The lousy economy has driven some Californians into the marijuana industry, which is doing a lot better than, say, construction. According to this Miller-McCune profile, California will grow an estimated $15 billion worth of weed in 2009, a good portion of it in the backyards and basements of amateurs and newcomers.

That’s good news for local governments. Oakland hopes to raise $300,000 next year from a medicinal marijuana sales tax.

The Justice Department has instructed U.S. attorneys not to go after users and dispensaries that operate within the laws of the states. That doesn’t mean a more permanent pot economy is just around the corner, but it is doubtless a step in that direction. — PZS

Miller-McCune:

As the economy tanked, layoffs rose, retirement savings shriveled and home-equity credit lines fizzled, Sarah and thousands of middle-class folks like her began raising extra cash by following local ordinances that allow the limited growing of Cannabis sativa for personal or medicinal use — while hoping that President Obama will keep federal law enforcers occupied with other things.

The economics of pot growing are nice. The amount of space needed to grow a tomato plant will support a cannabis plant that, with a bit of TLC and luck, will produce from one-quarter pound to as much as 2 pounds of marijuana. When wholesaled to a dispensary, each pound will bring around $2,000.

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