"But what about California?" we here in Oregon whine when this topic comes up, like any rival sibling. "Surely we can't be the only state facing this issue, right?"
Right. A new report out of the Golden State by the California Grower's Association, a group which primarily represents smaller craft cannabis growers, shows that California is facing its own challenges. Mainly, that out of the 68,000 growers in the state, fewer than one percent have been licensed as recreational producers.
Okay, but what does "fewer" actually mean? The total number: 534. That's the number of growers that have been licensed as recreational producers—in a state of nearly 40 million.
The report, "An Emerging Crisis: Barriers To Entry In California Cannabis," says in part: "Without broad participation, legalization will look a lot like prohibition," with many illicit growers, the report concludes. "The current system will not achieve its goals without fundamental and structural changes that allow small and independent businesses to enter into compliance."
The barriers in California sound remarkably similar to what Oregon's industry faces: burdens in both areas of regulatory and taxation, a lack of access to financial services and capital, a system that seems designed to favor larger producers, and a saturated marketplace.
How saturated? The report determined that California produces 15 million pounds of cannabis a year, of which only 3 million are consumed in-state. My mathlete skills allow me to deduce that means 12 million pounds of cannabis are moving out of California over the borders.
As one Sonoma area grower states in the report:
"The unintended consequence of making it so difficult at the local and state level to enter the regulated market is that 80-90% of those who were working with dispensaries prior to 1/1/2018 are being pushed to the black market. This is not only bad for the regulated market, because so much high-quality product is now flooding into the black market, but crime is increasing as a result as well. I am truly heartbroken to see what the regulatory system has done to the artisan cultivators and manufacturers who were creating diverse, boutique products. These people who built this industry are not allowed to participate. I hope we can course correct this year."The report also makes note that "many of the best growers—the most dedicated and passionate artisans who can add tremendous value to the state marketplace—are the ones being left behind."
Of course, a rescheduling of cannabis on a federal level would allow legal exports to other states, higher tax revenues, massive job creation, and countless other benefits. But that would require common sense and critical thinking skills, which is not something the current administration is exactly known for.