Could the cannabis industry fall prey to corporate agricultural business? California weed farmers are challenging state grow regulations to avoid just that.
In an effort to fight against the looming threat of cannabis corporatization, California weed farmers are challenging state grow regulations. Small-scale growers were dismayed when the regulations overseeing the legal cannabis economy were released by California state authorities last year, placing no effective limits on acreage that can be used by a single grower.
This led to fears that agribusiness could convert huge holdings in the Salinas and Central valleys to cannabis cultivation, and force the traditional small growers of the Emerald Triangle off the market.
Now the California Growers Association is challenging the regulations in the courts, demanding a one-acre cannabis grow cap.
Representing more than 1,000 cannabis cultivators and businesses in communities throughout the state, the California Growers Association filed its suit against the Department of Food & Agriculture regulations in Sacramento County Superior Court on Jan. 24.
The group’s press release cites the text of Proposition 64, the 2016 initiative to establish a legal cannabis market in California. Prop 64 stated that it “ensures the nonmedical marijuana industry in California will be built around small and medium-sized businesses…”
Prop 64, formally the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, and its enabling legislation, the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, establish a five-year transition period during which small and medium-size growers are to be protected before the state may issue large-scale cultivation licenses.
But the California Growers Association argues that the new regulations include a loophole that allows a single corporation “to obtain and aggregate unlimited smaller cultivation licenses to operate a cultivation site larger than the legal limit.”
The regulations do limit the number of one-acre grow licenses to one per person or entity—but also allow an individual to apply for multiple licenses for smaller plots, making nonsense of that one-acre limit.
Growers Association director Hezekiah Allen said Food & Agriculture violated the intent of the law. Its lawsuit calls upon the court to prohibit the state from issuing small cultivation licenses in cases in which the applicant’s total size would exceed one acre. The suit is also calling for the court to award attorneys’ fees to the Growers Association.
The association’s director Hezekiah Allen said they had exhausted every other option after meeting with state regulators and staff from Governor Jerry Brown’s office over the past months.
Allen emphasized, “Generally we think the agency is doing a good job, this is not a broad complaint. Our concern is very narrow in scope, but the implications are huge.”
The specter of “corporate cannabis” was part of what led to the defeat of the 2010 legalization initiative in California, Prop 19, and also won Prop 64 its skeptics—including the recently departed Dennis Peron, arguably the state’s most prominent cannabis activist.
At least keeping a market niche for the small producers of the plant that gives us THC will clearly now be a challenge for growers, advocates and policy-makers alike.
California weed farmers are challenging state grow regulations, and if they do so successfully, it could help the industry keep true to its grassroots foundation.
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