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.