Custom Search 1
Political Analyst – Derek Thomas
A new investigative report by the New York Times sheds light on a disturbing trend in California’s transition to legal marijuana: not many growers want to make the transition.
It has been over nine months since California voted to legalize recreational marijuana, but according to the report, only a small percentage of growers in Northern California have joined the system. And the lack of participation in the new system by growers calls into question the forecasted billion-dollar tax windfall and smooth transition to a regulated market.
“People are losing faith in this process” Hezekiah Allen, the executive director of the California Growers Association, told the New York Times. In fact, in Mendocino county – one of the counties in the ‘Emerald Triangle’ has received just 700 applications to grow. Its estimated that Mendocino county may have as many as 10,000 grows. The numbers are even more dismal when you look at the Emerald triangle as a whole: just 3,500 growers out of an estimated 32,00 – about 11% - have applied for permits.
While growers have until December to apply, the bulk of applications were received in earlier days and has slowly been trending down since implying that there will probably not be a great flood of registration at the last minute.
But what exactly has so many growers resisting the transition to a legal grow? The answer is complicated.
Some growers are simply entrenched in their previous system. There is a strong resistance to change especially for some who have been growing for two decades with little oversight, and in most cases, no oversight. California and Californians have always had a strong willed and independent mentality. The rural areas are even more exaggerated in this almost wild west mind set.
But most are not operating these family homestead type of generational grows.
A larger group of growers just simply may not see a reason to make the transition, or may have motivations not to. There is no strong punishment for not making transition, as growing and trafficking even very large amounts of weed is only punishable by misdemeanor charges. Colorado, on the other hand, still considers large amounts of possession or growing unpermitted a felony. And California is still the black-market supplier for a majority of the country. Its estimated that California produces 7 times for marijuana than it consumes. There’s simply no motivation for a grower who knows his customers are illegal buyers from out of state to become a legal grow.
But, according to the New York Times, most are deterred from the voluminous paperwork to obtain a permit, the fees associated with the permit, and taxes and regulation that will now be placed on their business.
In fact, the problem is so severe that many are concerned that there won’t be enough legal weed to supply the legal market inside California!
You are actually looking at a situation where California has provided so few incentives to make the switch, and so many incentives not to switch, that they won’t be able to sustain their own legal market. It’s incredibly ironic.
The solutions are almost as complicated as the problem too and will need to be used in conjunction and in balance with each other. The state is going to have to have harsher punishments for those not willing to transition, more approachable paperwork, less imposing regulation – especially environmental – and greater enforcement of the laws.
No one expected California’s transition to be completely smooth and devoid of issues, but the current legislative framework seems to be doing more harm than good.