As a small batch cannabis farmer, I have read over the text of California’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), and come to the conclusion that, while not by any means a perfect statue, it represents the best path forward for cannabis cultivators, the cannabis industry at large and the general public. Given that the default alternative is to continue the failed ‘War on Drugs,’ AUMA moves the cause of legalization to an unprecedented level of awareness, and provides a deep framework from which California can further hone its public policies on the use of cannabis.
With the impending passage of AUMA, many are concerned with the looming threat of Big Cannabis — i.e., major pharmaceutical or tobacco companies muscling in to grab the lion’s share of this multi-billion dollar industry. The concerns run the gamut of what will this do to pricing and strain variety, to what impact will this have on the environment, or the independent cannabis farms that helped grow this industry (pun intended).
A century of prohibition at both the state and federal level gave birth to California’s long and proud history of small- to medium-sized cannabis farms. Three important characteristics emerged from this prohibition that have had a deep impact on California’s cannabis industry:
- It kept farm sizes small, which minimized their impact on the environment (and also kept them hidden from the law).
- Smaller harvests allowed growers to perfect organic cultivation methods and focus on quality vs. quantity. Similar to wine-making, small-batch, artisanal cannabis became an art form, and elevated cannabis from a dirty street-corner drug to a more mainstream, sophisticated lifestyle choice.
- As growers sought to perfect their strains and leave their mark on the cannabis culture, they created a glorious biodiversity of strains in one of the largest, most robust — and completely unsanctioned — distributed research projects known to man.
Would AUMA wipe all of that away? Will AUMA bring “Monsanto weed”? Fortunately, no. AUMA has a number of provisions that prevent larger corporate entities from muscling out the existing players.
One of the most important provisions is crop size!
Under AUMA, the largest allowable crop size would be one acre of canopy — or roughly 150 to 300 plants. Estimating an average yield of of 2-4 lbs per plant, the maximum amount of cannabis that could be legally grown on that acre ranges from 300 lbs to 1,200 lbs of dried flowers.
Using current wholesale prices of $1,400 per lb., that means the maximum amount of revenue generated by that acre would be approximately $420,000 to $1,680,000 — hardly the stuff of mega corporate greed. And when you consider that a huge chunk of those dollars will earmarked for wages, benefits and supplies, and another giant chunk will be given to local, state, and federal governments in the form of licensing fees and taxes, there doesn’t seem to be much financial incentive for Big Cannabis.
Of course this begs the question: “What about large corporations just buying up many smaller farms?” Here again, AUMA, which was written with the input of many actors from all levels of the state’s cannabis community, works to prevent this from happening by restricting the number of licenses one person or corporate entity can hold.
Though AUMA does need some cleaning up, it is sure to be transformed through the process of its implementation. By providing clear limits on farm size and corporate structure of potential ownership, AUMA steers the California cannabis industry in the right direction, providing protections for smaller farms like my own. It also preserves the culture that we growers have worked so hard to create, while protecting the environment and preventing premium artisanal cannabis from becoming another commodity product.
On the down-side, AUMA imposes new hardships on cannabis farmers that we never had previously — in the form of high taxes — which may cause some fair-weather farmers to oppose AUMA in November. This would be a mistake, in my opinion, as the cost for not enacting AUMA now will be much higher in the long run. At the end of the day, I see the new fees as just another cost of doing business, and I am pleased that the new regulations will prevent plummeting prices due to massive cannabis conglomerates flooding the wholesale market with cheap flowers.
If you enjoy premium, artisanal cannabis grown in small batches and don’t want to see Big Cannabis swoop in and turn it into another commodity product, then please join us in voting ‘Yea’ for AUMA in November. And if you don’t partake in cannabis, please consider voting for AUMA anyway, as the legislation will have tremendous fiscal benefits for all Californians.
If you’d like to learn more about AUMA, an organization called Yes On 64! has put together a website with more information.
Let’s do this, California!