About Those Fears of Marijuana Mass Production

Reuters reports the marijuana growers in Humboldt County fear the Tax and Spend movement because if pot becomes legal, they may lose their position at the top of the illegal grow market as others move in, including tobacco companies.

At least one tobacco company, Reynolds American, says it has no intention of doing so. In other words, there are no plans for "Marlboro Green."

Are the fears justified? No. Just because California votes to legalize possession or cultivation for personal use, it doesn't follow that Congress will pass a law allowing unfettered cultivation. It hasn't even exempted medical marijuana patients from federal prosecution in states where their conduct is lawful. Regardless of what happens in California, the D.E.A. is going to ratchet up grower busts, particularly commercial ones, not look the other way. [More...]

First, the law today: Currently, in California, Health & Safety Code 11358 prohibits all acts associated with growing and manufacturing pot, including: handling of the seeds, cultivation in soil, and drying and processing harvested marijuana. It's a misdemeanor that carries a penalty from probation up to three years in jail. When people have more than a few plants, it can lead to a felony charge under Health and Safety Code 11359, possession of marijuana with the intent to sell.

For California medical marijuana users, SB 420 (Health & Safety Code 11362.7)protects patients from arrest provided they cultivate no more than 6 mature or 12 immature plants and possess no more than 8 ounces of dried marijuana (H&SC 11362.77(a)). Counties and cities can establish higher limits. Those that have are listed here.

CNBC this week had a lot of feature articles on marijuana and legalization. I stopped reading when I got to this glaring and obvious factual mistake. It discusses the Colorado arrest of Chris Barkowicz, a patient and caregiver found with more than the number of plants allowed by his patient and caregiver permits. (Background here.) Bartkowicz was arrested in February. The article says his case "resulted in a new policy, spelled out in a three-page memo by Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, stating that authorities shouldn't target people in compliance with state laws on medical marijuana." Except the policy was issued in October, four months before his arrest, so clearly his case didn't result in the policy. Bartkowicz has repeatedly said it was the policy change that led him to believe his conduct was lawful.

The bottom line is marijuana prohibition, like the war on drugs in general, has been an abject failure.

The time has come to amend criminal prohibition and replace it with a system of legalization, taxation, regulation, and education.

....Legalizing and regulating adult marijuana use would raise revenue, promote public safety and limit the access that young people have to marijuana. These are goals that lawmakers and the public ought to support.

The Feds need to get out of the marijuana busting business and leave it to the states to regulate. But Congress moves in itty, bitty increments when it comes to reform, and it's not going to start with a law universally allowing marijuana use and cultivation. What is possible, and long overdue, is a law disallowing prosecution of marijuana users and providers who are in compliance with state law -- or at least at a law that expressly allows users and providers to raise compliance with state law as an affirmative defense to prosecution.

The market will sort itself out, local regulation will bring benefits to state coffers while keeping the tobacco companies and the Monsantos at bay. The Humboldt County growers have little to fear, probably for at least a generation. And the best place for information is not MSM outlets like CNBC but those who have been studying and reporting for years, like NORML and the Marijuana Policy Project.

Bottom line: Support Tax Cannabis and help get the California Initiative passed. If you'd like to read the actual initiative that will be on the ballot, I've uploaded it here.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Real reason for Federal prohibition (none / 0) (#1)
    by Yes2Truth on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 09:44:23 AM EST

    There's nothing magic about it all, but not many
    people know the real reasons and even fewer will
    believe them, and that includes otherwise sophisticates who are self-described liberals.

    Read anything by Professor and former diplomat
    Peter Dale Scott.  I'd spell it out here but I'm
    unsure if doing so might violate TL rules or

    Decriminalize and leave it alone (none / 0) (#2)
    by Realleft on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 09:55:58 AM EST
    Legalization + taxation of raw plant material is a bad idea.  And cannabis should be decriminalized as a rights issue because there is no good evidence for its criminalization, not as a fiscal issue because it can produce more taxes for an out-of-control spending government.  

    I was worried for outlaw growers.... (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 10:14:47 AM EST
    till I gave it some more thought.  Even if by some miracle the prohibition of cultivation and sale was repealed nationwide, I still think Northern Cali's quality growers would survive, and even thrive.  

    Think of beer...yeah, Budweiser and Coors might sell the most, but people who want good beer buy from many small business microbreweries.  A monolith corporation might sell the most, but I'd bet it would be schwag-ish...the people accustomed to quality are gonna want the same quality...and they have the experience in Northern Cali to hit the ground running.


    A good point (none / 0) (#28)
    by Raskolnikov on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 02:14:50 PM EST
    Same applies to produce.  You can buy commercial pesticide ridden vegetables, USDA "organic", or fresh goodness from the farmer's market.  Just imagine marijuana grown like they grow corn, without the loving attention (and time) that goes into the high quality strains.

    Hmmm (none / 0) (#4)
    by squeaky on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 10:27:47 AM EST
    It appears to me that there is a surge in anti-MJ lobbying recently.

    Wonder who is behind that? Guess that there are competing businesses that fear that if MJ gets public support and becomes legal, they will lose money, lots of it.

    Too bad the Humbolt crowd is not rich enough to organize and lobby in order to compete with the big businesses who are pumping money into MJ prohibition.

    anti-mj crowd (none / 0) (#22)
    by ahazydelirium on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 12:18:56 PM EST
    in colorado, it seems the anti-mj crowd is composed of some strange bedfellows. the colorado drug investigators association, for example, receives support from starbucks, glock (the gun manufacturer) and various players in the alcohol industry.

    Big Corporations not to be feared (none / 0) (#5)
    by phastphil on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 10:30:34 AM EST
    What Humboldt County growers are really afraid of is everybody and their cousin will be growing in their personal grow room, greenhouse, or garden. Hemp heads will either be growing themselves or will have a close friend who does.

    Some will... (none / 0) (#6)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 10:41:06 AM EST
    for sure, but not enough to make a big dent, imo.  Many who partake, like myself, have black thumbs and love convenience...I'd still be buying my stuff.

    It's easier than growing tobacco...but not black thumb proof.  People who I know that have tried had less than stellar results.


    With All Due Respect (none / 0) (#8)
    by phastphil on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 11:13:09 AM EST
    You're being naive. In a former life I have quite a bit of experience in this field. If personal cultivation is allowed you may not choose to partake, but I guarantee that you know someone who will or a person you know, knows someone who will (six degrees).

    I already do know... (none / 0) (#10)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 11:22:35 AM EST
    people who have...their crop was garbage, despite quality seeds.

    People will always pay for the best...if anything they should be worried about the Canadian growers, they're growing killer sh*t up north, not the hobby growers.


    I aready know (none / 0) (#13)
    by phastphil on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 11:29:59 AM EST
    that all those pros began has hobby growers. If legalized, cannabis growing clubs will form, in a very short time quality pot will be become very matter-of-fact.  

    Plus (none / 0) (#9)
    by phastphil on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 11:22:10 AM EST
    It's not rocket science - if you can grow tomatoes you can grow cannabis. Go online there's so much information, books, how toes, it's mind bogling.

    Fair enough... (none / 0) (#11)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 11:25:26 AM EST
    I think you underestimate American consumer laziness.

    I think (none / 0) (#16)
    by phastphil on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 11:37:01 AM EST
    you underestimate Americans resourcefulness.

    I hope you're right... (none / 0) (#17)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 11:42:47 AM EST
    would certainly rather buy it from a local outfit...but the # 1 thing is quality.

    Good Weed (none / 0) (#12)
    by squeaky on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 11:28:30 AM EST
    Is labor intensive.. Many will choose to purchase rather than grow.

    Many connoisseurs prefer outdoor grown, particularly organic humbolt.

    That is a difficult act to follow for urban dwellers.


    If competition got fierce... (none / 0) (#14)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 11:31:36 AM EST
    or hobby growing did take off, current producers could always switch to hash production...lord knows there is a shortage of quality hash on the US market.

    Professional Growers (none / 0) (#15)
    by phastphil on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 11:32:15 AM EST
    would like you to believe this, but I guess when toking up all day long everything is really hard.

    lol (none / 0) (#18)
    by squeaky on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 11:44:11 AM EST
    You try growing a 12-14 foot plant, trimming and grooming on a daily basis...

    I have a green thumb, and know of what I speak.. been there, seen it, did it...


    I have done it! (none / 0) (#19)
    by phastphil on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 11:55:09 AM EST
    I know what I'm talking about.

    Cooking Is Easy Too (none / 0) (#21)
    by squeaky on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 12:06:15 PM EST
    Although I maintain that in order to grow something comparable to Humbolt, time and space is required..

    Certainly cooking is easy, most people who can afford it eat out, at least where I live..


    Nah (none / 0) (#7)
    by squeaky on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 10:46:20 AM EST
    When the corps moved into the tobacco biz, it did not affect the farmers in a negative way. Today most tobacco is grown on small farms and sold to the big 'bacco.

    Why do people (none / 0) (#24)
    by phastphil on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 12:28:26 PM EST
    grow tomatoes when within 5 to 10 minutes they can pick some at the store?

    In your mind (none / 0) (#29)
    by Raskolnikov on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 02:29:34 PM EST
    What percentage of people who eat tomatoes grow them?  I'd wager its very small.  Tomatoes aren't really the best example anyway, as the difference between fresh tomatoes and store bought is significant, with commercial tomatoes being thrown out if they have even a hint of red when they get to a produce distributor, and most people still choose to just buy tomatoes at a store, rather than a farmers market.  I would think prices would drop, which would certainly hurt the large growers bottom line, but personal cultivation isn't going to put them out of business, its not like they're operating on a tiny profit margin.  Some growers on the west coast have more product than they can actually move.

    Impossible Where I Live (none / 0) (#25)
    by squeaky on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 12:31:38 PM EST
    And there are, no doubt millions, like me who are urban bound, and happy to pay for top notch.. l

    No! (none / 0) (#26)
    by phastphil on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 12:37:23 PM EST
    It's possible everywhere. Yes many prefer outdoor, but many have smoked indoor and couldn't tell the difference.
    Plus legalization opens up rooftops, greenhouses, and small patch gardens.

    lol (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by squeaky on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 12:47:32 PM EST
    possible sure, but it ain't going to happen. As long as people have disposable income, they will buy luxury goods. And for the working poor and upward, who have no time or inclination to grow, guard and snip, they will budget.

    Chickens are dead easy to raise too..  everyone I know buys their  eggs.


    Mark my words (none / 0) (#30)
    by phastphil on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 03:15:28 PM EST
    if pot ever is legalized one day you will be at a party and one of your friends will hand you a joint and say "hey try this I grew it myself". That's all I'm saying.