The world is watching as California comes into the main fold this next year with a full adult legalization policy. The enormity of the market, matched with global regional brand recognition, and California’s propensity for bureaucracy make an interesting confluence for cannabis. Farmers have been operating, some for decades, in remote corners of northern California. Some farmers have been operating just a year or two, pushing aggressively into a US market formerly dominated by Mexican ditch weed.
Now that legalization has moved to the political forefront, all the freedom and transparency of an above-ground business will alleviate the stress which has weighed down illegal operators toiling in the fields for years! State regulation will show the world that cannabis is nothing to fear! Finally we can save large swaths of the environment by planting this miracle crop! All the dreams of backwoods marijuana growers have wished to have for years will finally come to fruition! And we shall all move forward in a new age of enlightenment, solving all the problems of capitalism with a new paradigm!
Or maybe not.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, California growers are slow to sign up for the new system. Fears abound that failure to buy in to the new legal system will lead to loss of profit and consumer base, and no one is arguing with the suggestion that California exports, and will continue to export, large swaths of cannabis on the black market:
“Based on data from various state and county agencies, Mr. (Hezekiah) Allen, of the (Emerald Growers Association), estimates that about 11 percent of growers — about 3,500 of 32,000 farmers in the Emerald Triangle, which covers Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties — have applied for permits. Most have been deterred by the voluminous paperwork to obtain a permit, the fees and the taxes, he said.
“Critics said the framers of the law might have also miscalculated because many growers say there is little upside from getting a permit. If they stay out of the system, they face lighter punishments and avoid paying taxes, fees and the cost of meeting environmental standards.
“…Small-scale growers have planted marijuana in the backwoods of the Emerald Triangle for decades. But in recent years Northern California has seen what has been called a ‘green rush’ of entrepreneurs with a more laser-focused profit motive and often little regard for forests famous for their giant redwood trees.”
The article mentions numerous outside “investors” who have flooded into the California cannabis market space, both legally and illegally, from Bulgarians and Russians, to Chinese and Hmong, to Jamaicans and Mexicans.
All eyes are on California in the coming year to see how the new legal structure plays out. Let’s hope the red tape doesn’t hold up good players while supporting a robust system of illegal regimes. It is important that local growers, patients, consumers and advocates speak out early and often to ensure that local farmers and mom-and-pop shops have a foothold in the new commercial market.
Want to stay informed about California’s cannabis laws? Join the International Cannabis Business Conference February 1 and 2, 2018 in San Francisco, California. Get your tickets today! Can’t make it to San Francisco or want to get a jump on learning important information about the industry? Then join us December 1-3, 2017 in Kauai, Hawaii!