The Emerald Triangle is a region in Northern California, named as such due to it being the largest cannabis-producing region in the United States. The region is made up of Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity Counties. Growers have been cultivating cannabis plants in this region since the 1960s (during San Francisco's Summer of Love). The industry exploded in the region with the passage of California Proposition 215 which legalized use of cannabis for medicinal purposes in California.[1] Growing cannabis in The Emerald Triangle is considered a way of life, and the locals believe that everyone living in this region is either directly or indirectly reliant on the cannabis industry.[2]

Emerald Triangle
Map of the Emerald Triangle
Map of the Emerald Triangle
Coordinates: 40°00′N 123°30′W / 40.0°N 123.5°W / 40.0; -123.5Coordinates: 40°00′N 123°30′W / 40.0°N 123.5°W / 40.0; -123.5
CountryUnited States
CountiesMendocino County, Humboldt County, Trinity County
Largest cityEureka
 • Total10,260 sq mi (26,600 km2)

Environmental concernsEdit

There is an environmental impact of outdoor cannabis production in the Emerald Triangle, which is largely unregulated. It can include illegal damming, diversion and taking of water from streams (especially during summer); and pesticide-laden runoff, all of which can degrade critical salmon fisheries.[3][4] Clearcutting and roadbuilding for the cannabis plantations can also lead to habitat degradation which also endangers salmon.[5] The activities often occur illegally on public land.[6][7]

Surveillance lawsuitEdit

In 1984, Humboldt County residents filed a federal lawsuit claiming they had been subject to illegal surveillance by U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft utilized by the multiagency Campaign Against Marijuana Planting.[8]


The total population in the Emerald Triangle is 236,250 according to the 2010 census.[9] The majority of the population is widely spread throughout the woody hills that make up the area. In this sparsely populated region, only the city of Eureka has an urban area approaching 50,000 people. The second and third largest cities, by far larger than any other cities in the region, are Arcata, with 17,231 people, and Ukiah, with 16,075 people.[2][10] With an area of 11,138 square miles, the Emerald Triangle population density is 21/mi2.


  1. ^ Regan, Trish (January 22, 2009). "Pot growers thrive in Northern California". CNBC.
  2. ^ a b Ferran, Lee (August 3, 2010). "Legal Pot: Death of the Emerald Triangle?". ABC News.
  3. ^ Glenda Anderson (June 26, 2015), "Pot raids uncover "egregious" environmental damage in Emerald Triangle", The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, California
  4. ^ Jeff Barnard (October 1, 2014), Biologists: Marijuana industry a threat to salmon, Associated Press – via Spokesman-Review
  5. ^ "Black-Market Marijuana Farming Is Far From Green", Science Friday, July 31, 2015
  6. ^ Josh Harkinson (March–April 2014), "The Landscape-Scarring, Energy-Sucking, Wildlife-Killing Reality of Pot Farming: This is your wilderness on drugs", Mother Jones
  7. ^ Peter Fimrite (May 27, 2016), "Allure of legal weed is fueling land rush in Emerald Triangle", San Francisco Chronicle, Environmental damage from pot farming has been a major problem for decades. Drug traffickers growing illegally, often on public land, use pesticides and fertilizers that have poisoned wildlife, including endangered spotted owls and Pacific fishers. Growers have clear-cut trees, removed native vegetation, diverted streams, [and] caused erosion
  8. ^ Carole Rafferty (June 10, 1984), Marijuana raids angering retirees, The New York Times
  9. ^ "The Emerald Triangle: Ground Zero for Marijuana". Medical Marijuana Blog. April 8, 2010.
  10. ^ Mahar, Josh (November 26, 2007). "Cascadian Communities: The Emerald Triangle". Cascadia Rising (blog).