Tag: cannabis farming

California’s Calaveras County On Verge of Banning Cannabis Farms

In California’s historic Gold Rush country, financially-suffering Calaveras County made a sizable wager on the Green Rush in the spring of 2016. It paid off handsomely. By welcoming and licensing medical cannabis growers, the county collected millions in dollars in taxes and fees from the locally regulated industry.

Calaveras County pocketed $3.7 million in cannabis permit fees in 2016, and $5m in cultivation taxes.

But now Calaveras, population 45,000, is having second thoughts. In a fiery Board of Supervisors meeting that stretched over two days Tuesday and Wednesday, angry citizens and conservative supervisors argued for a ban on commercial cultivation–while farmers and their supporters pushed back, wondering why the county’s warm welcome has suddenly turned cold.

Fiery cannabis opponents and outraged cannabis farmers packed the chambers and two spillover rooms, debating a proposed moved that could end one of the county’s few strong sources of revenue. Calaveras County pocketed $3.7 million in cannabis permit fees in 2016, and another $5 million in cultivation taxes in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

After two days of public vitriol, eccentric outbursts and, ultimately, confusion and paralysis, on Wednesday the Board abruptly postponed a decision in the great Calaveras County cannabis clash.

Licensed cannabis farmers Joan and Bill Wilson sport buttons supporting supervisor Jack Garamendi, the target of a recall for his support of a taxed, regulated cannabis industry.

The showdown, perhaps California’s most volatile example of local government anxiety over whether to accept and regulate cannabis businesses or to drive them off, will continue when the board meets less than a week from now, on Oct. 24.

If anyone needs to understand the passions simmering in Calaveras, the appearance Tuesday of Holly Johnson – the singing cannabis farmer – was all it took.

Seven hours into the first-day debate, Johnson strode to the podium with her guitar. She unleashed a protest chorus at supervisors wanting to ban her farm:

“So let me grow my ganja where it’s sunny

And I’ll keep on paying taxes and making money

I’m not going to go tearing down my garden, honey

‘Ain’t going to be treated that way”

Some supervisors decided they wouldn’t be treated that way, either. Seconds into Johnson’s three-minute concert, two anti-cannabis supervisors, Dennis Mills and Clyde Clapp, stormed out of the board room.

Seconds into one citizen’s pro-farmer song, two anti-cannabis supervisors, Dennis Mills and Clyde Clapp, stormed out of the board room.

Jack Garamendi, a supervisor who has been targeted by a recall drive over his support for maintaining Calaveras’ licensing and regulation of cannabis growers, lit into his colleagues when they returned.

“We don’t have a prohibition on singing,” Garamendi said. “We’re better than that. We need to let people express themselves and petition their government.”

Clapp rose to face one side of the audience – the people sporting “BAN” buttons – and shouted: “Sign the recall!”

A cannabis ban supporter brought her Old Glory hoodie to warm a chair.

Standing With Jack

The other side of the chamber wore buttons that said, “I stand with JACK.” They pleaded with supervisors to not cut off a lucrative revenue stream in cannabis taxes, particularly in a county that has lost nearly all other industries. The region’s gold mines, lumber mills, and cement factory all shuttered years ago.

Calaveras was also severely impacted by a scorching 2015 wildfire that destroyed 860 houses. Many of the charred lots soon bloomed with cannabis gardens as a means of economic recovery.

Back then, the county Board of Supervisors were more amenable to cannabis farmers. They approved rules permitting property owners up to a half-acre of commercial marijuana cultivation and up to 10,000 square feet of indoor growing in limited industrial zones.

More than 700 people applied for permits and paid $5,000 each in county fees, which funded new police and code enforcement officers. In 2016, 68 percent of county voters approved Measure C, which sweetened county coffers with a $2 per square foot tax on outdoor grown cannabis and $5 per square foot on indoor.

‘This will end in poverty and despair.’

Joan Wilson, a farmer who grows 3,000 square feet of cannabis on a county-licensed 20-acre parcel, came out to warn supervisors about the economic suicide of a “bait and switch” vote to bar commercial cannabis cultivation.

“The result of banning commerce that has already been allowed to operate would be devastating…ending in poverty and despair,” she said.

Don’t be swayed by ‘stoner karaoke,’ Bill McManus said. Ban the farms now.

Bill McManus, head of the Calaveras Committee to Ban Commercial Cultivation, said neither tax revenue stream nor any boardroom “stoner karaoke” should deter supervisors from getting rid of cannabis farms.

McManus said the county’s cannabis experiment drew permitted guerrilla growers, criminal elements, environmental destruction and a shredding of the social fabric. “What the county has now is pure 100 percent chaos,” McManus said.

McManus’ social fabric claim carried more than a bit of hyperbole. But documents from county planning staff and the sheriff’s office showed that the county experienced a big influx of out-of-town cannabis growers after the 2015 fire and, again, when the county began accepting permits. So clearly a lot of newcomers have moved into the rural county, including many who arrived after the June 2016 application deadline had passed.

Sheriff: Legal Growers Reduce Illegal Grows

Calavaras County Sheriff Rick DiBasilio warned that illegal cannabis cultivation would continue to thrive no matter how the supervisors voted. Without cannabis taxes, he said, his department would lack the manpower to go after criminal growers.

“If this goes back to a black market completely, I think we’re going to see more grows in the hills,” DiBasilio said. “I’m not advocating one way or another. I’m just stating facts: The illegal growers are not going away.”

‘I’m not advocating one way or another. I’m just stating facts: The illegal growers are not going away.’

Rick DiBasilio, Calveras County Sheriff

Since Jan. 1, the sheriff said his department – including a nine-member cannabis compliance team funded by money from fees on county permitted growers – has eradicated 52,000 cannabis plants from growers operating without county permits.

During that time, officers also seized $118,000 in cash, 225 pounds of processed cannabis, and 24 guns while making 50 arrests. In contrast, DiBasillo said he has had few problems with the county’s licensed cannabis farmers.

He said many of those licensed growers act as “eyes and ears” for sheriff’s investigators seeking to crack down on illegal cultivation and related environmental crimes, including siphoning water from sensitive streams and illegal dumping of toxins and pesticides.

The county, with three code enforcement officers funded by cannabis fees, filed abatement notices against 159 unpermitted gardens and issued 224 citations, seeking fines of $551,000.

Even under the best of financial circumstances, with the county using money from permitted cultivation to fund police and abatement programs, DiBasilio said it would take “three or four years” to drive illegal cultivation from the county’s secluded wooded landscape.

“Holy cow, we have had legal alcohol for years,” the sheriff said, “and there are still bootleggers.”

Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

In California, Many Growers Will Stay Underground

Real Talk: Some Growers Will Remain Illicit

He's not an illicit grower, but he understands their dilemma: Hezekiah Allen works to create an easier pathway into the legal industry as a lobbyist for the California Growers Association.He’s not an illicit grower, but he understands their dilemma: Hezekiah Allen works to create an easier pathway into the legal industry as a lobbyist for the California Growers Association. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

Editor’s note: This week (June 19, 2017), Leafly launches a four-part series on California cannabis farming by Paul Roberts, author of “The End of Food.” Roberts examines the choices California cannabis growers face as the state enters the legal era: Scale up, build a craft brand, join a cooperative, or go deeper underground. Today: What happens to those who choose to go deeper underground?

Here’s an unhappy fact about California’s newly legalized cannabis market that reform advocates don’t talk much about: Most of the state’s existing cannabis farmers probably won’t be going legal.

There are an estimated 50,000 growers in California. Not all will go legal.

In some cases that decision will be an act of rebellion. After decades defying prohibition and dodging arrest, some long-time growers have no interest in submitting to a world of regulations, testing, and taxes.

But for other farmers, skipping the legal market will be more an act of desperation: these farmers will try to make the transition to licensed production—either by scaling up, going the craft route, or joining a co-op—only to be thwarted by the tough new realities of farming in a time of rising regulation and ever-thinner margins.

Whatever the cause, with the arrival of a state-licensed medical and adult use market in 2018, these frustrated farmers will likely to do one of two things.

Many will probably retire from farming, or perhaps shift to other, non-farming roles in the new legal cannabis sector. But a not-insignificant number of them will probably keep growing for the illegal market. And while some of that off-the-books weed may stay in California, most will enter the national black market.


California Farmers: Grow Big or Go Home?

Just how many of the state’s current population of farmers, estimated at between 50,000 to 80,000  by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, will opt for the black market is impossible to know. But anecdotal accounts, by law enforcement officials, industry consultants and many farmers themselves, suggest that the number could be quite high.

And if that’s the case, it could create serious headaches for everyone from law enforcement officials to, especially, advocates for national legalization efforts, for whom California was supposed to be a shining example of legalization success. If the state’s cannabis goes “all over the country,” warns Hezekiah Allen, a cannabis farmer-turned-lobbyist for the California Growers Association, “the DEA and Jeff Sessions will rightfully start putting the pieces together.”

California Grows More Than It Consumes

Seat of Power: The California State Capitol in Sacramento, where lawmakers will set the regulations that shape the legal cannabis industry. Seat of Power: The California State Capitol in Sacramento, where lawmakers will set the regulations that shape the legal cannabis industry. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

In some respects, the export scenario was inevitable, given that California has always produced more cannabis than state residents can legally consume. For every pound of cannabis that California growers produce and sell legally, another four pounds are produced for the black market, according a February analysis by the University of California Agricultural Issues Center for the California Bureau of Marijuana Control. Much of that surplus currently goes out of state.

One-fifth of existing cannabis farms could meet the entire state’s market demand.

And, paradoxically, legalization will only worsen that over-supply dynamic. As those California farmers who now export try to go legal and sell their product at home, the state’s already well-supplied legal market will become even more saturated. That will drive wholesale prices even further below the break-even point for small farmers, and lead even more of them to consider staying in the black market.

Of course, there are factors that could disrupt this self-feeding death spiral. Legalization will spur more consumer demand, which will absorb some of that oversupply. But judging by the experience from other adult-use states, that post-legalization demand growth simply won’t be sufficient to absorb all the cannabis that will be coming from older farms as well as the new mega-scale factory farms.

The implications are significant. Allen, the California Growers Association lobbyist, estimates that when legalization has been fully implemented in California, the state’s legal market could be supplied by perhaps 8,000 smallish farms. That’s perhaps one-fifth of the number thought to be operating today. “Best case, seventy percent of my community goes out of business,” says Allen.


California Growers: How to Thrive at Craft Scale

The ramifications of that kind of reduction haven’t gone unnoticed by California’s political establishment. Lawmakers and regulators are deeply worried by the prospect of massive unemployment. Small-scale cannabis farmers employ as many as 250,000 full- and part-time workers, according to the California Growers Association. An investigation by Leafly News earlier this year estimated that California’s current medical cannabis industry (which does not include the illicit market) supports more than 43,000 full-time equivalent jobs.

But, again, the real downside may be how California’s continued exports tilt the legalization debate in other states and at the federal level. As Lauren Michaels, a cannabis policy expert with California Police Chiefs Association, puts it, “when you have other states, and a nation as a whole, that are still skeptical of legal cannabis,” a huge amount of oversupply from California doesn’t create the “best optics” for national reform.

Coaxing Growers to Go Legal

Hezekiah Allen's pin hints at his cause: Growing a legal industry with room for legacy growers. Hezekiah Allen’s lapel pin hints at his cause: Growing a legal industry with room for legacy growers. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

So, that’s the bad news about the fourth pathway for California’s existing cannabis farmers. The good news is that this dire scenario has led lawmakers in Sacramento to consider measures to help small farmers go legal—or at least slow the process of attrition so that existing farmers can make less problematic exits.

Last fall, for example, the state created a “cottage farm” license for smaller growers. The license is cheaper and easier to get. Because it caps production at 2,500 square feet of greenhouse space or 25 mature plants (half the scale of the next-biggest license type), the cottage license may help allay the anxieties that many local governments have about larger cannabis farms—anxieties that have delayed licenses and frustrated small farmers.


Cannabis Terroir 101: What Is It, and What Factors Affect It?

The cottage law “sent a signal to local governments,” says Max Mikalonis, a former legislative staffer who helped draft the state’s medical cannabis law for California Assemblyman Tom Bonta. (Mikalonis now lobbies for cannabis firms at K Street Consulting in Sacramento.) “A county that might not be comfortable with having, say 50 plants on a one-acre lot, might be more comfortable with 25 plants or less.”

Another bit of state help: A so-called appellation law will protect the brand value of geographic locations by prohibiting cannabis producers from using place names in their marketing unless the products actually come from those locations.

These sorts of regulatory moves can help ensure that the regulated marketplace provides opportunities for existent growers. But ultimately, says Allen, state lawmakers must embrace the idea that California’s legal cannabis market has room for producers of all scales and business models. Such a marketplace, he says, will provide more jobs and offer more diverse and higher-quality products.

But to make that happen, Allen says, lawmakers, regulators and other stakeholders can’t get carried away by the idea that scaling-up is the only path to survival. “There is no reason why a price crash is inevitable,” Allen says. “These well-capitalized [cannabis producers] have every incentive to pretend it’s inevitable, but that’s actually just [a reflection] of their agenda.”

The agenda of the state and the public, Allen argues, is very different: a diverse, unconsolidated cannabis marketplace with room for all scales and production models. “Commoditization, quantity over quality—it is not an inevitability, nor is it a desired outcome,” Allen says. “Except for the people who stand to benefit from that kind of consolidation.”


What’s So Special About Humboldt County Cannabis?

Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Emerald Triangle Growers Scale Up Together in Co-Ops

‘Run By the Farmers, For the Farmers’

Amber and Casey O'Neil, founders of the 40-member Emerald Grown cooperative, help independent farmers lower their costs by working together. Amber and Casey O’Neil, founders of the 40-member Emerald Grown cooperative, help independent farmers lower their costs by working together. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

Editor’s note: This week (June 19, 2017), Leafly launches a four-part series on California cannabis farming by Paul Roberts, author of “The End of Food.” Roberts examines the choices California cannabis growers face as the state enters the legal era: Scale up, build a craft brand, join a cooperative, or go deeper underground. Today: Independent farmers find a safe haven in agricultural cooperatives.

Markets, like ecosystems, respond to massive disruption with a wave of experimentation and adaptation—and that’s certainly been the story in California’s cannabis sector. Ever since legalization upended the decades-old status quo, players have scrambled to develop new business strategies to exploit the chaos—or simply survive it.

By coordinating harvests and pooling crops, co-op members can deliver the bulk shipments that wholesalers increasingly demand.

Some, like Jai Malloy, have scaled up. Others, like Sam Edwards in Sonoma, have moved to the other end of the scale continuum with a “craft” strategy.

Yet the reality is that many existing cannabis farmers lack the resources or expertise to carry off either of these strategies—or, at least, carry it off all on their own. For many of these growers, the solution has been a strategy that borrows from both large- and small-scale producers—the cannabis co-operative.

A case in point is Emerald Grown, a forty-member co-operative located in the town of Laytonville, in the Emerald Triangle’s Mendocino County. Founded three years ago by farmers Amber and Casey O’Neill, the co-operative follows a strategy of adaptive mimicry: using collective action to achieve the scale efficiencies of larger operators. By sharing seeds, expertise, and other resources, for example, co-op members can significantly boost their individual yields.

By pooling their cash, they can afford attorneys and consultants to navigate local regulations. And, most significantly, by coordinating harvests and pooling their crops, co-op members can deliver the large bulk shipments that California’s cannabis wholesalers increasingly demand.

Most of Emerald Grown’s members farm on less than 5,000 square feet, says Casey, which makes it very hard for an individual farmer “to deliver the kind of consistently large volumes that big buyers now want.” But collectively, says Casey, they can play in the big leagues.


California Farmers: Grow Big or Go Home?

Teaming Up to Compete

That sort of collective muscle is essential at a time when small farmers must not only compete with much bigger producers, but must also deal with a cannabis “downstream” – distributors, wholesalers, and retailers—that is becoming just as big scale.

Like Washington and Colorado before it, California is seeing signs of retail sector consolidation and the emergence of mega-retailers and dispensary chains with enough market share to squeeze cannabis suppliers, much as big-box grocery chains squeeze their own suppliers. In fact, some big urban dispensaries want to compete directly with cannabis producers by building their own cultivation operations. (Oakland’s iconic Harborside medical dispensary, for example, is launching an industrial-scale greenhouse operation in Monterey County’s Salinas Valley.)

Meanwhile, there will be further price pressure from a new generation of distributors and “platforms,” such as delivery services like Eaze, an app-based service that is using rapid service and big-data analytics to dominate California’s medical cannabis delivery market.

For all these reasons, says Amber O’Neill, eventually, “every producing community is going to need a cooperative serving it–something run by the farmers and for the farmers.”

Gaining Popularity in the Emerald Triangle

Hard work, smart growing, and the local co-op have allowed Amber and Casey O’Neil to create an idyllic farming life in Laytonville, Calif. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

The O’Neils say there are at least half a dozen similar organizations across the three counties of the Emerald Triangle. Some have emerged from the informal, self-governing collectives that have loosely coordinated cannabis production since the state decriminalized medical cannabis in 1995. Other organizations are coalescing around specific geographies or communities.  In neighboring Humboldt County, for example, a growers alliance called Humboldt’s Finest has been launched to market five local sun-grown flower lines developed jointly by botanists and “maverick growers”.

The structure and methods of these new collective organizations will likely vary. Where Emerald Growers follows strict state guidelines for member-owned agricultural co-operatives, others have morphed toward more commercial entities, such as limited liability corporations or “mutual benefit” corporations.


Mexico Legalizes Medical Marijuana

Yet whatever the structure, these organizations will perform broadly similar functions—pooling members’ output, resources, and skills in order to boost scale and efficiency while preserving and enhancing whatever makes their product unique. Some co-operatives, for example, will centralize their processing by leasing or even building space for joint processing and for storage.

Cooperatives will also play a consultative role, helping smaller farmers deal with the complexities of licensing and testing, or improving their growing methods to ensure better price premiums. And, importantly, co-operatives will give growers more negotiating leverage with wholesalers, retailers, distributors and other market intermediates that want to control growers’ access to consumers. In fact, in some cases, co-operatives themselves are getting into the retail space: Emerald Grown is considering applying for a state license that would allow it to open several storefronts.

Adapting, Surviving Means Sacrificing

Nature’s pest control at work on the O’Neils’ cannabis leaves. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

Yet these very strategies point to another inescapable reality: many smaller scale cannabis farmers may not want to make the kind of adaptations that may be essential to survival. Case in point: to get the volumes that wholesale buyers now demand, Emerald Grown has had to push some members to focus on a smaller number of popular strains—a strategy that has resulted in commercially viable volumes but has irked some long-time farmers.

Some farmers ‘are having to give up the strains that they really love’ to survive in the market.

Casey O’Neil, farmer and co-op founder

“It’s bittersweet,” Casey says, “because people are having to give up the strains that they really love just because there’s not enough of it to really compete in the marketplace.”

Similarly, some farmers are reluctant to embrace the sort of rule-dominated operations that legalization will require—a reluctance Amber says deserves careful attention. “One of the things I say to folks is, ‘you’ve got to prepare yourself to be more professional than you’ve ever been in your life, as far as being a really good bookkeeper and running your business fully transparently and paying all of your taxes,” she says.


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Compliance with the regulations “is like a whole other job to add to the farming,” she adds. “So if folks don’t feel like they are going to follow through with all of those steps, I don’t recommend it, because there is not going to be any ‘half-way’ legal. If you’re not prepared to go the full distance, you should really re-evaluate whether this is what you want to be doing.”

That may seem like a deeply personal decision—yet it’s one whose impact will go well beyond the lives and livelihoods of individual farmers.

The reality of California’s cannabis market is that most small farmers simply won’t be able to make the transition to legal operations. Some will try and fail. Others, put off by the bureaucracy and sharp competition, won’t even try. Amber says some of the older farmers she and Casey know are simply going to retire. But others will likely take a different path and will continue to sell their product in the black market. Just how many of California’s tens of thousands of small farmers will end up taking this fourth option is impossible to know right now. But if the numbers are as large as some industry observers fear, it could have a huge, and not entirely positive, effect on the success of legalization in California and beyond.

Background image by James Tensuan

Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Grow Big or Go Home?

What’s a California Grower to Do?

Amber and Casey O'Neil, California cannabis farmers, organized the Emerald Grown cannabis cooperative three years ago in Mendocino County.Amber and Casey O’Neil, California cannabis farmers, organized the Emerald Grown cannabis cooperative three years ago in Mendocino County. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

When Jai Malloy started working in cannabis a decade ago, as a trimmer on a farm in Northern California’s famed Emerald Triangle, “state of the art” meant a 10,000 square-foot cold-frame greenhouse with manually operated blackout tarps. In a good year, a skilled grower could get three harvests and a total yield of two-and-a-half ounces for every square foot of growing area.

Since then, the state of the art has evolved. So has Jai Malloy. He now co-owns his own brand, Phinest Cannabis, and a parent company, Green Coast Industrial, that has become a prime example of the industry’s new business model. This year Green Coast is breaking ground on a $9 million, 108,000 square-foot greenhouse with a full acre of plant canopy—the maximum allowed under the state’s evolving cannabis laws.

Do California growers have to scale up? Or can they survive and thrive at craft level?

Located in Yolo County, a few hours east of the Emerald Triangle, the vast structure will feature fully automated blackout covers, central cooling, CO2 enrichment, and a positive-air pressure system to keep out pollen and other contaminants. Sensors will continually monitor sunlight strength and, when necessary, supplement the solar rays with more than 1,000 high-pressure sodium bulbs. The high-tech setup will allow five-and-a-half crops a year, staggered for continuous harvest, and its total annual per-foot yield will come in at eight ounces, or nearly quadruple that of the old Mendocino operation.

All told, the project is expected to produce around 12 to 15 tons a year, much of which Green Coast will process into a line of edibles, waxes, and other concentrates to be sold their own branded storefronts, beginning with outlets in Sacramento, San Jose, and Los Angeles.

Malloy himself seems almost shocked by how far things have come in a short time. “What we were doing then and what we’re doing now,” says Malloy, pausing. “It’s apples and bowling balls.”

1m Square Feet Under Production

Malloy’s metaphor captures the radical change in the California cannabis sector over the past decade. And it also gets at a question that may determine the winners and losers in the state’s $8 billion cannabis industry: Does size matter?

Jai Malloy poses for a photograph in his greenhouse in Santa Cruz County, Calif. on Thursday, June 8, 2017.Cannabis farmer Jai Malloy in his greenhouse in Santa Cruz County. Malloy’s next facility will be a $9 million, 108,000 square foot greenhouse in Yolo County, east of Sacramento. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

Since 2015, when the California legislature passed a sweeping medical cannabis regulation act, the state’s marijuana farming sector has experienced a period of frenzied growth. That excitement was supercharged when voters passed adult-use legalization last November. Now, as Gov. Jerry Brown and the state legislature labor to turn those laws into on-the-ground regulations, Californians of all stripes have struggled to answer the question: What will—or should—the post-2018 cannabis farming landscape look like? Will only big operators, who invest millions of dollars to scale up, survive in the coming market? Or will there also be room for traditional craft-scale growers?

California’s cannabis market already accounts for 27% of the national total. And that’s before adult-use legalization.

The answer isn’t as simple as you might think. To judge by media coverage, large-scale operations like Green Coast Industrial are the future. Up and down the state, from Yolo and Monterey counties in the north to Desert Hot Springs and Needles in the south, investors are pouring tens of millions of dollars into a fleet of large-scale, high-tech, ultra-efficient cannabis operations engineered to generate very large volumes of super-consistent product.

In Monterey County alone, as much as one million square feet of cannabis production is either planned or already under development. This industrial-scale efficiency, many observers say, will allow the Golden State’s legal cannabis market, which already accounts for 27% of the US total, to more than triple by 2021, to $5.8 billion, according to the latest estimate from Arcview Research.


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But appearances can be deceiving. California’s cannabis landscape will be heavily influenced by regulation—and, in particular, by the way lawmakers reconcile the state’s 2015 medical cannabis law with more recent, and quite different, adult-use law. For example, the medical cannabis law tends to favor smaller farms and would cap state-licensed growers to no more than one acre of outdoor cultivation or 22,000 square feet of indoor canopy. Under Prop 64, however, that cap would disappear by 2023—which means that what seems huge by today’s standards may someday look small.

California’s 80,000 Cannabis Farms

More to the point, for all the focus on the dozens of mega-grows being developed, nearly all of the cannabis that Californians consume today comes from small farms not so different from the place where Malloy learned his craft. And not just a few: The state Department of Food and Agriculture estimates that California already has between 50,000 to 80,000 cannabis farms. These operations are generally small and low-tech—the antithesis of the modern factory farms. They are also, in many cases, not entirely legal.

A flowering cannabis plant in Jai Malloy's greenhouse in Santa Cruz County, Calif.A flowering cannabis plant in Jai Malloy’s greenhouse in Santa Cruz County, Calif. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

Tucked away in remote places like the Emerald Triangle’s north coast hills, some of them run by second- and third-generation farmers, many of these operations have spent decades producing cannabis for the state’s vast and nebulous medical market—or exporting it into the national illicit market. In 2016, according to Arcview, sales of illicit California cannabis, much of it from small-scale producers, amounted to $5.1 billion, or almost triple the value of the state’s legal production. Of course, many of those small operators want to come out of the shadows—a potential mass migration that will affect both the shape and scale of the state’s cannabis market.

From what we’ve seen in California’s medical market, as well as in the four adult-use states, California’s cannabis farmers will have to choose one of four potential career paths. They can:

  • Scale up to industrial-size commodity production
  • Build a high-end craft-scale niche brand
  • Form or join an agricultural cooperative
  • Retire or remain underground and feed the illicit market in non-legal states.

The choices California’s farmer make will reverberate across the national cannabis industry. They will shape everything from wholesale prices to future legalization campaigns.

In the coming week, Leafly will examine these four options that California cannabis farmers will likely need to choose from—and what that’s likely to mean for them, and for the rest of us.

First up: Grow big or go home.


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‘Get Big or Get Out’

Back in the 1970s, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz famously told America’s struggling grain farmers to “get big or get out” – by which he meant, “Either gain the scale necessary to survive in a low-price, low-margin market, or find some other line of work.”

Today, California cannabis farmers are hearing the same message, in part because the economics of cannabis have undergone the same low-price, low margin transformation. Consider: less than a decade ago, a California indoor grower spent around $300 to produce a pound of cannabis that could be wholesaled for around $4,000. That fat margin reflected the “risk premium” of illicit production and distribution.

Going legal could add $520 to the production cost of each pound of dried flower.

Today margins aren’t nearly so fat. On the cost side, legal producers face a raft of new outlays. There will be taxes and the costs of complying with new state regulations on things like product testing, traceability, and 24-hour security. According the California Bureau of Marijuana Control, going legal could add $520 to the production cost of each pound of “marketable dried-flower equivalent”—with $400 of that coming from testing alone.

Meanwhile, the risk premium has vanished as a flood of legal supply has entered the state’s market. The result is what any economist would expect: Prices have plummeted.

Here are the states with the most and least expensive cannabis in the United States. It’s no accident that the least expensive product sells in legal states. The risk premium has vanished.

America’s Most Expensive Cannabis

State Price (1 oz.) Adult Use Cannabis Medical Cannabis Penalty for Possession of 1 oz. Cannabis
Maryland $420 Illegal Legal, not yet available 1 year incarceration
Louisiana $400 Illegal Illegal 6 months incarceration (first offense only)
New York $380 Illegal Legal $100 fine
Alabama $360 Illegal Illegal 1 year incarceration
Georgia $360 Illegal Illegal 1 year incarceration
Source: Trans High Market Quotations, June 2017

America’s Least Expensive Cannabis

State Price (1 oz.) Adult Use Cannabis Medical Cannabis Penalty for Possession of 1 oz. Cannabis
Nevada $200 Legal, not yet regulated Legal $600 fine
California $155 Legal, not yet regulated Legal $100 fine
Colorado $140 Legal Legal None
Oregon $139 Legal Legal None
Washington $110 Legal Legal None
Source: Leafly.com

Indoor-grown California cannabis now wholesales for around $1,550 a pound. Prices for sun-grown and greenhouse have also fallen. Margins for California’s producers have narrowed considerably, and are likely to get skinnier still, judging by data from Colorado (where wholesale prices are down by half since legalization), and Washington state (by nearly two thirds).

Steady Downward Pressure on Price

Since adult-use legalization in Colorado, “we’ve had to continually adjust price expectations lower and lower and lower,” says Erik Romero, director of data & finance at the Cannabase, a Denver-based B2B “platform” where retailers, cultivators, and processors buy and sell wholesale inventory. Every time growers are sure that “this is the bottom, it can’t go any further down than this—it does,” Romero adds.

Some farmers are counting on greater volume to make up for smaller margins.

Sure, there’s some argument over how much further California wholesale prices will fall, given that the state’s medical market is already so oversaturated. But no one disputes that as the adult-use market matures, cannabis retailers, eager to woo consumers with daily price specials, will press their suppliers for ever-larger discounts.

In Washington State, for example, the adult-use retail market opened in July 2014 with $25 grams. The high price was driven by a combination of extreme demand and pinched supply, as most growers hadn’t gotten their state licenses in time to harvest when the market opened. As the state industry matured, prices fell and stabilized. Today a $5 gram is a common bottom-shelf product at most Washington retail stores. BDS Analytics charted the state’s volume rise and price fall like this:

Washington State sales, 2014-2016. As volume increased, price per gram fell. (Chart by BDS Analytics) Washington State sales, 2014-2016. As volume increased, price per gram fell. (Chart by BDS Analytics)

For cannabis farmers trying to survive this Walmart-like dynamic, the logic of large-scale production extremely persuasive.

First, by producing cannabis (or anything) in great volumes, you can reduce your per-pound production costs by spreading your expenses (the cost of a greenhouse, say) over a greater number of pounds. These per-pound savings mean you can wholesale each pound at a lower price, which keeps your retailers happy. Second, because you’re turning out such a high volume, you can actually cut your prices even further: even as your profit margin on every pound gets smaller, you’re multiplying that margin over a greater number of pounds. Or as Jai Malloy says of his soon-to-be built farm, “our margins might be smaller than they used to be, but our production will be much, much greater.”


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Scaling Up Requires Big Money

There’s catch, of course: achieving that sort of scale efficiency takes some serious bank. Malloy’s $9 million venture is actually on the small side; the cost of other mega-grows underway in California top $15 million. But for farmers like Malloy who can assemble the investment, the advantages go beyond simple scale efficiencies.

For starters, there’s a huge technological edge. Having a multimillion budget means you can also afford the sort of high-end agricultural technologies that can generate even greater efficiencies. Leading-edge genetics, automated irrigation, light deprivation, and even robots that mix soil and seedlings: upgrades like these let producers cut costs while optimizing the market value of their cannabis—by, for example, growing plants with the best aesthetics and the highest possible THC content.

In mature markets like Colorado and Washington, hitting that cost-quality sweet spot has been essential, says Romero. Wholesalers and retailers increasingly treat cannabis as a commodity whose price is determined by shelf-readiness— “that is, how well it’s been trimmed, how it looks individually, and how it’s testing THC-wise. That’s pretty much what it boils down to.”

The Rise of SoCal, Where Land is Cheap

Big budgets can also mean freedom from cannabis’s traditional geographic limits. Gone are the days when Northern California, with its soil and climate advantages, and, especially, its isolated, hide-a-farm terrain, dominated the cannabis trade. With today’s powerful climate control technologies, large-scale growers can move into previously untenable environments such as Southern California’s arid, rural interior, where real estate is cheap. That means growers can spend less of their capital on land and more of it on production enhancements. The result: clusters of industrial-scale cannabis factories in places like Adelanto and Desert Hot Springs (where outside groups are building, among other ventures, a 380,000-square-foot cannabis “business park.”)

The future of large-scale farming may look like the clustered mega-grows in Adelanto and Desert Hot Springs.

From these vast cannabis hubs, operators will be well positioned to feed large volumes of low-cost, biochemically-optimized cannabis to a long-underserved Southern California consumer market. The sales potential of that SoCal market has investors salivating. Cannabis sales in Los Angeles alone, by some accounts, are already topping a billion dollars a year—as much as the entire state of Colorado.

And this may be only the beginning. Because industrial cannabis cultivation is still relatively immature, even the massive grow operations Southern California deserts “are going to appear tiny compared to what is going to happen with legalization,” predicts Tom Adams, editor in chief of Arcview Research. Humans have had decades to perfect the use of industrial scale farming technologies “on everything else that is grown for human consumption,” Adams says, “and that is about to happen to cannabis.”

And yet, it’s just as clear that this large-scale cannabis model won’t be for everyone. Beyond the requirement for huge sums of money, the factory-farm model, as some call it, leaves little room for the quirky variety of California’s legacy cannabis sector – an absence that, as we’ll see, has led to a new opportunity—and a new business model—for a small army of cannabis entrepreneurs.

Background image by James Tensuan

Next in the series: Growing quality cannabis at craft scale.


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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

15% of Every Cannabis Harvest Never Makes It to Market. Here’s Where It Goes.

There’s an interesting story hidden in the data that the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) publishes every month.

The LCB compiles statistics on the weight of cannabis harvested, and the weight of cannabis sold.

Here’s the funny thing: The two numbers almost never match up.

There’s almost always more harvest weight than retail weight sold. Like, a lot more. Over the past 20 months, Washington farmers have brought in a total of 286,962 pounds of harvested cannabis. During that same time period, retailers sold 239,712 pounds.

That makes a difference of 47,250 pounds—23 tons of cannabis harvested but not sold.

Obviously, cannabis doesn’t go straight from the field to the store. It takes weeks to cure it, process it, package, and distribute it.

But still: The gap is there every month.

Where does the missing cannabis go?

I set out to answer that question.

There are larger processors coming into the state who might purchase the entire harvest from multiple farms.

Crystal Oliver

First, it’s important to understand how the LCB records the cannabis weight that appears on its website. When a plant is freshly harvested, it has a “wet weight” that’s 80 to 90 percent more than its “dry weight,” which is its mass after curing.

“There is a pretty significant loss during the process,” explained Will Denman, president of the Washington state producer Solstice Grown. “From wet to dry, it is about 10-1 on weight, in addition to shrinkage you see throughout the post-harvest supply chain.”

But that’s not the source of the gap, because for its harvest weight figures the LCB records only the dry weight of the cannabis plant. That is, its mass after curing.

It turns out that a number of different factors contribute to the gap. Testing, market timing, and the law of supply and demand are three of the major ones.


Cannabis crops must go through quality assurance testing to make sure that there are no ‘bad’ things in the flower that could harm the consumer. According to the WLCB website, the following are tests that are done to ensure that only quality, untainted cannabis reaches the consumer:


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“The general body of required quality assurance tests for marijuana flowers and infused products may include moisture content, potency analysis, foreign matter inspection, microbiological screening, pesticide and other chemical residue and metals screening, and residual solvents levels.”

Washington LCB spokesperson Mikhail Carpenter said that some of the cannabis a grower harvests could fail QA testing. That batch or crop would then be destroyed.

Monthly Allocation of the Crop

Crystal Oliver is a cannabis farmer and co-founder of Washington’s Finest Cannabis. She and her husband and business partner, Kevin Oliver, have a specific way of doing things when it comes to selling their harvest. They want to make sure they have enough cannabis to sell to their retail partners throughout the year.

“What we have done for the past two years– we harvest in the fall, and we sort of budget our flower to get us through the year,” Crystal Oliver told Leafly. “So we are generating income throughout the course of the year. Generally speaking, you want to do that because the price you would get if you tried to unload your entire harvest in October is not as good if you sell your product throughout the year.”

There’s a limit to how much cannabis flower a farmer can keep on hand, though. According to state regulations, an outdoor grow or a greenhouse operation can store an amount of cannabis equal to 125% the amount of the producer’s yearly harvest. An indoor grower, by contrast, can only have up to 50% of their annual harvest on hand at any one time.


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Cannabis processor licensees are allowed to have a maximum of 50% of their average usable cannabis and 50% average of their total production on their licensed premises at any time.

Cannabis retailers, meanwhile, can store even less product in house. Retailers are allowed to have a maximum of 33% of their average inventory on their licensed premises at any given time.

Working within those limitations requires producers and processors to strategize how they sell their products to retailers throughout the year. A grower can sell their harvest in a one-time sale to a single buyer after harvest, but harvest time is usually when wholesale prices are lowest, because of the glut of product hitting the market.

Methods Used from Industry Folks

Holding back a certain amount of cannabis might be a smarter move, but that’s assuming the stored cannabis remains market-fresh and the wholesale price rebounds from its harvest-season low. And there’s no guarantee that both of those things will happen.

Will Denman of Solstice Grown said many farmers hold some cannabis in reserve just in case an adverse event hits the market and drives up the wholesale price.

“We know several (farmers) who have tonnage that they are simply sitting on, waiting for the drought,” Denman said. Cannabis doesn’t have an indefinite shelf life, though. “It is nonsensical,” Denman argued, “because the cannabis is degrading and losing value. But it’s certainly [the farmer’s] prerogative.”


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As for a drought hitting the cannabis market: There’s no sign of such a thing on the horizon. Cannabis sales continue to grow in Washington. At year’s end cannabis sales topped $1 billion for the first time ever.

Crystal Oliver said that it’s rare to see a single large processor buy up all of a grower’s harvest in one purchase. But that may change. “There are larger processors coming into the state who might purchase the entire harvest from multiple farms,” she said. “But right now there are very few processors who are in a position to do that.”

“We have a relationship with a processor where we sell a portion of our product to them each month,” Oliver added. “They’re one of the top ten processors in the state, but they’re not in a position financially where they can buy our full harvest in October. So we worked it out where they buy a certain amount each month.”

Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

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The Jackson County lawsuit is one more sign of rapid change in the cannabis industry. In the early days of legalization, many cannabis operators went to great lengths to avoid confrontations with local authorities—even to the point of packing up and moving to friendlier jurisdictions.

Nowadays cannabis farmers are less willing to just melt away. Instead, they’re adopting some of the hardball tactics of bigger, more established businesses. One factor, of course, is that cannabis itself is becoming a bigger business.

As the cost of cannabis operations have ballooned, eating the loss or leaving town are no longer viable business strategies.

Here’s another factor: These fight-or-flight situations are coming up more often. As more states have legalized, the growing presence of the cannabis industry has provoked an anti-cannabis counter-insurgency. We’ve seen this backlash mainly in rural regions such as eastern Washington, where several counties that had initially approved cannabis cultivation—and attracted millions of dollars in cannabis investment—subsequently tried to restrict growers by changing local zoning laws.

That counter-insurgency is also happening in other states, and in jurisdictions large and small, rural and urban. In the run-up to California’s vote on Proposition 64 last month, a number of counties and cities sought to exempt themselves from statewide legalization by enacting local bans or other restrictions. In Oregon, dozens of counties and cities have pushed back against state legalization by holding local cannabis referendums.


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In November, residents in Marion County, Oregon—home to the state capital, Salem, and a swath of the fertile Willamette Valley—voted to ban production and sale of medical and adult-use cannabis in the county’s unincorporated areas. The vote, one of several in Oregon, came as a rude shock to the county’s prospective operators, including Golden Leaf Holdings, a major cannabis oil manufacturer that had already paid $3.3 million to lease land for cultivation and research. “It shut us out of the [local] recreational market, which was our original strategy,” said Beau Whitney, an executive with Golden Leaf, in an interview with Fortune. The company is now shifting its efforts to the more cannabis-friendly Portland market.

Pushing back against unfair laws

Wenatchee Valley in Chelan County, Washington.The Wenatchee Valley in central Washington State, where many outdoor cannabis farmers are fighting for their right to grow the crop.

As with many aspects of cannabis law, this isn’t a black and white situation. Some of the local pushback reflects legitimate public concerns, such as grow operations being located too close to residential neighborhoods. There’s also uncertainty about state law; until this year, for example, Oregon’s farm-product protections covered only recreational cannabis, not medical. Most state cannabis laws give local jurisdictions significant leeway in how—and whether—to implement legalization. In Colorado, a city or county can opt out by passing a local referendum. Oregon goes a step further, allowing local bans in any county where 55 percent or more of voters rejected Measure 94 in 2014—a loophole available to 15 counties in the rural eastern part of the state.

‘The attitude – and I’ve experienced it all around the state – is that some people just don’t want other people growing cannabis in their neighborhood’

Ross Day, Portland attorney

But often, cannabis advocates say, local efforts to regulate cannabis are less about managing bona fide problems, such as odor, than about rejecting cannabis entirely. “The attitude – and I’ve experienced it all around the state – is that some people just don’t want other people growing cannabis in their neighborhood,” says attorney Ross Day. “The general sentiment is, ‘Not here.’”

That sentiment, advocates say, results in cannabis regulations that are often blatantly discriminatory. Vincent Sliwoski, a Portland attorney and expert on cannabis regulation—he writes at Canna Law Blog—says some of the new local regulations hold cannabis operators to higher standards than other agricultural operators face.

Case in point: In Clackamas County, just south of Portland, Sliwoski says, cultivation operations must be set back at least 100 feet from the operator’s property line, a rule that prevents small lot owners from operating cannabis farms. Yet other, arguably more noisome operations, such as hog farms or garlic farms, can site their facilities right up to the property line. Another example: Although Oregon law exempts farmers from having to get costly structural permits for greenhouses, Day says, Jackson County refused to grant that exemption to cannabis farmers–and then fined those not in compliance. In such cases, local regulations are simply expressing a raw imbalance of power. Because cannabis operators have historically lacked the resources or the community support to fight back, says Sliwoski, local authorities “feel like they can get away with being a little harder on pot farmers.” 


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That’s no longer a safe assumption. While most cannabis operators still prefer negotiation to litigation, going to court is becoming more common. Cities and counties may still be targeting “what they perceive to be the vulnerabilities of the industry,” says Henry Wykowski, a San Francisco attorney and one of the cannabis industry’s most successful litigators. (He led the successful defense of Oakland-based Harborside Health Center against a federal civil forfeiture case, which the feds dropped earlier this year.) “But there are people in the industry who are quite willing to stand up and fight back.”

Conservative lawyers defending cannabis farmers

Portland, Ore., attorney Ross Day is a conservative Republican. Representing cannabis farmers is something he “never would have imagined doing in a million years.” (Leah Nash for Leafly)

This new aggressiveness has led the cannabis sector into unfamiliar territory, both tactically and philosophically. Some of the attorneys defending aggrieved cannabis operators are deeply conservative individuals with little personal attachment to cannabis culture. Day, for example, is a conservative Republican who admits that, until recently, representing cannabis farmers was “something I never would have imagined doing in a million years.” Dale Foreman, an attorney working with growers in Chelan County, Washington, is a former Republican state lawmaker and National Republican Committee member who once authored a book titled, “Crucify Him: A Lawyer Looks at the Trial of Jesus.”

Some attorneys defending cannabis growers are deeply conservative. ‘This is something I never would have imagined doing in a million years,’ said one.

What’s more, as cannabis operators fight back against discriminatory regulations, they’re often drawing on legal concepts seemingly at odds with cannabis’s more collaborative, go-along-to-get-along culture. Property rights laws have long been deployed not merely by big business, but also by hard-right anti-government activists. Consider another legal concept that cannabis operators are now relying on—so-called “freedom to farm” laws. These were originally meant to shield industrial farming activities, such as large-scale animal feedlots and chemical spraying, from nuisance claims by neighbors and from anti-nuisance regulations by local governments.

And yet, at their core, these legal concepts have a ready applicability to cannabis. “Freedom to farm” becomes a valuable legal protection, says Day, when cities declare cannabis cultivation to be in violation of local nuisance laws, as Grants Pass, Oregon did earlier this year. The idea at the heart of the property rights movement—that government actions which reduce property value may themselves be illegal—is no less relevant for cannabis production than it is for pig farming.


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Local governments have the right “to change the rules,” says attorney Dale Foreman, who is fighting new restrictions on cannabis farming in Chelan County, Washington. “But what they can’t do is change the rules, throw all these people out of business, and not pay the cost.”

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Attorney Henry Wykowski, who successfully defended Oakland’s Harborside Health Center against federal charges, says “there are people in the industry who are quite willing to stand up and fight back.” (James Tensuan for Leafly)

As out-of-character as these legal adaptations may seem, they’re actually in keeping with the cannabis sector’s long history of innovative legal tactics. The first medical dispensaries—in California’s Bay Area during the late 1990s—were technically in violation of federal, state and local laws. They survived largely because advocates worked creatively with cities like San Francisco and Oakland on ordinances that were carefully worded to allow cultivation and distribution without tripping federal or state enforcement.

Later, when state law enforcement agencies began seizing the property of medical cannabis patients, advocates deployed more legal creativity. In the early 2000s, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) mounted a barebones litigation campaign targeting “the most outrageous cases” of regulatory abuse, says Steph Sherer, ASA founder and executive director.

‘Litigation against counties is a real sinkhole, money wise, because you seldom recover your attorneys fees, even if you win.’

Vincent Sliwoski, Oregon attorney

In one case, ASA forced the California Highway Patrol to end its informal policy of confiscating the property of medical cannabis patients during traffic stops. Another ASA lawsuit stopped the California Department of Motor Vehicles from suspending the licenses of medical patients. “And as we were winning these lawsuits,” Sherer says, “we started getting more traction in the legislature,” which gradually led to new protections for medical cannabis patients.

The rise of adult-use cannabis has given rise to still more legal innovation. Where litigation over medical cannabis often focuses on “rights of access” for patients, adult-use litigation more typically centers on the economic rights of producers and sellers—hence the use of concepts such as property rights. 


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Yet inevitably, as cannabis advocates have developed new strategies, their opponents’ blocking tactics have become more creative. The huge investment required to start a cannabis business, for example, means entrepreneurs can be easily bankrupted by any regulatory change that delays them from opening and generating cash flow. A number of local governments have already exploited that particular vulnerability. Some jurisdictions have repeatedly enacted “emergency” moratoria, which can be devastating to cannabis entrepreneurs, says Crystal Oliver, a member of  NORML in eastern Washington. “I don’t think the emergency rulemaking process was designed to be used with the frequency that it’s used on our industry,” she says.

Fighting regulations in court is costly, so some municipalities are gambling that even blatantly discriminatory regulations won’t be challenged. “Litigation against cities and counties is a real sinkhole, money wise, because you can very seldom recover your attorneys fees, even if you win,” says Sliwoski. “So most [cannabis operators] would rather up and move than litigate, even if they feel that they are in the right.”

That particular tactic may be losing some of its punch, though. Legal defense funds are emerging to help defray costs. Sympathetic attorneys like Day offer cannabis operators discounted fees. “I’m giving them a cut rate because I believe in it,” says Day, who has come to see the fight over cannabis as a fight over personal liberty.


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Even when cannabis operators can afford to litigate, obstacles remain—not the least of which is federal prohibition. The Jackson County case, for example, is being delayed in part because Day can’t find an appraiser willing to assess the cultivators’ lost economic value. “Basically, they’re afraid to put their name on an appraisal involving a federally illegal activity,” he says.

That’s not gone unnoticed by the community of local regulators. Cannabis-unfriendly jurisdictions are carefully tracking the anti-cannabis successes of other, like-minded jurisdictions. After Jackson County enacted its ban, Day says, several other Oregon counties began using the same regulatory language. “It’s clear that the local governments are copying each other and saying, ‘Here’s a strategy that works.’” 

Given the political realities, the issue of local bans will continue to be fought and re-fought, case by case.

The viral nature of local regulation is a key point. Because states give cities and counties considerable authority in regulating zoning and business activities, the confrontations we’re seeing in Colorado, Oregon and Washington State will almost certainly be replicated in thousands of local communities as the tide of legalization spreads nationally. That’s especially likely given the political compromises that are necessary to passing cannabis legislation. It’s worth noting that the reason Oregon allows local bans by counties with a 55-percent no vote is because that was the only way conservative state lawmakers would back statewide legalization. Given those political realities, says Henry Wykowski, the issue of local bans is something that will be fought and refought “case by case.”


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Despite such prospects, some legal experts say these local counterinsurgencies are ultimately a rearguard action. As the cost and benefits of a legal cannabis market become more widely understood, even conservative municipalities may be less likely to throw up regulatory roadblocks.

Just important, advocates say, is the idea that many cannabis operators are on the right side of the law—a reality that will gradually play out in the courts. Just this week, for example, Jackson County’s attempt to make cannabis greenhouse operators obtain costly structural permits was struck down by Oregon’s land use board. In time, if cannabis farmers can rack up legal victories and establish precedents, local authorities may think twice before enacting discriminatory cannabis regulations. In that regard, the fact that local governments copy each other could ultimately work in the sector’s favor. “If we challenge Jackson County and win,” says Day, “other counties that are taking the same legal positions are probably going to back off.”

Lead image: Leah Nash for Leafly

Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.