In California, the good news is that legal weed is on the way—big time. The bad news is that Cali has too much!
Observers of California’s potential billion-dollar industry warn that growers are churning out too much. But how much is too much?
California’s cannabis production is said to be eight times more than what the state collectively consumes.
In other words, California produces 14 to 16 million tons of marijuana and consumes between 1.5 and 2 million tons. New California state regulations, which go into effect after January 1, 2018, prohibit weed exports to other states, so what’s to be done with all the extra pot?
Cali tokers either have to start consuming a hell of a lot more weed or growers are going to have to reduce their crops.
Doubtless, some growers will continue functioning on the black market and keep selling cannabis to other states, which is also illegal under federal law, of course.
“In the past, when a product left the farm, there’s a really good chance the grower had no idea where it was going,” said Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers’ Association. “But in the future, every single license holder is going to need to know exactly where every gram of product is ending up and so conditions are going to change very quickly.”
So, it looks like growers are going to have to scale back.
“We are on a painful downsizing curve,” Allen said at a recent panel discussion of the Sacramento Press Club, which included Lori Ajax, chief of California’s Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation.
Ajax, AKA the state’s pot czar, agreed that some cannabis cultivators will need to scale back, while others may never apply for a state license.
“For right now, our goal is to get folks into the regulated market, as many as possible,” Ajax said at the panel discussion, per the Los Angeles Times. But then she added, “There are some people who will never come into the regulated market.”
Ajax noted that people who are still growing outside the regulated market could eventually face enforcement actions for growing without a state license.
Allen said he would like to see state and local governments license and open up more places for weed retailers to sell their products, so if there is a surplus, there are plenty of venues for consumers to buy pot that is being legally grown and regulated in the state.
If cities and towns are reluctant to give out licenses or if they try to ban sales in their jurisdictions, which they can do, there won’t be many incentives for growers to register for legal sales. This again opens the door to the illegal black market, with its inevitable negative environmental impacts and criminal elements.