California growers fear corporate cannabis

Posted on July 18th, 2010 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , .

CaliforniaCalifornia's medicinal cannabis growers see a downside to the normalization of their profession: the "Wal-Marting" of weed. The Oakland City Council this week will consider licensing four cannabis production facilities to service the medical market. Winning applicants would have to pay $211,000 in annual permit fees, carry $2 million worth of liability insurance and pay up to 8% of gross sales in taxes. This has raised fears that such measures could drive "mom and pop" growers out of business.

"Nobody wants to see the McDonald's-ization of cannabis," Dan Scully, one of the 400 "patient-growers" who supply Oakland's largest  medicinal dispensary, Harborside Health Center, grumbled to the Associated Press after a City Council committee gave the blueprint preliminary approval last week. "I would compare it to how a small business feels about shutting down its business and going to work at Wal-Mart. Who would be attracted to that?"

The proposal's supporters—"including entrepreneurs more disposed to neckties than tie-dye," in AP's words—counter that unregulated growers are more likely to be motivated purely by profit and produce inferior product. "The large-scale grow facilities that are being proposed with this ordinance will create hundreds of jobs for the city," said Ryan Indigo Warman, who teaches cultivation techniques at iGrow, a hydroponics store whose owners plan to apply for one of the four permits (dubbed the "Wal-Mart of Weed" in the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this year). "The ordinance is good for Oakland, and anyone who says otherwise is only protecting their own interests."

Council members Rebecca Kaplan and Larry Reid, who introduced the plan, have pitched it as a public safety measure. The Oakland fire department blames a dramatic rise in the number of electrical fires between 2006 and 2009 in part to indoor grow operations with improperly wired fans and lights. The police department says eight robberies, seven burglaries and two murders have been linked to  grow ops in the last two years.

Reid and Kaplan also are open about their desire to have the city, which last week laid off 80 police officers to save money, cash in on the cannabis industry it has allowed to thrive. Oakland's four dispensaries did $28 million in business last year. If sales remain constant, the city will get $1.5 million this year from a dispensary business tax that voters adopted last summer. A similar tax on wholesale pot sales from the permitted grow sites would bring in more than twice that amount, the city administrator's office estimates.

"Allowing medical cannabis and medical cannabis products to be produced in a responsible, aboveboard and legitimate way will be a benefit to the patients, to the workers and to the people of Oakland," Kaplan said. (AP, July 18)




Oakland controversy makes New York Times

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A July 16 story in the New York Times, "Proposal for Marijuana Factories Prompts a Battle for Control," sheds some light on how the lines are drawn in Oakland. Harborside apparently opposes the pending bill:

One of the most vocal critics of the cultivation proposal is Stephen DeAngelo, executive director of Harborside Health Center, the largest medical marijuana dispensary in the world. With outlets in Oakland and San Jose, Harborside has 58,000 members, or patients, who can buy dozens of strains of marijuana packaged in vacuum-sealed bags or in edible forms ranging from cookies to gelato.

The dispensary receives its marijuana from about 400 member/suppliers who deliver one or two pounds of cannabis at a time. Allowing large-scale production in Oakland would crowd out those small growers, according to Harborside officials and the dispensary’s lawyer.

“Why does this whole new system have to be created?” Mr. DeAngelo asked in an interview. “Let’s bring these citizen farmers out of the shadows and into the light and give them a role in this new industry.”

And there has been some unseemly sniping between Harborside and AgraMed:

Jeff Wilcox, a Bay Area businessman, is an outspoken proponent of the industrial pot permits as well as a leading advocate for the Proposition 19 initiative. Mr. Wilcox is hoping to obtain one of the four permits to build AgraMed, a marijuana production complex on 7.4 acres beside Interstate 880 near Oakland International Airport.

AgraMed would include a bakery to create edible forms of marijuana, a lab to test for potency and contaminants and 100,000 square feet of cultivation space. If he obtains a permit, Mr. Wilcox said, he will offer to lease space to smaller growers.

James Anthony, a lawyer for Harborside, said Mr. Wilcox was a “Johnny-come-lately” motivated by profit, not by the desire to help patients who use marijuana for medical reasons.

Comment by Global Ganja Report on Jul 19th, 2010 at 10:46 pm

Urban dystopia in Oakland

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The police lay-offs are shown in a stark light given the recent riots and shoot-outs in Oakland, even amid social progress on the cannabis front...

Comment by Global Ganja Report on Jul 22nd, 2010 at 2:46 am

Urban dystopia in Oakland redux

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The Fruitvale BART station is the same where Oscar Grant was killed last year... From the San Francisco Chronicle, July 18:

Oakland and BART police officers shot and killed a man Saturday morning near the Fruitvale BART Station when, authorities said, he charged the officers holding a knife in each hand after leading them on a chase for blocks.

Five officers opened fire on the man when he threatened an officer after police unsuccessfully tried to subdue him with a Taser stun gun, Oakland police Officer Jeff Thomason said.


Comment by Global Ganja Report on Aug 6th, 2010 at 1:01 am

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