McGuire (left) and Wood.

Back in ye olden times, Emerald Triangle growers counted on the cops to come in and pack some percentage of their number off to prison every year. The threat of hard time limited supply and kept prices up. Newcomers were scared off. Everyone was incentivized to keep their grows small and hideable from the air, since big offenders were more likely to get popped.

It worked great. Just annually sacrifice a couple dozen luckless souls to the CAMP Gods, and everyone else gets a decent harvest and $5,000 a pound.

But what happens when CAMP doesn’t come around anymore? Five hundred bucks per pound and lots of people losing their butts, that’s what happens. It’s scary times, and they could get scarier still. In the end, how much more costly is it to grow a pound of weed than a pound of, say, heirloom tomatoes? The pound of weed lasts longer, too.

So this is a problem. Legalization took away one form of government price control — the cops don’t come around enough — but local growers hold out hope that the government will swap in a new form of price control, in the form of limits on the size of farms the state would permit. Those people got a shock last month — just a few weeks before official legalization on Jan. 1 — when a state agency issued guidelines that placed no upper limit on allowable cultivation sizes. No upper limit equals mega-megagrows. Ten acres, 100 acres, who knows?

Now, Assemblymember Jim Wood and Senator Mike McGuire — the North Coast’s legislative delegation — are taking the fight to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. In a Dec. 4 letter to Director Richard Parrott, head of the CDFA’s “CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing” division, the lawmakers decry the division’s failure to include a one-acre cap on cultivation permits. 

What’s the rationale for the cap? As Wood and McGuire tell it, such restrictions are the only way “small family farmers,” many of them “second and third generation” growers, will be able to compete with the “large corporations” who will otherwise “crush” them. Instead, they argue, the state should reward these second- and third-generation outlaw businesses by legalizing them and outlawing their potential competitors. This, they say, would give the growers what they call “a fair chance to succeed.”

The world has changed a lot!

Full text of the letter from Sen. Mike McGuire and Assm. Jim Wood to Director Richard Parrott below:

Dear Director Parrott:

We hope this letter finds you well.

We are writing to comment on the lack of a limit on small Cannabis cultivation permits in the draft emergency regulations circulated by the Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).

We support the protection of small family cannabis farmers — the backbone of California’s Cannabis industry — and are deeply concerned that a lack of a cap on small cannabis cultivation permits is undermining the desires of California voters expressed through Proposition 64. This last minute revision rolls out the red carpet for large corporations to crush the livelihood of small family farmers who should be given a fair chance to succeed in a regulated market.

Many of these small growers are second and third generation on the North Coast, America’s premier Cannabis growing region, and this draft rule change contradicts the agreements that were hard fought during the extensive legislative discussions that have taken place over the last 36 months related to Cannabis cultivation.

Specifically, this potential rule change is unlike the former draft medicinal cannabis regulations which included a 4-acre limitation for one individual. Also, the CDFA emergency regulations contradict Final Environmental Impact Report issued on November just before these emergency regulations, which stated that no one licensed individual would cumulatively cultivate more than 1 acre.

Regulating cannabis and protecting small farmers will become exceedingly difficult if CDFA doesn’t close the loophole they created that allows large industrial grows contrary to Proposition 64 and the legislative agreements that have been struck over the last 36 months.

Therefore, we respectfully request CDFA offer revised regulations that cap cannabis grows with a focus on one individual who can cultivate up to one acre. Thank you for your consideration of this request, and please feel free to call our offices at (916) 651-4002 (McGuire) or (916) 391-2002 (Wood) if we can be of further assistance.

Warmest regards,

Mike McGuire, Senator
Jim Wood, Assemblymember