A recent survey given by the California Growers Assn. to 770 of its members revealed a major divide in the cannabis industry. 31 percent said they opposed Proposition 64, the measure that could legalize marijuana in California if voters go for it next month. An equal percentage of members said they supported the measure while 38 percent remained undecided, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.
Industry insiders oppose the measure for a number of reasons. If passed, Prop 64 will allow adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of cannabis and grow up to six marijuana plants for recreational use. A sales tax of 9 percent will be applied in Los Angeles County (tax rates vary elsewhere in the state) and an additional 15 percent excise tax will be imposed on top of that state wide. And a steep $9.25-per-ounce tax will be placed on cultivation as well.
All these additional taxes could price medical marijuana consumers into the black market, at least according to some. Medical marijuana patient Sandra Yuhre told the Times that she and her husband Rick spend up to $350 on cannabis medication a month to treat pain from Sandra’s breast cancer surgery and a serious injury Rick suffered at work. “I see the cost going up tremendously,” she said of the taxes that would come with a legal recreational market, “and that’s a big concern for us because we are on a fixed income.”
Dispensary owner Lanette Davies agrees. “Because of the double taxation and the permit fees, you are not going to have affordable medication,” Davies, the owner of Canna Care in Sacramento, told the Times. “The people who are going to suffer are those who are disabled, who are on low incomes. They are not going to be able to get life-saving medicine.”
Prop 64 advocates, however, argue that the market will even out after legalization the same way it did in Colorado and Washington. “Any suggestion that patients will somehow be priced out of access under Prop. 64 is simply wrong,” said Jason Kinney, a spokesman for the campaign, “especially when every economist agrees that marijuana prices will decrease when the market is fully legal and regulated.”
The other major concern for producers is corporate monopolies of the industry. New addendums to the state’s medical marijuana program are meant to keep small farmers in business by capping the number of licenses that one person or corporation can have, and limits a license to cover one acre of marijuana crops.
Prop 64, however, would override those limits and potentially allow powerful companies to take over the industry. Hezekiah Allen, executive director of California Growers’ Assn. estimates that the state will need roughly 1,100 acres of cannabis farms to meet the demands of the recreational market.
“That could be three 500-acre farms or 4,400 quarter-acre family farms,” he said.
Votes will be cast on the proposition during the coming election on November 8.
Photo via Flickr user laurascudder