Great article on the dangers posed by Oakland's new plans for cannabis

Oakland’s pot dreams could burst

By Cecily Burt
Oakland Tribune

OAKLAND — Oakland rushed last week to raise medical cannabis business taxes and to be the first city in the nation to legitimize industrial-sized pot production. The cash-starved city is hoping to reap millions of dollars in tax revenues from medical cannabis businesses while positioning itself to capitalize on the explosion of recreational pot sales should state voters go that way in November.

But is it just a pipe dream? No one really knows whether Oakland will find that pot of gold in the cannabis industry. Growers and dispensaries are making money, to be sure, and the city wants its share. But competition, legal risks and the unknown economic effects from potential legalization make the sure bet anything but.

California voters in 1996 overwhelmingly passed Proposition 215, the so-called Compassionate Use Act, which decriminalized medicinal use of marijuana. Dispensaries popped up almost overnight, supplied by a cottage industry of growers selling pounds of pot for $2,500 to $3,500, tax-free. Retail prices are double that, but not enough to stop the flood of patients willing to spend more than $300 an ounce for high-grade marijuana.

The estimated value of California’s pot crop is $13.8 billion, according to an analysis for California NORML, a nonprofit organization devoted to marijuana reform. About 3 million people in the state use marijuana, medical and recreational, and consume an estimated 1 million pounds a year.

four medical marijuana dispensaries do their share, supplying patients with 6,000 pounds of pot worth $28 million last year. The city is asking voters to raise business taxes on medical marijuana sales to 5 percent, a rate that dispensaries, patients and small growers warn will drive them out of Oakland and into neighboring communities with lower tax rates or no taxes at all.

The four new industrial-sized farms the city plans to license in January should do well, given the growing demand for medical marijuana across the state. But the ventures are not without risk. State law allows medical marijuana cultivation by collectives of patients and caregivers, with no profiteering.

Although the Obama administration has pledged a hands-off approach to honor states’ laws, several experts warn that the federal government may not be able to ignore commercial-sized growing and manufacturing plants, which are not allowed under current state law.

That is a concern expressed by Oakland Councilmember Nancy Nadel, who sees pros and cons in the plan and worries about excluding small growers. “I was willing to go along with some large growers, but is this an invitation to federal attention? It puts a lot of product in one space, so if there is a fire, or theft, or mold, you could impact the availability of product to the patients,” Nadel said.

New tax revenue

Still, it’s easy to see why the City Council majority backs the concept of large indoor farms. Regulating medical marijuana production in modern facilities located in industrial areas should ensure a reliable, consistent supply of high-grade marijuana. It conceivably should cut down on the hundreds of dangerous, illegal grow houses spread around Oakland, especially if the huge growers can offer lower wholesale prices. It also makes it easier for the city to track the money.

Perhaps the most convincing argument arrived in a report commissioned by Jeff Wilcox, a retired contractor who first approached city leaders about the commercial grow idea. His proposal for a 100,000-square-foot AgraMed cultivation facility would produce 21,000 pounds of pot with a wholesale value of $60 million. That translates into $3 million in new tax revenue for the city and 300 to 400 jobs for Bay Area residents — from just one business.

That’s on top of the revenue the city will get from its four dispensaries. If sales remain static, the city stands to gain another $1.4 million.

Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML, says Oakland is smart to get ahead of the curve, and it could gain millions in new tax revenue if the city’s sales and production estimates pan out. But setting too high of a tax rate could backfire initially, and he thinks that establishing the large-scale production facilities will be neither quick nor problem-free.

“I think there is a risk here on jumping ahead on this tax on medical marijuana,” Gieringer said. “San Francisco doesn’t have a tax. At 5 percent, this gives other places an advantage. Oakland could be in danger of killing the goose that lays the golden egg. Patients will not go to Oakland if they can go to San Francisco and get it cheaper.”

Oakland might have been the first to realize the revenue benefits of taxing medical marijuana businesses, but several other economically strapped municipalities are following its lead. San Jose, Richmond and others are scrambling to place similar tax measures on the November ballot. Berkeley is asking voters to raise cannabis tax rates as well as allow up to six commercial cultivation facilities.

Oakland’s four proposed cultivation permits are intended for medicinal production only — for now. The proposal also lays the framework should Proposition 19 pass in November, legalizing recreational use of pot for adults 21 and older. The city is asking voters in November to set the business tax rate for recreational sales at a whopping 10 percent.

But will it be a bonanza or bust?

Legalized pot

According to a RAND Corp. study released this month, legalization could boost the number of pot smokers and drive down the pretax price of an ounce of pot by as much as 80 percent. The authors warn that it potentially could fuel problems with smuggling as dealers from other states rush to buy low-cost cannabis in California.

“Legalization would drive the price so low that even if taxes are high, marijuana coming from California would still be cheaper than a lot of places in the country,” said Beau Kilmer, lead author of the study and co-director of the Drug Policy Research Center. “If dealers come here to buy several pounds, pay the taxes and then smuggle it out, they would still make money.”

Even with hefty state or local taxes added on, consumers likely would pay hundreds of dollars less than they do now. That’s good news for patients who rely on the herb to ease their pain, control their nausea or boost their appetite, but it could put a huge dent in the amount of tax revenue the city collects from its medical marijuana dispensaries.

If the wholesale price of medical marijuana drops to $800 a pound, a scenario Wilcox said could happen, the city’s cut would drop to $1.35 million.

“Right now there’s an 85 percent profit margin (enjoyed by the growers and dispensaries), and that’s too high, in my opinion,” Wilcox said. “If you can grow for $400 and sell it $800 wholesale, people will be doing just hunky-dory.”

Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks said she’s not pinning all her expectations on legalization, especially when there is plenty of revenue to be had from the medical cannabis industry.

“There’s a lot of money in that industry and not a lot of regulation,” she said.

Kilmer said his work focused on what might happen if marijuana were legalized in California. The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act 2010 ballot initiative would allow people 21 and older to possess, grow or transport small amounts of pot for personal use. Cities and counties could choose whether to regulate and tax the commercial cultivation and sales of marijuana or to keep such activities illegal.

“The impacts of legalization on medical marijuana is unknown,” Kilmer said. “But it will be interesting to see what happens in Oakland because it’s unclear what the feds will do” about the commercial growers.

Mark Kleiman, a UCLA professor of public policy who has written extensively on the topic, believes cities such as Oakland that are hoping to cash in on medical marijuana, and legalization if it happens, should try to see through the dollar signs to the possible pitfalls.

“Yes, (Oakland is) in for a big letdown,” he said. “Competition among growers and among jurisdictions would drive legal prices through the floor, leaving California with a large (illegal) export trade to the rest of the country and not much revenue. The feds wouldn’t hold still for it and would crack down.”

Tough Love for Oakland on Medical Cannabis

I love Oakland. At least I did. Oakland was the place that understood that medical cannabis was not going anywhere, and decided to license collectives and in turn, created a SANCTUARY for patients and providers. Granted,  I think their choice to limit the collectives to 4 back in the day was short-sighted but at the time it was a revolution. Obviously the 4 permits were not enough, but they did provide a structure for legitimizing the industry that was unparalleled at the time. For that reason we always ran Tainted Inc./Compassion Medicinal Edibles from the friendly confines of Oakland. I always made our major purchases, including vehicles, equipment, and every supply for the company in Oakland, to ensure the tax revenues went to a city that put their best foot forward and understood the needs of an evolving industry.

I always loved Oakland’s culture. No matter what a person’s race or religion, as long as they were from “The O” they were part of the family. I ate, breathed, and slept Oakland for a decade. I loved the way the City embraced cannabis culture and worked to meet the needs of the community.

NOW, I am saying that the greed of Oakland City Officials is turning those feelings I had for the city on their ears. The entire process reeks of COLLUSION, GREED, and UNETHICAL BEHAVIOR. Their decision to license 4 mega grows based on a pipe-dream report from a wealthy and privileged land owner and their decision to increase taxes again, just one year after raising cannabis taxes by 1500% is unethical and frankly, DISGUSTING to me. This is not the behaviors of a compassionate sanctuary city. These are the behaviors of a TEENAGER that has spent all of dad’s allowance and is now vying to get more to keep up with the Joneses. It is unacceptable and downright UNETHICAL.

I can tell you this, my affection for Oakland is fading into the night. They are showing that they have no respect for patients, providers, and persons who have dedicated their lives and their freedoms to advancing this cause. They have chosen the almighty dollar over reason and compassion. It is an embarrassment and I believe it will blow up in their face.

I can guarantee that when I reopen my business, in whatever form that may take on, I will most likely not be doing it in Oakland. Why? Because loyalty and respect mean a lot to me. What Oakland has shown is that the only thing they respect are the big money interests and the percentage of dollars they can screw patients and providers out of. Their logic is SO TWISTED that is pains me to hear their irrational justifications for fleecing an entire industry out loud.

I wish you the best Oakland, but your elected officials have made me no longer feel welcome. They have not learned from the past. They continue to travel down the same road filled with flawed logic that removed competition from the industry and created collectives of 50,000 members and $65 eighths of medicine. What have we seen in areas where there are more collectives for patients to choose from?…GREATER VALUE.

In Oakland, many prices are higher than average (Not all. Some organizations still are reasonable), but most are high. What will creating 4 behemoth grows do to the industry? Well first off, it will make these interested parties that are willing to pony up $211,000 the heads of a CONTINUING CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE, punishable by 20 years in prison. Do you hear that Mr. Wilcox and Mr. Mann? I would suggest you reach out to the US Justice Department and see what they think of your 170,000 acre Field of Pipe-Dreams. 2 decades is a long time. Ask Luke Scarmazzo. Maybe write a letter to Eddy Lepp. Do you guys even know who they are?

Secondly, your products will be rejected by US- your “peers.” The patients you wish to serve. You see, we do not like being railroaded by those who know nothing about how we got here, but want to use their cash assets to reap the benefits. I think I speak for a large majority of the industry (including those who you want to buy your product) when I say, “Go fuck yourself.” You can continue to buy people off that you perceive to be intricate parts of the industry, but all you will do is further tarnish their reputations, as well.

The raising of taxes and turning over the industry to the Rich and Famous bring me to the conclusion that Oakland is not the sanctuary city it once was. It is just another money hungry municipality that chooses to pay its bills off the backs of those whose quasi-legal situation makes them easy targets. Thanks for nothing. Watch as you push yet another industry away from your City because your greed got the better of you. Yes, Oakland…I love you dearly and it is a shame that we elected these people that would so selfishly abuse their powers to push good people away from the beauty of your culture. I am sorry. Maybe one day soon I will run for City Council in Oakland and do my best to create the environment and understanding that you so deserve. But for now, I WILL NOT roll over and play dead and continue to allow theses officials to rape and pillage our industry at will.

Hopefully the vote in November will be rejected by the good citizens of Oakland. May the force be with all of them. I know I for one will be voting NO….

Another long week of City Council Dragonslaying…

Tonight Oakland. Richmond. San Jose. And the beat goes on…

Seems like this week will be filled with discussion on Death and Taxes. Mostly how I would rather die than pay 10% sin taxes on cannabis on top of the incredibly high sales taxes in CA. Here we go again. While I see the positives of being a tax paying citizen and using some cannabis resources to put a best foot forward in the community, it is the old “give an inch, take a mile” scenario.

Oakland voters approved a tax rate of 1.8% last year. Now the city wants to increase that again, one year later to keep up with the Joneses. Richmond and San Jose seem to want to up the ante an run with a rate of 10% or higher. Amazing really. Way to go. When you are broke where is the best place to raise money? Sick people. Why do I feel a PR nightmare on the horizon for these cities?

Anyway, I am gearing up my armor and heading into battle for what should be another long week of boring ass meetings and contentious argument. Time to map out the taxes talking points…

Cannabis Taxation: Does it legitimize or patronize?

It seems as if the taxation of cannabis issue is rising around the State with municipalities contemplating putting multiple tax measures on the ballot to raise revenues. While I support taxation in a sense that it provides a certain amount of legitimacy to the process, it now seems as if when given the inch some cities are trying to get the mile. San Jose, Long Beach, Sacramento, Berkeley, Oakland and other cities are all vying to put forward tax measures that are aimed at bringing more income into the cities. Most measures will probably pass, as a small percentage of the population will be taxed, meaning the majority of folks will probably see it as a good deal. Unfortunately medical cannabis users will pay the brunt of it.

Oakland decided last night to use a tiered system, raising the tax from 1.8% for cannabis dispensaries to at least 2.5%. The big question I have is, “Didn’t Oakland just raise these taxes last fucking year?” They did not have the foresight then to realize a higher percentage or is it now that they see other cities vying for higher rates they want theirs? Measure F was passed in July of 2009 with a special ballot election. Now here we are one year later putting another measure up to raise them again? WTF?

I was a supporter of Measure F (and still am), as I can see how priming the pot a little can open doors for the community, and in all rights it has a little. I think San Jose is only considering medical cannabis in their city for the revenue. Without the money potential, I do not believe they would even be looking at the issue. While this scheme may have enabled more patients to access cannabis, it pisses me off that City Officials across the State are so boldly superficial and shallow as to reverse their positions to make a quick buck. Fuck you.

And furthermore, NONE of these cities are offering the protection or defense to the organizations they so rightfully attack. I can guarantee if the FEDS come knocking these Officials will not be at the raid with a sign and a bullhorn defending their golden gooses. Nope. They may issue some “day late, dollar short” resolution condemning the actions but there will be no interference or ability to stop the madness.

Take Oakland for instance. When I was raided in 2007, long after Measure Z made cannabis enforcement the lowest priority for law enforcement, Oakland PD assisted the DEA in the investigation of Tainted Inc. They did a traffic stop to investigate what my driver was carrying and then the feds used this information to press charges against the driver, and the dishwasher who happened to be in the car that day to get a ride. OPD virtually ruined these guys lives, got them plastered all over the news, and took away 2 plus years of their freedoms. Not only did the city not protect our medical cannabis rights, they assisted in our downfall. The question is, “If they cannot even stop their own police force from assisting in investigations for the feds, then how are they supposed to protect the producers and retailers they license?” I mean you want 5% of my shit, but what do I get. Can you even ensure your own police force will not be involved in my downfall? YOU CANNOT and history shows HAVE NOT.

Taxes are fine and dandy as long as they are reasonable, but more importantly, provide the protections afforded to other tax paying businesses. If I were opening one of the 4 mega farms I would be real fucking worried. 20 years for running a criminal enterprise is a lot to worry about for operating a non-profit organization that is afforded ZERO protections under the law by the City that is raping you for a tax rate that is over 40x the normal rate for a business. That is disturbing to me. Maybe this is the price of doing business and that would be great if you could somehow ensure me I would not spend the next two decades in the joint for my service to the community.

Another issue I am hearing is that services will be cut by collectives if the tax rate is increased, while at the same time I hear patients saying they will have to pay more for their medicine. SO, which is it? Will the collectives bear the burden, thus lowering their own income or will they pass on the extra fees to patients to keep their income levels? It can’t be both. Collectives want to argue that they will be unable to provide their auxiliary services because it will cut into their income levels. My first response is BULLSHIT. But then I rewind and think like a business owner and not a not-for-profit director and I can see that plight. Patients are worried the tax will get passed onto their cost of medicine. Well, the cost of medicine in Oakland couldn’t get much higher, so I also do not see the validity in that argument. Yes, someone will lose income. But should the cuts come directly from patient services? Why?

And why is Oakland proposing to fuck the growers at a rate double that of the retailers? Seems like unfair and unsavory business practices. In fact, this whole new press by Oakland is so filled with greed and so far from compassion, that it makes me sick. I have always revered Oakland as the best medical cannabis city on earth, but now I am a bit disgusted. I still love Oakland, but this full court press to make some money from our industry is disturbing. You just raised taxes last year. Why are we voting on this again? Are we going to put up a vote toraise taxes every year until the market can no longer bear it and providers are moving their operations to less needy and greedy cities? Maybe.

Do not think that just like Oakland drove out all the corporate businesses besides Kaiser and Mother’s Cookies, that these tax laws could come back to bight them in the ass in this industry, as well. As other cities become more cannabis friendly, the novelty of operating in a cannabis friendly city no longer becomes so desirable for Oakland. These tax rates will prove to be detrimental in the long run, because even cannabis producers with an affinity for Oakland, such as myself, will move on.

That is right. You have heard it here first. If and when I reopen my business IT WILL PROBABLY NOT BE IN OAKLAND. Why? Not because I have any less love for the O. But because the City is showing that they have little respect for me without my money- and that sucks. So Oakland may find the money they seek in the short term, but these policies also may be their long term downfall, as the industry grows up and will move to areas with lower tax rates and less invasive policies. It is just the way the world works- and Oakland has driven entire industries away before, so at least they are experienced in the process.

Reasonable taxation…Sure. Constantly raising the rates because they think our industry is an easy target…Go fuck yourself.

Oakland’s plan for mega-grows basically sucks

Below are my basic issues with the proposed cultivation ordinance and plans for the city of Oakland. As a person who loves Oakland, it is sad to see them moving further from good policy and implementing their desires for progress through ill-conceived legislation. Oakland is a great city, but the officials pressing this issue forward should think about the ramifications of their decision. Their decisions are based on some flawed principles, including assuming that the cannabis industry will conform to the standards of normal big business practice, assuming that their regulation will protect these large scale producers on their own merit, and assuming that they are somehow within the bounds of State law as it applies to collectives. I welcome a healthy discussion on the matter.
The ISSUES:
  • While the intentions of Rebecca Kaplan and the oakland City Council are admirable and face the reality that there must be some regulation and control on the production side of the industry, they essentially fail to protect any of the established producers who are the backbone of the industry. Instead they have planned to allow for four mega-organizations to produce a crop that will lack the integrity and variety that patients currently depend on.
  • As the last person raided by Federal Drug Enforcement Agents in the City of Oakland, I would urge caution to the council, as these organizations purpose and intent are outside of the bounds of the collective or cooperative standards set forth in California State Law. The council seems to believe the directive from the Obama Administration will protect these organizations simply on the merits that they are licensed and regulated, but the key phrase in the US Attorney General’s memo is “clear and unambiguous compliance with State law.” These organizations will, at best be pushing the bounds of legality, and at worse be unlawful organizations that will be targets of the Federal Government. Their extreme and capitalistic nature alone seem to conflict with the spirit of Prop. 215 and SB420. With the massive plant numbers that are being proposed at these locations, the investors/directors would be held accountable as “Organizers/Leaders of a Criminal Enterprise,” a charge that can result in 20 years in prison.
  • When I was raided in September of 2007 in Oakland the Federal Government’s complaint showed that Oakland Police Department participated in the investigation by performing a traffic stop on two of my employees, who were in turn charged by the Federal Government, where they were forced to admit guilt because there is no medical cannabis defense in Federal court. At the time of the traffic stop Oakland voters had passed Measure Z and made cannabis enforcement the lowest priority. The question I hold to the council is, “If they cannot ensure their own police force is not assisting the Feds in their prosecution of medical cannabis providers, how can they be so sure that Federal policy will protect these four mammoth organizations?”
  • For years patient providers in Oakland have risked their freedom and have lived in fear of the Federal government in order to provide high quality medicines. Many have crafted their skills over many years. Now they are being deemed a danger and a nuisance for their actions. Some thanks for the many people who have literally grew the movement to what it is today. Are they supposed to go get one of these “union” jobs now? Really? I do not remember asking for a job…
  • The council persons sponsoring this legislation claim it is aimed at regulating the supply better and avoiding some of the problems that come from cultivators that are forced to play cat and mouse games do to prohibition. Sometimes these situations result in fires, floods, or disturbances due to their lack of proper oversight and clear rules of operation. This legislation does none of that. Instead of providing framework to standardize and legitimize the existing cultivation infrastructure, they have chosen to create 4 new entities with 4 new sets of problems, and will essentially be 4 large targets. The “illegal” cultivators will still be forced to hide their facilities and some will surely lack security, run afoul of electrical code, and create the same issues that currently exist in Oakland; the ones they claim to be trying to solve. If the intention of the legislation is to regulate cultivation and provide a safe means for producing safe and effective cannabis medicines, then it should do that. Not further push legitimate providers further into the dark.
  • The persons or organizations that seem to have the resources to invest in such a mammoth organization, particularly Jeff Wilcox and Dhar Mann, lack the real experience to even comprehend what goes into providing the high quality and versatile supply of medicine that patients have come to demand. Their attempts to buy industry leaders and lobbyist to do their bidding is all fine and dandy, but when the rubber hits the road and cannabis is coming off the vine a t a record and feverish pace, will they have the talent and knowledge necessary to put out a high quality and desirable product? If the product or the organization is deemed inferior, or if the political aspects of these arrangements become barriers to entry in the market, then there will be a breakdown in the organization and market chaos could ensue to attempt to rescue the huge investment risk. The fee to operate is over $200,000 a year just for the license. Heck. It’s $5000 just to apply, I hear. What small business owner has those type of liquid resources around to even apply for these permits.
  • If the City’s large collectives are granted the permit it will lower the competitive quality of the supply and the collectives will hold a larger oligopoly in the market than already exists at this time. Eventually under these circumstances, the industry will be controlled by a few large organizations and the “McDonald’s of Marijuana” moniker will no longer be just a humorous talking point for the press. While vertical integration has normally benefited industry’s, resulting in lower prices for consumers, this phenomenon does not exist in cannabis distribution, as the limited access points allow for organizations to charge $60-65 per eighth ounce of cannabis, even as the wholesale price has continued to fall with abundance of supply.

As for questions regarding legalizing the existing growers and concerns about residential growing; first off the ordinance proposed ALLOWS for residential growing. 32 square feet for a person and up to three people for a total of 96 square feet per residence, or (3) 4×8 grow trays. This does not change, nor does it provide a safety framework for these smaller personal growers to adhere to. What you may see is people renting extra residences to accommodate the restrictions and still meet the needs of their collective of patients or to feed the demand of the current market. In turn, rental property rates will increase and more low income people will be driven out of Oakland as a result.

But most of the supply currently comes from commercial style, medium size cultivation collectives, usually between 20-50 lights, or roughly 10-25 grow trays. These small organizations normally employ a staff of 2-5 regular staffers and a group of trimmers to hand trim the harvest to ensure quality and attention to detail. These organizations grow different strains or types of marijuana. They grow in different mediums, with different feeding regiments, different environmental conditions, and unique plant maintenance technique that create a market place with a WIDE variety of choice, flavor, effect, and lasting properties for patients to choose from. By homogenizing the industry with these massive grow organizations, quality will go down, as hand trimming, properly curing, and care taking of small batches is much less cumbersome than in a mega facility setting.

Most of these modest organizations operate from smaller warehouse/production areas in a commercial environment. Some do skirt the importance of electrical safety and others downright steal power to avoid detection. Instead of bringing these people into the fold by providing an avenue to upgrade their facilities and apply for a production license to continue their work, the City is virtually voting to extend (and ENHANCE) the quasi-legal status quo. That is unacceptable. My solution would be this. Create an application process that allows for persons or collective organizations to submit their organizational plan, facility design, security standards, operational standards, and other relative information, with a fee to cover the application processing/facility inspection services. I am sure up to 1000 or more people would be interested. Charge a $1000 application fee. This is relative to about 4-6 ounces of medicine at wholesale rates, which is doable by even the most meager organization. The income generated could be upward of $1,000,000,000- plenty to pay staff for the process and have plenty left over for the City coffers. Then instead of the $211,000 fee on 4 mega-facilities, a more reasonable and fair license fee of $2500-$5000 per year could be charged and regulations regarding staffing, safe medicines, and responsible community interaction could be agreed to. Even if only 400 of the 1000 that apply are granted licenses, that is still another $1,000,000 to $2,000,000 per year, which is more than the $800,000+ quick money grab they are proposing now to make it a millionaire only event. The City could develop a code enforcement position that was responsible for ongoing oversight, much like most municipalities already do for bars, liquor stores, or even body shops that paint cars. The notion that overseeing a few hundred well run businesses who have an interest in following the rules strictly to ensure their license is renewed is ludicrous, and frankly lazy. This is an accomplishable process. Hundreds of businesses are overseen by the City every year. Why should some cannabis production areas be such an issue?

The City is attempting to model their process after the process they used to regulate dispensaries, but there is a catch. The two dozen or so dispensing collectives that they regulated down to 4 in 2005 were easy to locate and shut down if they did not comply. They were in the phonebook. They were operating in the open. This is trying to regulate a guerilla market by making it more guerilla than before. Odd approach if you ask me. The truth is that the council people putting this forward do not believe they can get the support to pass it unless they severely limit the amount of licenses available. They have called it a starting point. Well their starting point was 4 dispensaries in 2005 also, and here we are 6 years later still with 4 dispensing collectives, some of which serve 30,000 plus members that wait in long lines for medicines and still pay upwards of $60+ per eighth ounce of high grade medicine. That plan has not really worked in a lot of people’s opinions. I mean it has, but it could work a lot better with a more competitive market. Having large communities nearby like Hayward/San Leandro and entire counties in the Bay, like most of Contra Costa and Solano, with little access does not help either. It is time that cities quit pussyfooting around with what is politically viable and begin setting regulations and accepting that this industry is here to stay. These baby-step regulations do not reflect the competition in other industries and the severe limitations in most cities to single or very few collectives creates no place for real competition. The relative similarity in price structures throughout the industry give almost a cartel-like perception. There is no real competition in the pricing arena. At times there have been in areas where we have seen explosions of collectives like LA in 2007 or so, Sacramento in the last year, and San Jose in the recent past. When a market is flooded with qualified organizations with similar products and service, then what you see is places vying for member retention and loyalty with incentive pricing, patient offers, and extended services to make their organization more desirable. When this does not exist what you find are high prices, lack of special offerings, and just enough services to make  create a perception of goodwill for the press and interested parties.

Another issue for these organizations will be attracting and retaining talented cannabis cultivators. Growing good cannabis is an art form, and not for the faint of heart. Most of the trained industry are independent growers and would not choose to work for “Wilcox Megagrdens” or “Dhar Mann’s Marijuana Multiplex.” These organizations will be led by individuals with zero industry credibility and will have an impossible time finding, training, and maintaining the quality staff that it will take to consistently produce a high quality product free from contaminants that plague cannabis agricultural projects. It would be as if Budweiser, Miller, and Coors were the only person’s licensed to make beers. Imagine the beer market before the Microbrew craze came about. Lack of choice, flavor, quality, and craftsmanship. That is a step backwards for everyone. The cannabis industry is still a “who you know” industry, and who you know because you bought their loyalty will not fly very far in the inner circles of this movement. But I could be wrong. Stranger things have happened:).

I have heard the City’s comments on their plan to set forth separate regulations in the fall for small and medium growers. I don’t believe the hype. If that were the case a section could have been added to this legislation to do so. What is the rush on jamming this through? Ahhh, right…MONEY and getting the HUGE TAX BURDEN being proposed on the November ballot. This has nothing to do with cannabis progress and everything to do with selling out our loyal community for a few bucks. This is the epitome of VOO DOO CANNANOMICS  and what Oakland will see is a number of small to medium growers leaving the City for greener and less bullshit filled pastures. With them will go their rent money, their auxiliary incomes, and their good will for the City. I hope it was worth it.

Oakland deserves better. The cannabis producers who have held up a faltering economy for many years deserve better. The cannabis plant deserves better. Oakland must rethink this flawed measure, but if history tells tales they will press on in haste and we will still be arguing about this for years to come. Way to go, Oaktown. Way to go.