For many years marijuana advocates have been pushing for the end of marijuana prohibition since it has been increasingly viewed as irrational and politically motivated, especially considering the herb has been proven to be less dangerous than both alcohol and cigarettes. Marijuana prohibition has ruined the lives of many people who have been imprisoned and had their records tainted for future employment and housing. This November, Californians will have the opportunity to end prohibition in the state. Polls show that Prop. 64, the measure that would allow this to take place, is likely to pass. But not everyone is happy about this. In fact it’s the marijuana growers and medical marijuana patients, the most unlikely suspects, who are feeling opposition to the measure.
Financial Reasons for Grower Opposition
The marijuana growers in California seem to be exactly split on their support for Prop. 64. According to a poll done by the California Growers Association, 31 percent are in favor and 31 percent oppose the move, while 38 percent are undecided. Farmers who have been quietly living and growing their crops for several years fear the coming of corporations in the marijuana farming industry. The current farmers would be given 5 years to grow without any new incoming competition but after this time, new growers would be welcomed into the industry. Farmers may also need to spend between $20,000 and $100,000 updating their farms so that they meet the environmental standards set forth in the Prop. 64 growing regulations. Farm inspections would need to happen and growers would need to comply with new regulations. While some farmers harm the environment by draining rivers for irrigation, using dangerous chemicals and other such practices, not all do and some of those farmers don’t want anyone invading and inspecting their farms.
Criminal Injustice vs. Economic Injustice
Other growers are open to the change, recognizing that it is usually minorities who are affected by prohibition laws. While just as many white people use marijuana as every other culture, it is usually only minorities who are arrested and charged with the crime. Beyond this, many are offended by the idea of being charged at all for possessing a plant that harms no one. An enormous amount of tax payer money gets spent on law enforcement, court and incarceration expenses. Chrystal Ortiz, who is operations manager for the Sun Growers Guild, said she is voting in favor of legalization, stating, “Primarily black and brown underprivileged people are the ones being affected by the illegality of cannabis.” On the other hand, Hezekiah Alle, the executive director of the California Growers Association Trade Group, said “I don’t want to replace a criminal injustice with an economic injustice.”
The Fears of Medical Marijuana Patients
The medical marijuana industry in California makes $2.76 billion a year. It is by far the largest marijuana industry in the country. New Frontier researchers estimate that the amount would more than double by 2020 to $6.46 billion annually if the state decides to legalize. Some farmers are calling it a “money grab” from the government, although farmers themselves would also be set to make a lot more for at least the first 5 years.
A big fear amongst medical marijuana patients is that marijuana will become too expensive if it is legalized, after taxes and fees are added to the price. This is the reason why some medical marijuana patients and dispensaries are planning to vote against Prop. 64. Medical and recreational marijuana will be taxed at around the same amount, using the successful examples set forth by how things have worked best in the other states, such as Colorado and Washington who have already legalized the plant. Jason Kinney, a spokesperson for Prop. 64 explained, “Any suggestion that patients will somehow be priced out of access under Prop. 64 is simply wrong, especially when every economist agrees that marijuana prices will decrease when the market is fully legal and regulated.”
Change can be hard for many people but those behind Prop. 64 have stated that medical marijuana prices will not become too expensive and farmers will have the full recreational market for the first 5 years to help them adjust and stake their place in the new industry. Legalization would mean that non-card holders would not receive criminal charges for possession and would finally mark the end of prohibition in California, which is a very influential state, holding the 6th largest economy in the world. Legalization in California is likely to create a massive push towards the end of prohibition worldwide. All these things are up for consideration for Californian residents when going to the polls this November.