CA: Cannabis Country


Predicting the marijuana future is as risky as growing marijuana itself. Still, it’s safe to say that while cannabis flowers will always be beautiful, the cannabis industry, which is now blooming, will not provide a pretty social and economic picture.

Over the past 80 years, no one in the White House or the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has been able to contain cannabis with prisons, bullets, drug testing and propaganda film like Reefer Madness, but the powers-that-be will go on making war on weed.

Indeed, despite significant strides forward, it will take years and years to get out of the marijuana mess we’re in, much as it took decades for the wine and grape industry to recover from the Prohibition of alcohol.

Perhaps more than anything else the industry cries out for genuine leaders — not just cheerleaders. (are you listening, Senator McGuire?) Connoisseurs and aficionados will have to come out of the closet if cannabis takes root on Main Street, U.S.A. The stigma won’t go away anytime soon. Still, doctors will recommend it and patients will hopefully not abuse it and instead become wiser about dosage.

Cannabis maven Craig Litwin told me that in the near future Sonoma and Healdsburg will both allow dispensaries, though he also argued that Sonoma County as a whole has a long way to go on the cannabis road.

A principal of the 421 Group and an ex-mayor of Sebastopol, Litwin points out that Rohnert Park has a casino, but no licensed dispensary. “The war on cannabis is deeply ingrained,” he said. “But the promise of tax revenue will encourage jurisdictions to open their doors to cannabis.”

Recreational cannabis, which becomes legal in 2018, will trigger new markets and encourage the development of oils and concentrates that will flood the marketplace. Increased demand will lead to bigger outdoor operations, and alas, will probably mean a decline in quality. Sonoma County will see the construction of giant greenhouses, the creation of big distribution networks and the growth of industry infrastructure. Good news to some and bad news to others.

Cannabis will go corporate — in part it already is — though it will also remain a cottage industry, similar to boutique wineries that make less than 1,000 cases annually of Pinot and Cabernet. Wine and weed will co-exist and grape growers who have been growing for decades will grow more than ever before.

The wine and the weed industries will also compete for tourist dollars, retail space downtown and for the limited supply of skilled labor. Northern California will be a playground for visitors who enjoy wine, weed and good food. Here and there, locals will squawk about tourism and the loss of community, and while some environmental protections will be enacted, economic growth awaits all of us.

Professor Liz Thach, who teaches wine classes at SSU, predicts that weed and wine will both draw big crowds. “But pot won’t replace Pinot,” she told me. I’d agree.

In the meantime, the federal government will continue to classify marijuana, along with heroin, as a Schedule One drug, even with ample scientific evidence that shows cannabis helps patients with all sorts of illnesses, maladies, aches and pains.

Armed agents from Fish and Wildlife will raid pot gardens, as they did this August, and cops will go on making busts. Defendants will appear in court, lawyers will carve out lucrative careers, and criminals will go to prison, though not by the tens of millions who served time for possession of small amounts of marijuana over the past 40 years.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has threatened to make life miserable for marijuana dispensaries and to revive the Nixon-era War on Drugs. When he messes with California cannabis he’ll find himself embroiled in a states rights battle that will be difficult for him to win. Still, there will be casualties.

Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt, Lake and Trinity Counties will harvest tons that will make their way to San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. Santa Rosa will grow rapidly as a major manufacturing center, with Dennis Hunter’s CannaCraft leading the way. Local and state governments will collect taxes and in the next few years the retail price of an ounce won’t drop significantly.

The black market will flourish. Hundreds of growers won’t apply for permits. Some will pollute streams and destroy habitat. They will be the “bad actors” — as Ag Commissioner Tony Linegar calls them — who will be arrested, hauled into court and fined. It will take time to repair forests that have been trashed and to clean waterways that have been illegally diverted and polluted.

This year, Sonoma County made a big mistake by banning the cultivation of marijuana on parcels zoned rural residential and agricultural residential. Thousands of small farmers have been excluded from the marketplace.

Sonoma County also launched the Cannabis Advisory Board (CAB), though critics say it’s too little too late. Julie Terry, a member of the board, represents the little farmer in a world that’s increasingly made up of big guys.

“It hasn’t been good to draft marijuana policy from a place of the unknown and fear,” Terry told me. “Sonoma needs to protect cottage grows, not only for economic reasons, but also because they’re an essential part of family farming.”

Let’s hope the County Board of Supervisors listens to Terry and the 19 other members of the advisory board and that the members of the CAB won’t just argue for their own self-interests. Too bad the supervisors didn’t follow the recommendations of the county planning commission, which suggested that the cottage industry be gently phased out and not abruptly terminated.

Fifth District planning commissioner and chairwoman, Pam Davis, told me she wanted, “the small guys to have a chance before the Monsanto types arrive and take over.” That future seems even more likely now than ever before. If and when the Monsanto types take over, it will be every grower for himself and herself and let the buyer beware. By then you probably won’t remember that you read that prediction in this column.

News Moderator: Ron Strider 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Cannabis Country | Opinion |
Author: Jonah Raskin
Contact: Contact Us | Site |
Photo Credit: Linda Davidson
Website: | To Build a Better World, Start in Your Own Community