Current polls indicate a 60% approval rating for Prop 64, California’s ballot initiative to legalize adult use cannabis. Some are surprised to learn that many of the state’s pot farmers are opposed to the ballot initiative. But this is nothing new. California’s previous ballot initiative to legalize recreational cannabis, Proposition 19, was narrowly defeated in 2010. Some believe it was opposition by Northern California cultivators that prevented the initiative from passing.
I know people…who are anxious to hold onto their fiefdom up there. We had Prop 19 on the ballot; they f*cked it up by not voting for it. – Director Bruce Margolin, Los Angeles NORML
So exactly why are California’s pot farmers concerned about the latest effort to legalize adult use cannabis? And should everyone?
1. Compassionate Use Act is good enough
Many cannabis legalization advocates, especially those focused on the medical needs of patients, believe that California’s Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215), the nation’s first state-level medical cannabis law passed in 1996, makes Proposition 64 unnecessary.
If Proposition 64 was aiding Prop 215, I’d be all for it. But it’s not. It seems to be rewriting what we already accomplished. – Dennis Peron, chief architect of Proposition 215
2. Cost of seed-to-sale tracking
Prop 64, if approved by voters, includes regulations requiring farmers of all sizes to implement a seed-to-sale tracking system.
Unfortunately, such tracking databases and the technology required to run them aren’t cheap. Even California’s smallest farmers would be required to implement the system, many of which will find it cost prohibitive.
3. Cost of environmental compliance
Proposition 64 includes relatively strict environmental protections (no surprise from California, one of the most progressive states in the nation). The cost of compliance with these regulations, including inspections, may be prohibitive for many small farmers.
4. Cost of regulatory inspections
Proposition 64 gives government officials the right to conduct regulatory inspections. Some growers are crying foul, complaining that these inspections would be tantamount to “warrantless searches” and cost farmers additional time and money.
5. New taxes with Prop 64
Proposition 64 would usher in a new wave of cannabis taxes, including cultivation taxes for both flowers ($9.25 per ounce) and trim ($2.75 per ounce). These taxes will obviously either reduce farmer’s profit margin or increase costs for consumers and patients in the retail environment.
6. Megacorp licenses loom
If Prop 64 passes, the State of California will begin selling Type 5 cultivation licenses to large corporations in 2023.
If [the market] is captured by a small number of…large growers, there won’t be much choice…than to continue to engage in criminal behavior. – Hezekiah Allen, Executive Director of the California Growers Association
7. Banking will still suck
Federal regulations in the U.S. prevent cannabis businesses from utilizing merchant banking services; this is why dispensaries accept only cash and customers can’t swipe a credit card for their purchase. The situation would not change if Prop 64 becomes law.
8. Pot will still be illegal at the federal level
Cannabis has been illegal at the federal level since August of 1937. Even if Prop 64 passes, California’s cultivators will remain vulnerable to prosecution from federal authorities like the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Justice Department.