A new estimate of the contribution made to the Mendocino County economy by underground marijuana cultivation suggests it is more than half a billion dollar annual industry. The estimate, which is based upon the number of eradicated illegally grown plants, has increased dramatically in recent years.

But the number doesn’t have the County up in arms over the illegal grows. In fact, some point to the money as directly and positively impacting the community. According to a local banker, any of those funds likely cycle through the economy in Mendocino six or seven times, playing a large role in local business.

Comparing the size of the marijuana growth, the Ukiah Daily Journal offers several other industry shares for recent years: manufacturing $774 million, tourism $194 million, and wine grapes $73.9 million.

From the Ukiah Daily Journal:

Residents of Mendocino County reported gross incomes of $1.377 billion in 2010. Using a calculation suggested by a Humboldt County banker, the underground economy contributed another $675 million to the county economy.

Understanding the real contribution of marijuana ‘s underground economy on Mendocino County has historically been difficult. Many past assumptions have been based on the quantity of marijuana being eradicated, which represents a small fraction of the amount being grown. Calculations made by The Willits News in 2005 estimated the size of the unreported crop in Mendocino County to be in excess of $1.5 billion, based on the 155,000 plants eradicated that year. By 2010, the number of plants eradicated had mushroomed to 572,680, in part due to out-of-area growers flocking here to set up gardens.

Read the full article here.