For those in California’s cannabis business, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that if you want to make money selling bud or extracts, it’s getting more and more legal to do so. A new state law will allow cannabis companies to legally profit from their goods and the recreational market is likely to open up soon.

The bad news is that the same laws are going to benefit major corporations, companies who have the ability to squash many of the small growers and collectives who have laid the groundwork for the industry.

“People are definitely salivating over the California market,” Troy Dayton, chief executive of cannabis research firm ArcView Group, told The New York Times. “It’s huge, and Californians love cannabis so much.”

That the Golden State’s weed market is massive and getting massiver is no big shocker, but let’s break down just how massive we’re talking here. Last year, medical marijuana raked in $2.7 billion in California, just about half the legal weed sales in the country, according to ArcView. And if California voters pass a recreational marijuana ballot this year (which is very possible) the sales could double by 2020, according to the Times.

Big money means more corporate interests will be sniffing around. One year, we could all show up to a Cannabis Cup and find that the leading companies are owned by conglomerate giants like Phillip Morris and R.J. Reynolds.

Or, you could look at a less extreme example that’s really happening right now in Desert Hot Springs, where MMJ holding company CalCann Holdings is making a big play for the market. The company plans to produce 8,000 pounds of weed a year to feed Orange County markets.

Some small time growers who haven’t had to compete with big companies before are getting nervous. A Humboldt County cannabis farmer named Patrick Murphy told the Times that he’s concerned about a “corporate takeover” of the local business. That’s why he and some other smaller cultivators are uniting to stay strong in the face of coming big money interests.

Emerald Family Farms is essentially a co-operative of Humboldt County growers designed to compete with big company “mega-grows.”

“In California, especially in Humboldt, we have a code of conduct: Respect the land and respect the people,” Murphy told the TImes. “I don’t want that culture to be replaced by guys in $5,000 suits.”

It’s a key time for the development of the cannabis industry in California and the rest of America. In the next few years we’ll find out whether major corporations will dominate or if, unlike many industries in the nation, there’s still room for the little guy.


Photo via Katheirne Hitt