Remember all that posturing between (former) Oakland City Attorney, John Russo and the Federal Government over plans to license and regulate massive medical marijuana grows? Well, it looks like those plans are about to be revisited.
Last July, Oakland passed this thing called Ordinance No 13033, which allowed for “Industrial cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facilities”. The ordinance, the brainchild of Rebecca Kaplan and Larry Reid of the Oakland City Council, would permit 4 weed-culture-crushing, 100,000 square-foot marijuana factories. Oakland looked to generate tons of cash from taxing medication and planed to charge each factory a yearly fee of $211,000 plus an additional $5,000 to cover administrative costs.
Then in December the Obama Administration threatened the city of Oakland saying their, “plan is in violation of state and federal law and could trigger multiple legal actions against the city.” The threats sent shock waves through Oakland’s city counsel, some were afraid of possible prosecution if the plan moved forward. So by February Russo split and the San Francisco-based law firm Meyers Nave took over. Now they have new plan to move forward that looks to:
• Increase the number of dispensaries in Oakland from four to eight, and potentially to 12 (currently, Oakland’s four dispensaries collectively pull-in about $28 million a year in sales)
• Amend the cultivation ordinance the council passed a year ago — which was never implemented — and allow cultivation only by the dispensaries, creating a so-called “closed-loop system”
• Set a limit of 25,000 square feet on any industrial-sized farms
• Keep those fees of $5,000 to apply for a permit and $211,000 for each annual cultivation permit, plus a new one; $60,000 for each annual dispensary permit
Only the increase in the number of dispensaries will go to the full council for approval on July 18, 2011. They’ll contend with the rest in September. But, if Oakland’s plan succeeds, large-scale factory farming of marijuana will not only put a multitude of small-scale marijuana growers out of business, it’ll completely reshape the marijuana culture much like Wal-Mart has changed the culture of buying. Not to mention how it completely destroyed the livelihood of a multitude of mom-and-pop-shop owners. The industrialization of California’s largest cash crop could forever change the price, quality and availability of marijuana all across the globe.
“Government should not choose the winners and losers but create a level playing field,” our friend Steve DeAngelo of Oakland’s Harborside Health Center, the largest medical marijuana dispensary in the world, has said about the possible industrialization of medical herb. “Some people might prefer mass production, assembly-line cannabis that costs less. Others might prefer cannabis grown by a master gardener in a smaller plot. Let the market sort it out.”