The City of Oakland, one of the most marijuana-friendly in the country, is tired of indoor growers starting fires, so the City Council is planning introduce legislation to sanction a few large-scale commercial grow operations. At this point,they are envisioning three to four commercial grows, located in an industrial section of the city.
While I applaud the ongoing efforts of Oakland city authorities to legitimize marijuana and bring it into the mainstream, I have many problems with this proposal.
First, it won’t work. Small growers don’t grow because the cops let them, they grow because it is profitable. All this proposal would do is flood the market, making it marginally less profitable to grow at home, but not likely to drive out small indoor growers altogether. Mostly, it will reduce the growers’ profits, making them less likely to spend money on, say, properly hooking up their electricity.
Second, this would establish a “big business” model, in which the entire medical marijuana industry would be dominated by a few well-connected megagrowers. These few growers would reap huge profits (as Harborside, Oakland’s biggest dispensary and one of the most likely recipients of a grow permit, is already doing), while the small-time growers would be forced to either accept lower prices or be forced into an already bleak job market.
The concentration of power over the supply of medicine in the hands of a few big businesses flies directly in the face of California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s Guidelines for the Security and Non-Diversion of Marijuana for Medical Use, which mandate that all dispensaries operate as non-profit collectives or co-operatives, and that primary caregivers may only have multiple patients “in the same city or county.”
My recommendation would be to empower a local organization to certify, anonymously, the safety of a grow. Dispensaries could demand proof of inspection from each vendor. This would address the fire hazard problem while keeping the supply side populated with actively-employed collective members.