Some California Growers Oppose Legalized Marijuana

By Kelly Burch 10/06/16

Fears of big business and government oversight will leave some growers voting against Prop 64.

Some California Growers Oppose Legalized Marijuana

California’s Proposition 64, which would legalize marijuana, is getting unexpected opposition from marijuana growers and other people in the industry. 

The California Growers Association is neutral on the proposition after polling its 750 members and finding that 31% support it, with an equal 31% opposed. The rest of the group was undecided, according to Fortune

The executive director of the association, Hezekiah Allen, said he will vote against Prop 64. “I don’t want to replace a criminal injustice with an economic injustice,” he told Fortune.

Many marijuana farmers are worried that with legalization will come more regulation from the government, including environmental and tax rules. Others are mistrusting of the government after years of operating an illegal business. 

“We are asking farmers to come out from behind the curtain, but not providing the assurances they need,” said Steve Dodge, CEO of the Humboldt Growers Collective, another trade group. “This law is setting the state up for failure.”

Medical marijuana is already legal and widespread in California. However, legalization of the drug for recreational use would more than double the market for pot by 2020, according to a projection by New Frontier, a market research group. 

California is already the biggest producer of marijuana among the 25 states and Washington, D.C. that allow some form of legalization. With the U.S. market for marijuana valued at $30 billion and growing, many farmers are concerned about big business stepping on a trade that has traditionally been operating beneath the radar. 

“The reason I will vote ‘no’ on the proposition is that it will be corporate influenced and it would be a subpar product,” said Jason B., a grower who told Fortune he wants to keep big business “out of our neighborhood.”

Growers aren’t the only people in the industry who are skeptical of Prop 64. “This is just a way for them (government) to profit,” said Patrice Scott, a receptionist at a medical marijuana clinic in San Francisco.

The November election is set to be an important one for marijuana policy across the country, not just in California. Five states will decide whether to fully legalize recreational use of the drug, and another four states will vote on medical marijuana bills. California, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts and Maine are considering legalizing, while Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota and Montana will consider medical marijuana. 

Despite resistance from people in the marijuana industry, Prop 64 is expected to pass. Polls have shown that 60% of California voters favor legalizing recreational use of pot, while only 37% are committed to voting no on the measure. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.