The Politics of Pot
To legalize or not to legalize, that is the question for many here in Humboldt. Grow magazine recently had me write a piece for growers that looks at both sides of the question.
With the advent in California of at least two possible avenues for marijuana to be legalized in the next year, the debate between growers is heating up. In Humboldt County, famous for it’s pot and financially dependent on it’s income from weed (estimates base up to 2/3’s of the county’s economy on marijuana) the discussion has reached the boiling point. …
The voices on both sides care passionately about the subject. Here are a list of several major points from each position that growers should consider before voting.
1. According to the Oct 28th issue of the NY Times, California had “78,500 arrests on felony and misdemeanors related to the drug, up from about 74,000 in 2007, according to the California attorney general. That is an unconscionable amount of people suffering because marijuana is illegal.
2. Corporations may take over a share of the market if they aren’t controlled but, just like small wineries and breweries have a healthy share of the economic pie so too will marijuanaries that cater to the high end discerning cannabis consumer.
3. Legalization will make the current situation of growing on public lands less viable as secrecy will not be important. Environmental concerns can be addressed better within the framework of the government.
4. Marijuana can be grown by most people but, in reality, most people don’t grow tasty heirloom tomatoes, they buy them. Legalization will still leave plenty of people hungry for what growers have to sell.
5. Farmers in Ohio and Pennsylvania have put in place laws which protect the small farmer and keep corporations at bay. Cannafarmers can do the same. Should do the same.
6. Some proponents don’t believe that prices will fall with legalization. They believe with legalization could come greater social acceptability and thus higher rates of usage and therefore, that will encourage price stability.
7. Because of the large cannabuisnesses, prices of marijuana are already falling and growing is already moving into the hands of dispensaries. Mom and Pop growers will be shut out of the business if they don’t adapt.
8. 56 % of Californians already support legalization—sooner or later marijuana will probably be legal. Prepare for it and ride the wave. Rather than try to defy it and get sucked under.
9. Legalization will eliminate the horrible crime waves rippling through Mexico in which hundreds have died and more have traumatized.
10. Whatever state legalizes marijuana first, will probably export (illegally, of course) large amounts of cannabis to the surrounding states. The money which will surely be garnered will support those growers and that quick acting state. In other words, the early state to legalize is going to get a lot of money to build up their cannabuisnesses whether small or large. With legalization in only a few states (not federally okayed) then corporations which operate federally would be unable to capitalize on the industry. This might allow growers to actually expand and profit more.
11. Whatever state legalizes first will inevitably draw tourists from across the nation and the world. Thus bringing in money that will help establish all aspects of the marijuana industries in that state.
1. Dr. Ken Miller—although pro marijuana in most respects and a noted 215 activist—urges that all people vote against legalization because its illegality is “a gatekeeper standing in the way to keep it from being marketed to the youth.” He worries that, as in the case of alcohol and tobacco, big corporations will target advertising at the young and, as in the case of alcohol and tobacco, youth will become disproportionally heavy users. “We are just starting to learn about marijuana,” he says and he worries that we don’t know what the consequences will be on young brains and bodies.
2. Several prominent pot activists (Dennis Peron and Jack Herer, co-authors of Prop. 215) passionately speak out against allowing marijuana to be co-opted by what they call “cannabuisness” and against the government’s taxing of what has been up until now an alternative economy. ““I don’t want to f*king give the United States government one f*king dollar of taxes,” explained Jack Herer in a speech.
3. Almost all legalization scenarios include taxes. Most people feel that the burden of taxes will fall on the grower. As prices go down, taxes will eat up a larger portion of the growers’ profit eventually squeezing all but big growers out of the industry.
4. With the advent of 215, most growers and users face very light to non-existent penalties. If decriminalization happened, these penalties would virtually disappear.
5. Anyone can grow marijuana, if marijuana is legal, people will just grow their own and growers will suffer and their communities will collapse financially.
6. Legalization will increase government involvement in growers’ lives. Nothing good ever came out of government intervention!
7. The initiatives and AB2254 are flawed. Read them and see all the problems that they could cause.
8. Large corporations are poised to rush in and gobble up cannabuisness. They can operate inexpensively by cutting costs and exploiting cheap labor. This will drop the price of pot precipitously forcing the small quality farmer out of business—which will destroy the growers, the businesses based on them, their communities, and, eventually, will be a huge disservice to the cannabis consumer.
What happens now?
With consumers far out numbering growers and business people, the wild west days of illegal cannabis ranches may be inevitably ending.
Many growers, though opposed to legalization on financial grounds, worry that they don’t have much choice but to jump on the bucking bronco and try and ride it into some sort of economically reasonable future.
A group of growers and cannabuisness operators in Humboldt County have formed to address the issues surrounding legalization. The group is brand new but ambitious. Patrick (he declined to give his last name) from the Humboldt Growers’ Guild (HuGG) explained that although he and his organization doesn’t like it, “[Legalization] is inevitable. It is gonna happen. Getting involved in the process and steering it towards the direction that benefits growers is [what we are trying to do]” He goes on to say that his group wants to get involved in legalization mostly on a state and local level. HuGG wants to ensure that wording in any legislation is flexible for local governments to create their own guidelines for legal commercial production within the state.
He speculates, “It could be a good thing if [California legalizes marijuana first.] Other states might beat us to this. They will then have a headstart on a viable legal industry. Then Humboldt and California will be behind.” He goes on to say that “geography is important.” He worries that “Colorado is taking off. People from the East Coast are going to go there [to get their pot.] It will save them hours of driving.” The money lost will benefit the Rocky Mountain state and leave the Golden State without the necessary funds to support their cannabuisnesses and their communities. This group can be found at http://humboldtgrowersguild.wordpress.com/.
Whether growers and the businesses that depend on them end up voting against legalization or voting for it, everyone involved in the industry will be keeping their eye on California and the other states that are facing legalization to see how to adapt to whatever changes may be coming.