HOLY SHIT, marijuana reform moves fast. Funny that all it took was the country to slide into economic despair that we are going to rely on the taxation of the “evil weed” to bail us out. That is exactly what the city of Oakland, California is doing and why they are doing it.
Oakland’s City Council recently adopted regulations permitting industrial-scale marijuana farms. The problem is that small farmers argue this would squeeze them out of the industry they helped to build and push for legalization of. To address concerns from smaller farmers, the council pledged to create legislation on regulating small and medium size marijuana farms.
Council members and proponents of marijuana cultivation see the proposal as smart public policy and one that the city sorely needs; it will generate revenue, ensure that fire and building codes are enforced, keep neighborhoods safe from robberies, and further position Oakland as the center of the state’s cannabis economy.
One of the major sticking points, is that the government will only allow dispensaries to legally buy their product from “approved” growers. What is happening here is the classic Wal-Mart business theory. The corporate giant swallows anyone and everyone in their way. Many feel this large scale corporate cultivation will change the culture of what they’ve built. They say industrial farms will turn a grassroots economy into a corporate one, driving down costs but also eroding the quality of the marijuana, which state voters defined in 1996 as medicine.
The most influential critic was Steve DeAngelo, owner of Oakland’s Harborside Health Center, the largest medical marijuana dispensary in the nation. His dispensary buys from some 500 different growers, meaning Harborside offers about 100 varieties at any time. Permitting only industrial operations would reduce variety, he said.
“Government should not choose the winners and losers but create a level playing field,” he said. “Some people might prefer mass production, assembly-line cannabis that costs less. Others might prefer cannabis grown by a master gardener in a smaller plot. “Let the market sort it out,” he said.
The regulations will award permits to four indoor marijuana farms. There will be no size limit, but there have been proposals for farms as large as 100,000 square feet – about the size of two football fields.
This looks to be a cash cow for the city. Trust me when I say that other cities around the U.S. will be watching closely to see the revenue coming into Oakland. That is when the domino theory will occur.
The regulations will require applicants to have a minimum of $3 million worth of insurance, hire security and pay a $211,000 annual permit fee.
The city will begin to issue permits in January and will allow the industrial farms to sell only to medical cannabis dispensaries. But if state voters pass Prop. 19, a November initiative that would legalize recreational use of marijuana, proponents believe the city would be well situated for the booming industry.
By regulating certain growers, Oakland also plans to crack down on illegal grows, said Arturo Sanchez, an assistant to the city administrator.
His comments immediately prompted hissing and booing in the crowd.
Oakland has long been pushing the boundaries of marijuana legalization.
In 2004, voters passed Measure Z, declaring marijuana a low concern for law enforcement. In 2009, voters passed Measure F to tax medical cannabis at 1.8 percent.
The taxation, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, was a step toward legalization.