STEVE BLOOM on HUFFPO- "They don't know how to pay taxes…"

Why Northern California’s Pot Growers Said No to Prop 19

Steve Bloom-

Deep in the lush mountains and valleys of California’s Emerald Triangle, marijuana farmers have been making a decent living, albeit illegal, off the land for at least four generations. The medical cannabis boom, which began in 1996 with the passage of Prop 215, made them even richer. So when it came time to consider a law that would tax and regulate their skunk-scented crops, the growers of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties decided it just wasn’t right for them.

“They’re country people,” says Bret Bogue, who owns Apothecary Genetics, a marijuana breeding and seed company. “They don’t know how to pay taxes.”

The denizens of the Emerald Triangle spoke loud and clear on Tuesday when they voted against Prop 19 by a 55-45 margin. The measure would have legalized marijuana for commercial sales, regulating what is currently an untaxed black market. Prop 19 lost statewide 54-46, with only 11 of the state’s 58 counties backing it.

Bogue contends that Prop 19 “would have destroyed Northern California. It would have suffered tremendously.”

One of the stipulations of Prop 19 was that every Californian would’ve been able to cultivate a 5×5-foot garden-room for about 10 fully grown plants. “Mom and pop operations cannot live on a 5×5,” Bogue says. “They’re the unsung people in the trenches who get the medicine to the people. The reward is worth the risk. They saw the reward totally diminishing to the point that they would not even exist.”

Kyle Kushman doesn’t see it that way. He’s a legal medical grower who lives in Mendocino County and plays by the rules, which allows for up to 99 plants, indoors or outdoors. “There are different types of growers,” explains Kushman, who’s pioneered a technique he calls Veganics. “You have the outdoor generational farmers in Humboldt and Trinity. You have illegal indoor growers. And you have growers like me who are trying to follow the law.”

A pot grower at heart, Kushman left his lofty position as High Times cultivation reporter in 2005 and moved to Willets, where he’s been breeding luscious strains named Strawberry Cough and Blackberry Kushman ever since. Kushman’s carved out a piece of the pie for himself, without getting greedy.

“I’m heartbroken and deflated,” he says about Prop 19’s failure. “The people here are so small-minded. They’re afraid of change. I have the right to grow a 10×10 for myself. They thought Prop 19 would take that away.”

To the contrary, Prop 19 would not have changed any of the existing laws that protect medical-cannabis cultivators. “I have the right to grow for 40 people,” Kushman adds. “That wasn’t going to change. It was a small progression. All of that fear prevented these people from thinking into the future. They just don’t get it.”

Bogue blames Prop 19 proponents for not consulting the NoCal growers before writing the initiative. “They needed to include the backbone,” he says. “They voted ‘no’ because they didn’t take the people into consideration. It starts from the ground up. You have to be able to walk in their shoes.”

Among the pot farmers’ concerns were being forced out of business by mega-grow operations (Oakland had already licensed four and Berkeley voters approved six more on Election Day) and the declining wholesale price of marijuana, which has dropped from $4,000 per pound to $1,500 over the last decade.

“If they had dealt with Northern California,” Bogue insists, “Prop 19 would’ve passed.”

Prop 19 proponent Chris Conrad begs to differ.

“If growers are against legalization, they can’t be part of the legalization process and now it’s up to them to show good faith support or be left out of the process,” says Conrad, who publishes West Coast Leaf. “That’s just political reality. The growers basically shot themselves in the foot. Prop 19 offered them a legal customer base, a statewide regulatory framework and a local voice to protect their interests. The next campaign is more likely to pitch a more restrictive approach to bring more conservative voters like Asians and housewives, who want heavy-handed controls, and will consider whether growers deserve any consideration at all. Those folks are unreliable at best, traitors to the cause at worst, and possibly a useful target to pit public opinion against as a foil for a winning campaign without a legal cultivation component.

“The growers lost a lot of potential influence on the process by showing a lack of political savvy,” Conrad continues. “They’ll possibly be grouped in with the narcs as being fundamentally opposed to legalization and not worth courting as an ally. So, they will need to come to the table with some proposals on how they would create a legal market for cannabis while protecting their interests, or they will be left out of the next round of decisions.”

Though Conrad claims that since the Emerald Triangle cast just 64,000 votes out of nearly 7.5 million statewide (3.4 million voted for Prop 19) and that “the problem is that other segments of the population are not on board,” Prop 19 organizers should listen to Bogue and others who felt disenfranchised.

With plans already being drawn up for another tax & regulate initiative for 2012, Bogue says he doesn’t want to “bash Richard Lee,” the Oaksterdam University magnate who bankrolled Prop 19. “I just want him to talk to the people. He didn’t talk to them at all.”

Then, and perhaps only then, will marijuana legalization in California stand a chance of becoming a reality.


5 thoughts on “STEVE BLOOM on HUFFPO- "They don't know how to pay taxes…"”

  1. stupid f&^%kin pot heads couldn’t pull their heads out of their smoke filled asses long enough to make a F*&%kin good decision!!!! In the words of Dan Aykroyd “you wouldn’t know a good time if it fell out of the sky, landed on your face, & started to wiggle!”

    All things considered..I’m glad the govt isn’t gonna be inspecting/permitting/controlling my 5×5 area in the privacy of my home!

    Maybe those pot heads I just chewed out were right????

  2. I’ve been a Humboldt County resident for most of the past 33 years and am an unrepentant Yes On 19 voter and am deeply offended by the above characterization of our county’s womanhood. Even though Humboldt County has the highest rate of drug use (all drugs) in California, if not the world, the women here do not look that bad, even out in Bridgeville. Ouite the contrary. It’s interesting to note that only 37,832 of us voted on Prop 19 and that if 1,165 of those had voted Yes instead of No then Proposition 19 would have passed in Humboldt by exactly 2 votes. I’ll have more to say on this topic but at the moment am riveted to the still undecided Harris/Cooley race. Go Harris! Harris is leading Cooley in Humboldt by 60/40 with votes as yet uncounted.

  3. Continuing our journey through the Emerald Triangle: Mendocino County cast 19,818 ballots with Prop 19 failing by 595 swing votes; Trinity County cast 5,318 ballots with Prop 19 failing by 509 swing votes.

    Trinity County is an interesting exception to all easy overgeneralizing, and it should be noted that in 1992 Trinity voted for Ross Perot. In Trinity County more votes were cast in favor of “Yes on 19” (a total of 2,151 ) than were cast in favor of Kamala Harris (a total of 1,641 ).

  4. Perhaps Humboldt Womanhood should be made aware of the fact that they are considered uncool by the rest of the world if they vote no. I was just feigning indignation. It’s interesting to note that most of the activist types here who were making hay and holding meetings and conferences and making national news when legalization seemed inevitable are now reversing themselves and saying that they were reluctant supporters. I’m going to try to find out where the Humboldt Growers Association now stands. They’re up Salmon Creek and above the fray.

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