The unexpected opponents of legalizing marijuana in California
California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana, but its attempt at full legalization could be thwarted by the drug’s very industry.
Many marijuana growers have come out and said they simply can’t support Proposition 64 which, if passed, means Californians age 21 and up could buy weed for recreational use.
While polls show a majority of Californians are ready to jump on board, and legalization could bring in as much as $1 billion in new tax revenue, some growers are saying the measure if passed would drive out small farmers.
They fear it would give the industry an overtaxed, corporate feel reminiscent of Big Tobacco.
“I don’t want to replace a criminal injustice with an economic injustice,” Hezekiah Allen, a third-generation marijuana farmer, told Reuters earlier this month.
The Golden State’s something of a weed veteran in America, from the so-called Emerald Triangle in Northern California to the tacky, but popular pot shops scattered throughout the Southland.
After 10 years in the medical marijuana market, the state currently grows more weed than any other.
Currently, only those with a condition, like cancer or anxiety, can purchase medical marijuana. It requires getting a prescription from a doctor and then being issued a marijuana license.
But with Prop 64, anyone over 21 could legally grow, possess and use marijuana, with few restrictions.
The measure also aims to rewrite sentencing rules for marijuana-related crimes. If passed, several penalties would be reduced, and those serving jail or prison time could have their sentences shortened, if they apply, according to California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office. Those who have already completed their sentence could have their records wiped, as well. The suggested changes have been applauded by groups like The Marijuana Policy Project and Drug Policy Alliance.
Prop 64 will prevent the destruction of CA families and will prevent loved ones for being detained or deported for marijuana. #YesOn64
Drug Policy Alliance (@DrugPolicyOrg) October 18, 2016
There’s a few catches, though, like a 15 percent tax on all weed sales, with some exemptions for medical marijuana. The law would also establish packaging and labeling standards, giving a layer of government oversight never before seen.
But growers are frustrated with other things, too. For one, greater competition.
Its like a gold rush, Kevin Sullivan, a real estate broker in Humboldt County, told the San Francisco Chronicle. People are coming from all over the place, from different states, and theyre all buying to grow or to split the land up for multiple people to grow. Its pot on crack, and its driving prices up.
In recent months, the patches of Northern California best-known for their buds are getting bought up by outside interests. Jim Redd, another Humboldt real estate agent, told The Chronicle that land usually going for $1,500 an acre is selling for as much as $4,000.
#vote no on prop 64. keep prop 215. keep medical weed 18+ keep big business from affecting small farms and cannabis culture
ogmprod (@ogmprod) October 15, 2016
Growers in places like Humboldt County, which is in the fruitful growing region called the Emerald Triangle, are weary of the newcomers.
“With looming legalization, Humboldt Growers is moved by a keen sense of urgency, a concern that Humboldt County small farmers, with their exceptional product, will be cut out of the medical trade,” the Humboldt Growers Collective wrote last year on its .
As the New York Times put it: Weed in California “is emerging from the underground into a decidedly capitalist era.”
The Cannabis industry right now is a lot like the oil boom. The legal doors are opening and profits are through the roof.
Tommy Chong (@tommychong) August 18, 2016
“We don’t want to create the next Big Tobacco,” Jeffrey Zinsmeister, executive vice president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), told Mashable.
SAM has donated $1.3 million to the Vote No on 64 campaign, more than any other group or person. It’s a coalition of medical professionals, public policy experts and others who say the law’s not only economically unfair, but doesn’t address DUI prevention and allows TV commercials to pitch the drug.
Zinsmeister said the state should’ve gone for a medical or “science-based” approach rather than a corporate one.
“You know there’s something real wrong with a marijuana legalization initiative if the guy who wrote the medical marijuana initiative in that state is against it,” he said of the proposed law.
Dennis Peron, a coauthor of the proposition that granted California’s current medical marijuana, does indeed oppose Prop 64. Like others, he said it undermines medical weed and isn’t necessary.
“We dont need it, Peron told the Los Angeles Times. Why are there so many restrictions that they insist on as if [pot]were super dangerous?
However, High Times magazine has been a fan of Prop 64, with a piece called “Top 10 Myths About California’s Prop 64.” It forcefully shoots down concerns about corporatization in the pursuit of pot for all.
Some other less surprising opponents to Prop 64 include the California Peace Officers Association and the California Hospitals Association. But right now, the opposition pales in comparison to the leverage gained by supporters, at least if money’s any indication.
Overall, a whopping $19.8 million has gone into the Yes on 64 campaign, while opponents have managed to gather just about $2.5 million, according to campaign filings with California’s secretary of state.
Prop 64 advocates range from lawmakers like Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom to businesspeople like ex-Facebook President Sean Parker.
Voters tried to legalize weed completely back in 2010, with Prop 19, and that failed with 53.5% of voters opposing. But 58% of voters back the measure this time, according to a September Los Angeles Times/ USC survey of 1,879 respondents.
Its very clear that Californians attitudes have changed dramatically on this issue over the last several years, Dan Schnur, director of the Los Angeles Times/ USC survey, told the Times.
And of course, plenty of the drug’s usual fans are all for Prop 64.
If conglomerates come in, my answer is: God bless em it saves me the hassle, Tommy Chong, a pioneer of California weed culture, told the New York Times.
Fashion changes, haircuts change, he said. We go through cultural changes.