Pot. It does an economy good.

Emerald Triangle, California. That’s Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties, —where the economy is smokin’ hot, thanks to marijuana, the region’s top cash crop. It’s also an area where Prop 19, a measure to legalize marijuana in the state, failed on Nov. 2. How deliciously twisted is that?

News reports suggest entrepreneurs in California’s booming weed economy feared both a potential drop in the price of pot and losing their lifestyle to corporate farming ops. Far better, I guess, to operate an illegal 1,000-acre pot farm in a national forest than sell out to Philip Morris.

Anti-weed advocates approved of California’s morally superior choice, while acknowledging that voters weren’t exactly just saying no to drugs. Here’s a quote from 29-year-old Shaun Ramos on Join Together’s website: “I don’t want Anheuser-Busch handling pot or to have to buy Marlboro marijuana. This is all about corporate control.”

Whatever the reason, voting down Prop 19 might have been California’s loss. But it could be Nevada’s gain.

Northern California supporters of Prop 19 fantasized about a new Napa-Sonoma, drawing tourists from around the world to tasting rooms for boutique marijuana. Marketers could promote “ganja boot camps for would-be cultivators and coastal bud-and-breakfasts,” as the Contra Costa Times put it.

Hold on. Nevada is the outlaw state. Sin starts here. We invented divorce and made gambling a joyous national pastime. We have legal prostitution in most counties. Think tax revenue. Who could resist an Old West-style brothel, bud ’n’ breakfast?

Well, I could resist, actually. But this isn’t about personal freedom. If I wanted to smoke pot, I would. I don’t, so I don’t. Having that choice seems fair. But no one cares about fair.

This is about money—about saving our state by being the first sell-out on the block.

The key is to convince our lawmakers to approve legalization legislation in the coming session, well before California or Massachusetts pass marijuana legalization in 2012. (That’s when young people will show up at the polls for Obama’s reelection.)

Sure, Nevada’s desert might not be the most optimal place for a factory farm. But if we can grow Heart o’ Golds in Fallon, we can surely grow Acapulco gold. UNR researchers might develop strains of potent marijuana that thrive in arid climates. Or we could import—from northern Cali.

If Nevada legalized marijuana for recreational use—it’s already legal for prescribed medical use—we could stop wasting money arresting, prosecuting and jailing offenders. Yes, Nevada still sends people to jail for possessing and selling marijuana. Repeat offenders with less than one ounce can face prison time. The National Institute of Corrections shows Nevada’s prison population at 12,743 inmates. We spent about $20,641 per inmate in 2009.

Here’s a benefit my journalism buddies might like—ads for legal medical pot shops are boosting profits at newspapers in California. Pick up a weekly paper anywhere in the state, and you’ll find ads for medical marijuana and hydroponic growing systems. Perhaps pot ads could save the struggling Reno Gazette-Journal, lately reduced to a daily newspamphlet.

Legalizing marijuana in Nevada, as we know from the past, is not going to be easy. Pot prohibition is a tricky, stigmatized issue. California news media editorialized against 19. Democrats weren’t supportive, and Tea Partiers were hostile. The East Bay Express described, based on exit polls, the demographics of many “no” on Prop 19 voters: “Republican conservatives who strongly identified with the Tea Party … over 66, and out of work … those who hadn’t finished high school voting 60-40 against.”

More than a few Nevadans fit the above profile. That’s why our new governor and legislators will need to show some spunk. Brian Sandoval’s people should get on the phone with Phil Morris now so we can start growing Nevada gold next summer.