Last Tuesday, California passed Prop 64, which immediately legalized the limited use and possession of cannabis by adults 21 years of age and older. The recreational cannabis industry in California is massive, and legalization opens up an opportunity for businesses to operate with a license and in full compliance with regulations.
There are many fears about the effects cannabis legalization will have across the state. Advocates against legalization are divided into two general camps. The first camp is worried that legal cannabis means more exposure to children. The second camp is worried that the new industry regulations will eliminate profitability for small businesses.
The first camp is comprised of concerned families, and the second group is almost entirely cannabis cultivators who feel threatened by the possibility for large corporations to enter the cultivation sector of cannabis.
These cultivators are often multi-generational family farms hidden throughout the hills of the Emerald Triangle, a tri-county region in Northern California that produces much of the cannabis for California and illegally for export throughout America. Under Prop 215, there are protections for cultivators to produce cannabis for patients, however conflicting federal cannabis laws have kept the majority of cultivators from announcing their operations.
Now that Prop 64 has passed, these cultivators will have get business licenses and subject themselves to regulatory observation. This is expected to improve issues with environmental degradation (especially on federal land), as well as promote a massive decrease in the number of illicit cannabis farms. The theory is that by providing legal opportunities for businesses to operate, the good entities will thrive, and the illegal operations will feel a heavy crackdown if operating outside of the laws.
Cannabis cultivators deserve to be weary of the legal changes that will bring their names and livelihoods into the public view, but this is an important step in proving that cannabis itself is a positive plant that is only associated with violence due to decades of prohibition. Now that prohibition is ending, these new regulations should be embraced.
Cannabis crime exists, and although it is not indicative of how our industry operates as a whole, it is a very important concern that needs to be addressed. Just last week, a cannabis cultivator in Laytonville, California was found dead on his property after a violent assault in which several migrant marijuana trimmers are suspected of stealing the processed cannabis on site.
According to reports, 35 year old Jeffrey Quinn Settler had been growing cannabis on the property that was never intended to enter the legal medical market in California. The secrecy involved with illegal cannabis cultivation is meant to protect farmers from policing authorities, but it also leaves them exposed to civil dangers such as the violence seen last week in Laytonville.
The death of Jeffrey Settler is by no means the first instance of violent crime in the Emerald Triangle. Deaths, disappearances, and sexual abuses have all been reported in a region with an economy driven largely by seasonal harvest and migrant laborers to trim the cannabis flowers. The lack of oversight in an unregulated environment is clearly responsible for a lack of safety as well.
Legalizing cannabis was a big move for California’s nearly 40 million residents. Safer access and consistent quality will help protect consumers, yet equally important is the protection of businesses that want to operate legally but are constrained by the continuance of federal cannabis laws.
It will be a few years before California sees the true results of legalizing cannabis for adult use, and the biggest impacts will certainly be felt by small cultivators. However, it is important for the safety of these cultivators that they now have an avenue to operate in full compliance, as this entails protection from a police force that once threatened confiscation of their plants.
Hopefully, law enforcement understands the difference between the compliant businesses and bad actors as they inevitably continue to conduct raids. Because cannabis businesses are forced to operate in cash transactions, all businesses, both illegal and compliant, will need protection from law enforcement as the industry grows as a potential target for robberies and assaults.
It’s easy to get involved in our community. You can sign-up for our newsletter to receive updates on our services and events. We also encourage you to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep up to date on all of the information and opportunities we offer.
And of course, you can explore the cannabis available at Yerba.org!