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What Happens to Marijuana Growers if Prop. 19 Passes? [Updated]

Proposition 19, California’s marijuana legalization proposition, is on the precipice of passing. Do growers have anything to worry about?

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Proposition 19, California’s marijuana legalization proposition, is on the precipice of passing. The measure has allies in groups like Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing and the Service Employees International Union, not to mention giddy stoners everywhere. But the proposition also has opponents in groups like the California Beer & Beverage Distributors, and oddly enough, marijuana growers in Mendocino and Humboldt counties. Do growers actually have anything to worry about?

Many growers reportedly fear that legalization could shut out existing farmers who run small-time operations, shifting the marijuana cultivation industry from Northern California to the Central Valley’s “big agriculture” complex, which already grows much of the state’s produce.

Growers can relax, claims Tom Angell, a spokesman for the Yes on 19 campaign. “There won’t be a big Phillip Morris-type organization setting up shop until federal policy changes,” says Angell. And considering that Proposition 19 isn’t universally loved even in liberal California, federal legalization probably won’t happen any time soon.

“If people are prepared to do hard work, they can expand,” Angell says. And, Angell adds, all those growers putting energy into opposing Prop. 19 might consider taking that momentum and planning for a post-Prop. 19 world. In any case, the Obama administration has said that it will continue to prosecute growers if the measure passes–so industrial-scale outdoor growing might still be difficult.

Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of NORML, agrees that growers won’t have to worry if Prop. 19 passes–but only because the measure won’t lead to real legalization. “Prop 19  essentially allows local jurisdictions in the state to move in that
direction [towards legalization] if they want to. It will create a
patchwork in the way that California has regarding medical marijuana,” he explains. “Fifty percent of counties
allow medical marijuana, and fifty percent don’t. There will still will be an artificial price structure.”

If Prop. 19 passes, California could see the growth of an entirely new generation of growers. “It’s also important to point out that Prop. 19 gives everyone the right to grow a five by five foot marijuana garden on their own property,” Angell explains. “So if people don’t like [larger growing operations], they could just grow their own.”

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But growers shouldn’t think the good times will last forever, according to NORML. If California were to ever fully legalizes marijuana regardless of county preferences, prices would plummet. “Anyone who has been growing vegetable matter, drying it out, getting
400, 500, or 600 dollars for an ounce…they should rightly be
concenred about the end of that gravy train,” St. Pierre says. “The only reason why anybody in the world would pay that kind of money is because of prohibition.”

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more

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