Gaining Cannabis Clarity in California
In the spring of 2016, I decided that I simply could no longer reside or work in a state that prohibits the cultivation, possession, or consumption of cannabis or products made from cannabis. I investigated moving to both Portland and Humboldt County, but ultimately opted for the latter option because of compliance documentation opportunities (my other job).
Since my relocation to Humboldt County, I’ve immersed myself in the cultivation science and business politics of cannabis legalization. Behind the scenes, I’ve been helping clients develop permit and license applications—from small and midsize farmers in the Emerald Triangle to large corporate clients in states like Pennsylvania.
I haven’t taken nearly enough photos, but that is changing quickly. I have been talking to people, however. Family farmers, small-batch craft cannabis companies, well-funded processing companies, and patient advocates have been educating me about the reality of legal cannabis in the United States.
My initial conclusion? Even the most seasoned experts in the cannabis culture/business are confused right now with regard to what legalization will look like in places like California and Nevada after regulations are in place. The culture war that brings conservatives wishing to maintain the status quo (Luddites) up against progressives who support important issues like LGBTQ+ rights, medical cannabis, and hemp is raging across the nation.
But nowhere is this culture war burning hotter than on the West Coast of the United States, where a wall of legal adult use states, from Washington to California, has alarmed conservatives everywhere from the local town council all the way to Washington, D.C.
Washington State is now charging a 37% sales tax on retail cannabis sales. Oregon’s conservative, backpeddling regulations are forcing small businesses into bankruptcy with illogical and insensitive packaging requirements that have wiped products off shelves from Portland to Eugene.
Meanwhile, California, where I currently reside, is awash in “meh.” Why?
Because Prop 64, which passed with more than 57% of the vote on November 8 of last year, was highly contentious. Many of the voices I most respect in our culture were pro-64. I rode the fence at first, trying to remain objective as I developed articles about the topic for media outlet clients like MERRY JANE.
Then one client approached me about an article regarding why Prop 64 was a bad idea. Having already written a piece for youth-oriented Herb.co about why so many California cannabis cultivators were against the well-funded voter initiative, I declined the opportunity.
Intelligent, seasoned voices—like those of Los Angeles NORML director Bruce Margolin and veteran canna-comic Ngaio Bealum—were hard-core pro-64 and screaming it from their social media. I thought about it carefully, searched my soul, and drank their Kool-Aid. I had joined the pro-64 bandwagon.
I don’t regret supporting Prop 64 in California—and I’m happy it passed. However, I can still empathize with small family farmers in places like Oregon and the Emerald Triangle of California. These independent businesspeople, who are often very good at cultivating or processing the kind herb, are sometimes not so good at running a business. And the paperwork that comes with going legit in states like California is detailed, tricky, and expensive to develop. Props to those who get their shit together enough to pull it off.
The complex regulations being introduced at the municipal, county, and state levels in states like California and Colorado are making even old school attorneys and the most experienced consultants confused.
It will be interesting to see how things pan out in the “greenrush,” the emerging cannabis industry in the coming years. Yes, states like California, Oregon, and Colorado will lead the way in this cultural and economic revolution. But don’t forget about states like Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine—all of which legalized adult use cannabis last year in the November elections.
— Gooey Rabinski
P.S.: Thanks for the inspiration in Malibu, Michelle Kelley. You’re a hard charging unicorn who is going to change this industry.
All text and photos, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003-2017 Gooey Rabinski. All Rights Reserved.
Gooey Rabinski is a technical writer, photographer, and compliance documentation specialist for cannabis businesses who has contributed feature articles to magazines and media outlets such as High Times, CannaBiz Journal, MERRY JANE, Emerald Magazine, Grow Magazine, Herb.co, The Kind, Skunk, Cannabis Culture, Whaxy, Heads, Weed World, Green Flower Media, Cannabis Health Journal, Green Thumb, and Treating Yourself.
He is the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana, available on Amazon Kindle.