finest weed with an official Humboldt seal of approval.
Pot growers are nervous because a measure that could make California the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use is set to appear on the ballot in November.