Jonathan Collier: The truth about commercial cannabis |

Jonathan Collier: The truth about commercial cannabis

It’s no secret that cannabis is being grown for cash in Nevada County, but what does that mean?

This subject has created a lot of confusion that needs to be cleared up.

Education is one of the main focuses of the California Growers Association. Through transparency and clarity we hope to create a bridge between the general public and the industry, and through communication and understanding build respect and arrive at win-win solutions that bring the community together rather than tear it apart.

First we have to recognize that there’s not just one type of grower. As much as the sheriff has painted the caricature of the criminal grower, the majority of people that I’ve met as well as those we represent are good people, good stewards of the land, who love, respect and contribute to our community. Many of these people are your friends and family, customers and clients. If you’ve lived here any amount of time it’s hard not to know a grower.

It’s time for the industry to evolve and mature, which is not to say we have to lose who we are as the growing community, but to improve how we do it so that the entire community can benefit.

We acknowledge that there are bad actors and they’re doing terrible things, and this has to stop. But we feel that the actions of an extreme segment shouldn’t be taken to represent the whole. Just as Officer Heath in Yuba County gives us an example of a corrupt cop, we can’t jump to the conclusion that all sheriffs are corrupt. Growers exist on a spectrum, and they span the whole range. It is our position that most, if given the opportunity, would be happy to be legitimate business owners contributing positively to the community they live in.

Commercial growing also exists on a spectrum, ranging from fully illegal to clearly legitimate. When the sheriff speaks of commercial growing it is always equated to cartel grows selling to the black market, and ravaging the environment to do it. However, on the opposite extreme of the spectrum, did you know that there exist legitimate businesses that can make money selling cannabis? They operate as mutual benefit nonprofit corporations, and like all other nonprofits they pay for expenses such as overhead and supplies, and the employees earn compensation for their time and energy. They service the dispensaries in urban and rural areas where patients cannot provide their own medicine due to their living or lifestyle situations. It’s not always a possibility to grow your own medicine when living downtown or in the suburbs, raising a family and working 9-to-5 jobs.

In all truth growers fall all across this spectrum. They may be respectful neighbors, conscientious of the land, but also sell to the black market. They may be young punks speeding through the neighborhood with all their paperwork in order and serving seedy clubs in Sacramento. In fact, the majority of folks do not fall to either extreme but somewhere in the middle. This is a problem, fortunately we have solutions.

This is where the new state licensing and regulations come into play. As with any professional industry that has the potential for abuse — CPAs, nurses, contractors, real estate agents, electricians — licenses provide standards for best practices, how to do things right, and most importantly what not to do. By adopting an ordinance that works with licenses and regulations we can incentivize best practices and encourage people to move towards the legitimate end of the spectrum. By pushing a ban, we don’t only push growers towards the wrong end of the spectrum, we leave them no option.

These state laws also bring a whole new landscape of for-profit commercial businesses. Businesses that are treated as every other business and who need to follow the same rules as every other business. The wild west and its days are numbered. It’s time for the industry to evolve and mature, which is not to say we have to lose who we are as the growing community, but to improve how we do it so that the entire community can benefit.

The times are changing. I recently attended the ERC’s economic conference and in the presentation offered by there was a slide that showed the number one most searched for item for people interested in moving long distance was a place where marijuana was legalized.

The industry is changing and Nevada County has an opportunity to move it in the right direction and create real solutions, or to enforce prohibitionist policies that have failed for 45 years.

Voting yes for Measure W will establish a ban on all outdoor cultivation and commercial cannabis activity. Voting no for Measure W will open the opportunity to change the ordinance, hopefully in a way that will adopt licensing and regulations.

Either way we at Cal Growers will continue to work for responsible businesses that build community.

Jonathan Collier lives in Nevada City.

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