Can Small California Farmers Stop The Coming Wave Of Mega Grows?

Can Small California Farmers Stop The Coming Wave Of Mega Grows?

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Though Proposition 64 implemented measures to keep mega grows funded by venture capital and corporations out of the recreational cannabis market, a legal loophole might allow them to be formed through a back door. That’s why the California Growers Association (CGA), a trade group with more than 1,000 members, announced this week that it was suing the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) in order to change the state’s existing laws, as reported by The Mendocino Voice.

Prop 64 says that it intends to make sure “the nonmedical marijuana industry in California will be built around small and medium sized businesses” by delaying small grower’s ability acquire large scale licenses for five years. But a stipulation of the initiative allows for single corporations to acquire an unlimited amount of smaller grow licenses, which would give them the ability to create cultivation sites much larger than the legal limit.

According to the CGA’s lawsuit, this “has promulgated a regulatory loophole that eviscerates the statutory five-year prohibition overwhelmingly approved by California voters.”

In earlier drafts of regulations, the CDFA included a one-acre limit to the size of licensed cannabis farms, but this was taken out of the regulations released in November. The CGA has also petitioned for this one-acre cap to be reinstated, and has so far gathered more than 3,200 signatures supporting the measure.

The worry is that, without such a cap on farm size, smaller family cannabis operations could be put out of business by big money industrial farms. This indeed has been the worry among many in the cannabis industry since people started talking about legalization years ago.

The Northern California cannabis community has a traditional way of doing things. Many counties in the area already have a one-acre limit on farms. Mendocino County allows for cultivation sites of no more than 10,000 square feet, about 0.2 acres.

The growers aren’t the only ones making noise about this. Two legislators in the North Coast, Assemblyman Jim Wood and State Senator Mike McGuire, also asked the CDFA to reinstate the one-acre cap in a letter drafted last month.

The idea is not to attack Proposition 64, but for cannabis growers and state agencies to work more closely together. “Generally we think the agency is doing a good job, this is not a broad complaint,” said CGA’s Hezekiah Allen. “Our concern is very narrow in scope, but the implications are huge.”

You can read the full lawsuit here.

Photo via Flickr user Aram Vartian

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