Mainstreaming Marijuana

Fred DeSanto, engineer, attending Life after Legalization–a conference of marijuana activists and businessmen.

Unionizing growers?  Last Saturday’s meeting in Ukiah brought Union leader, Dan Rush, from Oakland as well as other business leaders and marijuana activists together.  Below is an excerpt from my article in the North Coast Journal.

In response to worries among the cannabis community about how legalization would affect their pocketbooks, Mendocino Medical Marijuana Advisory Board (MMMAB) convened a forum and workshop Saturday, April 24th in Ukiah to help its constituents discuss possible challenges.

Businessmen in striped shirts walked beside men with dreads as thick as their fist and as long as their arm at the Life after Legalization: Marijuana Enters the Mainstream meeting. Fred DeSanto of Ukiah, an energetic 70 year old, expressed enthusiasm for what he sees as a new industry. “This is real,” he said. “This is absolutely a groundswell. From my experience, these things just snowball.”  As an engineer, DeSanto, owner of a company that currently provides a variety of products to dispensaries, hopes to design environmentally sound products for the new cannabis businesses.

Meeting facilitator, Anna Hamilton, who received international attention for her “What’s After Pot” forum in Humboldt County, opened by highlighting the possible economic devastation legalization could bring to marijuana fueled economies. Many in the crowd had the same worries as they huddled into smaller intimate “stakeholder” groups such as businesses, 215 growers, and government. However, as they discussed issues in likeminded clusters, the area hummed with excitement.

During the forum, a dispensary owner asked the standing-room-only crowd if it was acceptable to put people in prison to keep pot prices up.  The resounding “no” roared from every corner of the building as well as from those leaning in through open windows. The crowd of over 200 people became energized and questions flew from every table about ways to form collectives and other pot businesses.

Pebbles Trippet, long time activist and MMMAB member, spoke about a “tectonic shift in public opinion” as she noted the current polls which show a majority favoring legalization. Syreeta Lux, the chairwoman of the newly formed Humboldt Medical Marijuana Advisory Panel (HuMMAP), pointed out that Oregon, Washington and three other states had legalization on the ballot. She noted that it was in everyone’s best interest to make sure California was not the last to open its doors to the white market economy.  A good part of black market sales consist of pounds exported to other states.  Why, she asked, would purchasers come here if marijuana was more easily obtainable in other states?

The otherwise well-received Burt Mosier, CEO of the Ukiah Chamber of Commerce, stated that although he had members who need growers’ money to stay afloat, he also had “members who … don’t believe that …cannabis dollars come into their businesses.” Groans of disbelief rumbled through the room and a local radio show host confronted him announcing, “The whole county is lubricated, baby, with marijuana dollars.”  The crowd erupted, hooting and applauding loudly. But Mosier pointed out that the merchants have no way of knowing who is spending money.

Read the rest of the article at the North Coast Journal.

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22 comments

  • I like the way you tie in your published articles with your posts here. I basically do the same thing. There’s nothing wrong with a little self promo now and then.

    Good article by the way.

  • Hi Kym,

    One thing I have been puzzling over is the price. I have heard reports that the price growers recieve has gone down from $5,000 a pound to less than $3,000 a pound over the last several years. Since I am a med mj consumer, I have noticed that the prices in the dispensaries haven’t gone down, maybe even up slightly over the last couple years.

    It seems like demand is up, supply is up, retail prices firm but wholesale prices down?

    What are the possible explanations? I have a few ideas (vertical integration of the cannabis business for one, or the displacedment of outdoor grown by indoor grown for another) but I would like to hear the thoughts of people closer to the situation than I before I make up my mind.

    This is important because if the issue is market displacement than legalizatiion is not the biggest worry of the triangle’s natural outdoor growers.

    Your articles are great, btw.

    have a peaceful day,
    Bill

    • Bill, Outdoor has gone down from a high of $6000 (peak demand in late July before there was much of an indoor market) to less than $2000 now. But more relevant to your question, growers–indoor–are getting about a thousand less per pound than they were 2-3 years ago and, no, dispensary prices haven’t dropped. Part of that is growers are growing more but the main reason I see is that dispensaries are growing their own–huge football field indoor grows. And not buying from growers. This has made indoor prices drop even more quickly than outdoor. Outdoor has “only” dropped about 6 or 7 hundred a pound. All this is highly subjective though. If an area has several good buyers, their prices will stay higher than another area whose buyer was dispensary and is no longer interested.

      Bill, I agree that legalization isn’t the small mom and pop growers biggest enemy…dispensaries are. Too bad, we should be natural allies.

  • Hi Kym,

    One thing I have been puzzling over is the price. I have heard reports that the price growers recieve has gone down from $5,000 a pound to less than $3,000 a pound over the last several years. Since I am a med mj consumer, I have noticed that the prices in the dispensaries haven’t gone down, maybe even up slightly over the last couple years.

    It seems like demand is up, supply is up, retail prices firm but wholesale prices down?

    What are the possible explanations? I have a few ideas (vertical integration of the cannabis business for one, or the displacedment of outdoor grown by indoor grown for another) but I would like to hear the thoughts of people closer to the situation than I before I make up my mind.

    This is important because if the issue is market displacement than legalizatiion is not the biggest worry of the triangle’s natural outdoor growers.

    Your articles are great, btw.

    have a peaceful day,
    Bill

    • Bill, Outdoor has gone down from a high of $6000 (peak demand in late July before there was much of an indoor market) to less than $2000 now. But more relevant to your question, growers–indoor–are getting about a thousand less per pound than they were 2-3 years ago and, no, dispensary prices haven’t dropped. Part of that is growers are growing more but the main reason I see is that dispensaries are growing their own–huge football field indoor grows. And not buying from growers. This has made indoor prices drop even more quickly than outdoor. Outdoor has “only” dropped about 6 or 7 hundred a pound. All this is highly subjective though. If an area has several good buyers, their prices will stay higher than another area whose buyer was dispensary and is no longer interested.

      Bill, I agree that legalization isn’t the small mom and pop growers biggest enemy…dispensaries are. Too bad, we should be natural allies.

  • Hi Kym,

    So it is vertical integration that is driving down prices, I think you are confirming that. The bigger dispensaries down south are growing their own, thus gaining the retail profit and also the profit from growing.

    The triangle growers will have to find an answer to that and it has not much to do with legalization per se, unless it is the legalization itself that allows such huge industrial grows.

    Maybe a statewide limit of 100 plants per grow? A “family farm” proviso?

    have a peaceful day,
    Bill

    • HuMMAP, Humboldt Medical Marijuana Advisory Panel, is wanting to influence legislation to that effect. I think the Mendocino Medical Marijuana Advisory Board is wanting to do the same. 100 pound limits protects small growers from corporations or even greedy growers. Still, prices for patients should come down. Recreational prices could stay high but true patients should be paying little to nothing in my opinion. (I know some really good dispensaries subsidize the herb for the terribly ill.)

  • Hi Kym,

    So it is vertical integration that is driving down prices, I think you are confirming that. The bigger dispensaries down south are growing their own, thus gaining the retail profit and also the profit from growing.

    The triangle growers will have to find an answer to that and it has not much to do with legalization per se, unless it is the legalization itself that allows such huge industrial grows.

    Maybe a statewide limit of 100 plants per grow? A “family farm” proviso?

    have a peaceful day,
    Bill

    • HuMMAP, Humboldt Medical Marijuana Advisory Panel, is wanting to influence legislation to that effect. I think the Mendocino Medical Marijuana Advisory Board is wanting to do the same. 100 pound limits protects small growers from corporations or even greedy growers. Still, prices for patients should come down. Recreational prices could stay high but true patients should be paying little to nothing in my opinion. (I know some really good dispensaries subsidize the herb for the terribly ill.)

  • The triangle growers should consider putting up an online dispensary selling their natural organic sun blessed cannabis statewide to members. It is being done already elsewhere in California. It is maybe a legal gray area but that is one way to compete in the statewide market with the big vertically integrated ops down south,

    have a peaceful day,
    Bill

  • The triangle growers should consider putting up an online dispensary selling their natural organic sun blessed cannabis statewide to members. It is being done already elsewhere in California. It is maybe a legal gray area but that is one way to compete in the statewide market with the big vertically integrated ops down south,

    have a peaceful day,
    Bill

  • Here’s another wrinkle to consider (and one that will change when pot is legal):

    I know some growers who use a “caretaker status” and put up copies of people’s 215 cards (posted near their crops) and give them a free ounce (in one case more) of their product every month. I think t’s a win-win for both parties, but I admit I’m not sure on the legality of the arrangement.

    What are your thoughts on this?

  • Dave, it isn’t legal but it is moral. Technically, the dispensaries could be considered illegal too though–no one is supposed to profit off of pot. There is the issue of fair compensation for labor which your growers could use as a defense if they were ever arrested.

    Truly, if they fly below law enforcement’s radar, they will be fine. No one is wanting to expend a lot of resources on small growers. See Gallegos interview below

    http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/mmjnews/message/10692

  • Dave, it isn’t legal but it is moral. Technically, the dispensaries could be considered illegal too though–no one is supposed to profit off of pot. There is the issue of fair compensation for labor which your growers could use as a defense if they were ever arrested.

    Truly, if they fly below law enforcement’s radar, they will be fine. No one is wanting to expend a lot of resources on small growers. See Gallegos interview below

    http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/mmjnews/message/10692

  • Hi Kym,

    While I am hugely in favor of legalization, I do not think that medical mj users should be taxed on their medicine. I am fine with recreational users paying a reasonable tax. No one pays a sales tax on pharmaceutical products, and medical marijuana shouldn’t be any different.

    have a peaceful day,
    Bill

    • Bill, I agree. But Tax Cannabis doesn’t actually mandate a tax.. It leaves the taxing to local cities and counties, I believe. The initiative is wide open and will need the legislature to make a solid framework. Omar Figueroa, a protege of Tony Serra, and well known activist attorney, said at the Ukiah forum that he has a lot of concerns about Tax Cannabis but…and this is big…he feels that it needs to be voted in here or the legalize marijuana movement will lose momentum. Other states may then legalize ahead of us causing more economic damage to the small grower.

  • Hi Kym,

    While I am hugely in favor of legalization, I do not think that medical mj users should be taxed on their medicine. I am fine with recreational users paying a reasonable tax. No one pays a sales tax on pharmaceutical products, and medical marijuana shouldn’t be any different.

    have a peaceful day,
    Bill

    • Bill, I agree. But Tax Cannabis doesn’t actually mandate a tax.. It leaves the taxing to local cities and counties, I believe. The initiative is wide open and will need the legislature to make a solid framework. Omar Figueroa, a protege of Tony Serra, and well known activist attorney, said at the Ukiah forum that he has a lot of concerns about Tax Cannabis but…and this is big…he feels that it needs to be voted in here or the legalize marijuana movement will lose momentum. Other states may then legalize ahead of us causing more economic damage to the small grower.

  • I agree with Bill, that medical cannabis shouldn’t be taxed when patients buy it. The state is using a loophole to do so. By law, physicians can only ‘recommend’ cannabis, they cannot prescribe a controlled substance. Therefor, when you buy cannabis, you are not buying a prescription drug and it is subject to sales tax. This is something that has to be addressed in the state legislature.

    Or maybe at the federal level? I think it will be a long time before the feds legalize cannabis, but they can and should drop it from a Schedule One class drug, meaning it has no medical value, to a less restrictive class. I’m not certain, maybe another reader here knows whether that would free physicians to legally prescribe, rather than merely ‘recommend’.

    Lessening the Schedule One restriction would definitely allow expanded research into the medical properties of cannabis. Given how many people use cannabis both medically and recreationaly, this should be recognized as a public health issue, and activists should press for a schedule reduction in order to enable broader research.

    • Liz, I agree. Given how many states are moving to allow medical marijuana and even how many are poised to legalize it (in a limited form) then maybe the feds will be pushed towards dropping marijuana from a schedule one drug.

  • I agree with Bill, that medical cannabis shouldn’t be taxed when patients buy it. The state is using a loophole to do so. By law, physicians can only ‘recommend’ cannabis, they cannot prescribe a controlled substance. Therefor, when you buy cannabis, you are not buying a prescription drug and it is subject to sales tax. This is something that has to be addressed in the state legislature.

    Or maybe at the federal level? I think it will be a long time before the feds legalize cannabis, but they can and should drop it from a Schedule One class drug, meaning it has no medical value, to a less restrictive class. I’m not certain, maybe another reader here knows whether that would free physicians to legally prescribe, rather than merely ‘recommend’.

    Lessening the Schedule One restriction would definitely allow expanded research into the medical properties of cannabis. Given how many people use cannabis both medically and recreationaly, this should be recognized as a public health issue, and activists should press for a schedule reduction in order to enable broader research.

    • Liz, I agree. Given how many states are moving to allow medical marijuana and even how many are poised to legalize it (in a limited form) then maybe the feds will be pushed towards dropping marijuana from a schedule one drug.

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