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Anti-Legalization Pot Farmers

[ 61 ] February 13, 2013 |

So I found this Doug Fine piece on keeping cannabis production out of corporate hands a little frustrating. Fine’s basic argument is that with the increased likelihood of legalized marijuana production, we have to keep pot farming out of corporate hands.

Now, you might agree with this in principle. Certainly corporate farming has gigantic problems–terrible labor practices, vast monocultures that threaten the long-term health of the ecosystem, fertilizer use that creates a giant dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, erosion, the squeezing out of small farmers, etc. So it’s not a good model for a sustainable and just food (and other things) system.

But we also have to look at the underlying arguments behind an anti-corporate message. Here it gets quite a bit sketchier. Read this:

The answer has as much to do with simple accounting as the more common outsider assumption: that farmers fear the price drops that come when a prohibitionary economy dissolves (though this is certainly part of the story). When, in three generations of farming, your family has never had to pay taxes, record payroll or meet building code, let alone meet a customer (the Emerald Triangle has an entire caste of middlemen and women who broker wholesale deals, so the farmer doesn’t have to leave the farm), the prospect of coming aboveground — and dealing with the same red tape every other industry does — can be terrifying.

Some of these farmers, like all successful small-business owners in any industry, resist change in knee-jerk fashion by distributing worst-case scenarios the way some people pass around business cards. “Look at tobacco,” Mark told me at the Food Bank. “They’ve made the paperwork crazy complicated so only giant corporate farmers can afford to grow it commercially.”

He’s actually correct. Section 40 of Title 27 of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s regulations has 534 subsections. You need a corporate lawyer on call to endure this document without a migraine. The system favors big producers, and Big Tobacco is at least paying attention to federal drug law: NPR has reported that Philip Morris trademarked the brand “Marley” at the height of Just Say No in 1983 (though this doesn’t turn up at the United States Patent and Trademark site, and the company is mum). And Dan Mitchell reported in Fortune that tobacco company Brown & Williamson “enthusiastically” advised, in a 1970s internal report, that the company start viewing marijuana as “an alternative product line.”

A couple of points.

First, I’m not seeing any of this as a particularly bad thing. You mean, marijuana farmers should have to comply with federal regulations? Um, yeah. And pay taxes? You bet. I’m sure it’s a pain to deal with, but so what? The anti-regulation argument is one I really can’t stomach. Sure, the document causes a migraine to read. So is the answer that we get rid of these kinds of complex federal regulations? What is the alternative here? Fine notes the desire to look at marijuana more like craft beer and that’s fine, maybe the market will fall this way. But those craft brewers also deal with all kinds of regulatory frameworks.

Second, there’s some stories not told here. Marijuana without regulation means crops grown with absolutely no environmental restriction. It means farmers can dump gigantic amounts of rat poison around marijuana plants so that rodents die, which goes right up the food chain, among many other examples. Right now, the marijuana economy also does not have to abide by labor standards. On the farms, my understanding of it is that it’s a lot of transient labor looking for short-term work, but there’s no one enforcing any real labor law at all (though some of you may know more about this than I do). In the California dispensaries, the United Food and Commercial Workers has stepped in to represent these workers. While the article portrays the union as having generally OK relations with employers, the idea that hippies aren’t union-busters doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny. Hip capitalism is often as rapacious as its traditional counterparts in other industries.

There’s no question that northern California marijuana farmers are acting with their ballots–the risk of prison is worth the profits. Both Mendocino and Humboldt counties voted against Proposition 19 in 2010, despite the fact that marijuana is their prime economic base.

What we need is a fully legalized and very heavily regulated marijuana industry. I know that our regulatory system has problems (largely because of regulatory capture), but I at least prioritize enforcing labor law, environmental regulation, and the tax code over keeping the industry “anti-capitalist,” whatever that means in this situation.

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  1. rea says:

    Generally speaking, the fact that an industry is subject to particularly complicated regulations is a sign of regulatory capture. When regulations are complicated, it’s usually because they are full of complicated loopholes.

  2. This is also a labor issue – one of the reasons why growers in states where it’s illegal don’t want to be legal is that legality would bring with it minimum wage laws, the right to organize, etc.

  3. snoey says:

    The emerald triangle is screwed under almost any legalization scheme. Like anything else, it will be grown in fertile soil, not hidden in forests.

    Per this: http://www.sfgate.com/news/crime/article/Laotians-top-growers-of-pot-on-Calif-farmland-4265588.php it’s happening already.

    The tobacco regulations are mostly about limiting production and holding the price up. Remove the illegal price support and pot will be in the same situation.

  4. Evan Harper says:

    If marijuana were legalized tomorrow, wouldn’t it be automatically subject to mostly the same regulations that exist around, say, sugar beets? Are sugar beets grown with “absolutely no environmental restriction?”

    There are any number of ways to keep the price of pot up if it goes legal. If you chose a way which encouraged the formation of large corporate pot-farm conglomerates, then those firms will inevitably lobby for things like more permissive pot-marketing regulations. If you chose a way which kept pot producers small, you would impair their ability to lobby for socially destructive ends (at least by comparison.) I think this is the main reason Mark Kleiman likes co-ops.

    While I’m mentioning Kleiman et al, I should point out that they would ridicule that article’s claim that pot is “already a $35-billion-a-year crop in the U.S., greater than the combined value of corn and wheat.” The $35-billion number comes from a NORML study which they pretty thoroughly trash. They say it’s a chain of exaggerations multiplied on top of each other beyond all reason. They peg the size of the pot farming industry at about 1/10 that — still an economically significant crop, but nowhere near first place, let alone exceeding 2nd and 3rd place combined.

  5. PSP says:

    Regulatory capture is probably the biggest problem facing the 20th century model of the welfare state and controlled capitalism. Figure out how to prevent regulatory capture and a huge number of our problems go away.

    • LeeEsq says:

      How do the Europeans manage to avoid it? I’m serious. I’m sure some regulatory capture happens in European states but it seems to occur less frequently. Just see what would translate best to the United States.

      • Xenos says:

        They don’t. It is just dispersed through the governments of 27 member states or handled through diplomatic channels in Brussels. When your government is doing your lobbying on your behalf in Brussels you are a whole step beyond regulatory capture. Take the example of ING, which received a illegal supports as part of its bailout. Not only did the Dutch government go to the EC to defend itself on behalf of ING, the Dutch government went to the ECJ and got the EC decision overturned when it lost.

        The virtue of this arrangement, I Suppose, is that it is more transparent and subject to accountability than typical K-Street activities.

        • sibusisodan says:

          “The virtue of this arrangement, I Suppose, is that it is more transparent and subject to accountability than typical K-Street activities.”

          Millions upon millions of Little Englanders are now harrumphing violently* at the very idea that the EU might be considered, in some circles, as transparent and accountable.

          But the statement is entirely accurate, as far as I can see: the equivalent to ‘regulatory capture’ is the ability of one of the EU members somehow getting regulations which favour their economy to a large degree. And given the power of veto states have, this is somewhat hard to achieve.

          But I think there’s something buried in there about the relative belief in the need for independent regulation, and distrust of unfettered market activity. That, AFAICT, is the difference between ‘Europe’, broadly speaking, and the US, broadly speaking.

          *this is not a euphemism. Or even an EUphemism…

  6. shah8 says:

    /me snorts…

    Must have been a bunch of dumb farmers. I do not think every farmer will be like that–or think that it’s impossible to simply hire lawyers or increase compliance with regulations.

    Would legalization hurt the price level of pot, and increase the expense of growing it? I think so. What I really think will happen is that the attendent distribution (and jail) economy will suffer.

    Legalizing pot is almost certainly going to increase the size of the market by some magnitude, I think. It will also open areas for hemp farming as well. There is no chance that less money will go to farmers in the short run, absent predatory loan and tax policies–which might be what farmers truly fear. With as many banksters looking for yield as they are (thinking about the Wall Street house rental-to-flip games), there is a good chance of some shenanigans starting quick.

    Also, certain areas of the country, and of the world, will see a boost from being places where highly valued strains can grow cheap. Try buying first growth bordeaux wines. Lao Banzhang tea from Xishuangbanna. Black Hiwa kava from the Big Island. It can be troublesome just to get the opportunity to buy something decent! And farmers in those lucky areas will get rich, no question.

  7. whetstone says:

    I agree, but I can sympathize with the growers who are afraid that the process of legalization will benefit the politically connected (Washington Monthly had a great piece about this), and outlaws tend not to be. I can see that as being as or more concerning than the simple fact of regulation itself, which can be bent to exclude less powerful interests. The beer industry has improved greatly, but it took a long time.

    It should be heavily regulated (and taxed; the Monthly piece mentions how much money Mendocino has generated without benefitting the county infrastructure), but it’s going to be tricky: separating the fact that meeting regulations after decades will be inevitably difficult, from unnecessary regulations that could be put in place to advantage interests with a lot of capital.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      It’s real interesting because there’s never been another instance of this kind of thing. So there’s really no precedent to guide how this is all going to play out.

      • YankeeFrank says:

        Oh come off it Erik. Its totally obvious how this will play out if legalization goes through: powerful corporate interests and those with political connections in the legalization states will dominate the industry, have rules written to benefit themselves and crush small farmers. In other words, it will be exactly like the rest of our monopoly economy. Labor “regulations”, environmental “regulations” will not be enforced (if they are written effectively at all) but the rules that hurt small farmers will be violently imposed.

        The system we are living in right now with its crony/monopoly/corporate fascist control of government will dominate this new area just as easily as it dominates EVERY OTHER sector of our economy.

        There will be little to no good things that come from legalization. You can bet it will not even stop the LAPD and their ilk from busting minorities for minor pot infractions: they will come up with some way to keep up the incarceration rates.

        I admire your labor history, but you are wearing rose colored glasses when it comes to the current state of our “union”.

        • nixnutz says:

          In other words, protecting the profits of this particular group of capitalists is worth millions of lives ruined by the justice system, many thousands murdered here and in central America every year and wholesale environmental destruction. Because $$$

          This is why people hate hippies.

          • Chester Allman says:

            I’m neither here nor there on “hating hippies,” but I agree that the anti-legalization argument seems profoundly reactionary, inasmuch as it’s about protecting the interests of a certain class of small capitalists (the marijuana petit bourgeoisie?) at the expense of the rights of labor and the civil rights of all those who are suffering from the effects of prohibition. I just can’t get behind the idea that the interest of some growers outweighs the wider interest. Progressivism is not about sheltering rent-seeking small businesspeople.

            • djw says:

              I believe the hippie-hating enters the picture insofar as these capitalists effort to paint their venture as something much more than that; a special, unique and ultimately superior culture. See “Humboldt Native” below: “more egalitarian, democratic, environmentally sustainable, and socially just.” The grotesque injustices of the status quo regarding marijuana policy pale, for them, in comparison to the protection of their special ‘culture.’

              Now, of course, lots of people make cultural arguments in the service of protecting their existing rents or other advantages, and it’s not even always complete BS. But one trait associated with hippies is a deep, and deeply smug, conviction of the uniqueness and superiority of their culture, and in a way that condemns alternatives as excessively materialist. This is annoying enough as it is; when combined with the kind of grotesque indifference to the injustices that underpin the economic engine that fuels and funds this culture, it’s particularly appalling.

              • Chester Allman says:

                True. It does seem that many people prioritize cultural or aesthetic arguments over analysis of class, rights, or citizenship. Some of these people consider themselves “left,” despite the fact that traditional progressivism focuses on the latter set of concerns much more than on the former, which are typically the domain of the right.

          • djangermats says:

            No that has pretty much nothing to do with why the overwhelming majority of hippie haters hate hippies

          • YankeeFrank says:

            Actually, these are different questions. Legalization of possession, legalization of production and legalization of production with corporate cartels running the show. But of course its much simpler to reduce it to “hating hippies”. One reason I hate the internet and all you people who think you’re so smart that you constantly post your inane commentaries on it is that you don’t think things through at all, and constantly oversimplify everything. You love wasting your time apparently, but I think you think you are making important points, which you are not. This is why I rarely comment on the internet because its like pissing in the wind. Grow up America and realize that the situation really calls for revolution, not petty little turf wars and “legalization” (a supremely over-worked concept). Lots of things are “legal” that are bad, and lots of things are illegal that are good. Wake up and realize incrementalization, a la Cass Sunstein and Prez Obama is garbage. Your rights are gone, and if they want to arrest you they will, whether its for pot or any of the other thousands of “felonies” they can get you for any time you actually threaten the political structure. So either keep your head down like a good little sheep or prepare for meaningful response.

      • evodevo says:

        Oh, yes, there is. It’s called bourbon and tobacco, two of the premier products of my state, Kentucky. Granted, bourbon is mostly produced by large distillers, but we have several “boutique” family-run liquor producers, one in the town where we own a business. They seem to do just fine, thank you. And as for tobacco growing, until Mitch the Turtle threw a monkey-wrench into the works, large AND small farmers all over the state made GOOD money growing tobacco for the last 100 years, and it was HEAVILY regulated since the ’30′s, both by the ATF and by the Ag Dept. You were allotted acreage (later changed to poundage marketed) to limit the crop, just like with wheat and corn before Raygun, and there were provisions for buying the crop at a support price if no one at the tobacco warehouse bid on it.
        Like I said, worked GREAT until the Turtle ended the whole program 10 years ago. Now comparatively few people grow it for contractors who pay bottom dollar, and the state’s income has dropped by billions.
        Free market at work.

  8. sleepyirv says:

    Now this is a reason for the GOP to support legalization- get the vote of a bunch of small business owners.

  9. LPBB says:

    One of my neighbors used to grow pot in Northern California. She got out of the biz when she and her delivery were hijacked by a bunch of scary guys with loaded guns. If she were selling a legal product, she would have had legal recourse. I see the downsides to corporatization, but I also see the upsides to not being hijacked and getting no recompense for your labor.

  10. Left_Wing_Fox says:

    I’m flashing back to Bloom County. “There’s a mass murderer outside screaming about suing the government for restraint of trade.”

  11. Wapiti says:

    If pot legalization gets rid of the small plantations that are trespassing in the national forests and private lands, I figure it’s a good thing.

    • YankeeFrank says:

      Those are mostly drug cartels that are trespassing on federal lands. Most northern CA pot farmers are just small scale producers that grow on their own lands. Additionally, they do use some pesticides if their crop is threatened, sure. Corporate farming will just mean that pesticide use becomes a chronic condition for growing, blanketing entire landscapes with toxic chemicals and not spot treatment as is now largely done.

  12. Dagchester says:

    Just legalize it !!

  13. chimneyswift says:

    Super-complicated issue. I’ve been a part of this economy in several respects, and have an econ and geography degree as well.

    IMO, the biggest problem that any legalization regime is going to face is the existence of a very established black market infrastructure. Unregulated capitalism can always deliver lower costs and higher profits than regulated capitalism, which is why so many businesses are in the business of regulatory capture, so to speak.

    I hear your concerns about labor and environmental protection, to be sure. It’s a brutal landscape out there, and people and nature deserve protection. I just think it’s a strange situation where a commodity goes from illegal to legal and becomes a more stratified, less competitive market. It’s really a huge indictment of the whole language of modern American capitalism. Shows them up for the oligopolistic hypocrites they are.

    • Murc says:

      IMO, the biggest problem that any legalization regime is going to face is the existence of a very established black market infrastructure

      Uh.

      Care to justify that?

      When alcohol became legal, extensive and established black market infrastructure vanished nearly overnight. Why would pot be different?

      • divadab says:

        They didn’t vanish – they became mainstream. How do you think Seagram’s got its start? Running bootleg whiskey into upstate New York from their distillery in Montreal.

      • snoey says:

        Much of the alcohol black market kept chugging right along since it had a large price advantage. The same will be true of pot if there is a high tax structure.

  14. Humboldt Native says:

    Legalization will destroy (what’s left of) the Emerald Triangle’s economy. I’d cheerfully trade weed for timber and fishing, but America’s particularly rapacious style of capitalism already destroyed those industries. And now we’re going to lose the last thing keeping our people off food stamps.

    I live in America now and work a straight job, but I go home often enough that I’m still pretty plugged in. While I’m sure nobody wants to jump through a lot of red tape, and there are still a few backwoods guerrilla types who are almost genetically opposed to it, that’s not the thing that really concerns anybody.

    The issue is that they won’t be dealing with red tape because they’ll be out of business. With full legalization, the growers will be the same Central Valley agribusinesses that destroyed the fishing industry by sucking the delta dry (and maybe some of the Oregon agribusinesses who destroyed the Kalamath salmon runs). There is no economic advantage to growing weed in the mountains of NorCal if you can do the same thing in the Central Valley or the Mississippi Delta or wherever, and most of the current producers don’t have access to the capital needed to set up industrial sized agriculture anywhere.

    As some other commenter noted, the overall market will include more volume. I doubt the dollar valley will be larger (wholesale price right now runs between one and three thousand a pound behind the redwood curtain, more the farther you get into America. Tobacco wholesales for about two dollars a pound). I’m certain the benefits will go to a smaller and different group of people. Sure there will be some boutique producers, but those aren’t likely to be poor people from the backwoods of NorCal. They’re more likely to be the same sort of people who own Napa Valley wineries.

    The Emerald Triangle is a unique place. A society has developed there in the last 40-odd years that is like no place I’ve ever been, and I’ve traveled a fair amount. It’s got a ton of very serious faults. But it’s more egalitarian, democratic, environmentally sustainable, and socially just than America. The reason it’s developed that way is the dope trade. And now its likely to be destroyed because America has decided it wants to save a few bucks on the price of a bong hit. We’re going to be like Detroit, with redwoods.

    • The Dark Avenger says:

      There is no economic advantage to growing weed in the mountains of NorCal if you can do the same thing in the Central Valley

      Weed needs a certain humidity level that isn’t possible on the Valley floor out of doors, unless you plan to restore Tulare Lake and grow it near its’ banks.

      • Humboldt Native says:

        Not true. Again, I’m the straight guy in the family (growing pot is boring), but basically anything except extreme dry or rainforest damp works find for humidity. Central Valley humidity levels should be just about perfect.

        Stomata (sp?) close up above about 90 degrees, resulting in slower growth, but even in the hottest parts of the valley that’s only the hottest parts of the hottest days. In general, if you can grow tomatoes you can grow weed, and the valley is covered with tomatoes.

        • The Dark Avenger says:

          Um, tomatoes are in the nightshade family, and as this site points out:

          For example, the humidity in Jamaica, Colombia, Thailand, and many other countries associated with fine marijuana is relatively high and averages at about 80 percent.

          And this is from Ed Rosenthal, if you’ve ever heard of him:

          Marijuana grows well in moderate temperatures – between 70° and 85° F (21°-29° C). Both high and low temperatures slow marijuana’s rate of metabolism and growth. Plants grow fastest when the temperature during the lighted period is kept between 72° and 77° F (22°-26° C). When CO2 is being used, the plant prefers to be a few degrees warmer, between 79° and 85° F (26°-29° C). Individual marijuana varieties differ in their temperature preferences by a few degrees, so some experimentation is required to find the ideal temperatures for the strain you are growing.

          Moderate is not how I would characterize the summer temperatures around here, which can go into the 100s during the day, which can last for a couple of weeks, and only goes down into the mid-60s at best at night. This means more water, which has to be bought unless you live out in the country and have a well, then you’re talking about the cost of using the pump to get the water to the plants.

          The thought that outdoor-grown MJ here in Tulare county would be as good as the stuff grown in the cooler, more humid climate of Northern Coastal California is flattering, but not true.

          • The Dark Avenger says:

            According to the weather records, a typical day in June can have the temp above 90 from noon to around sunset, which is around 7 or 8 hours of non-optimal growth temp per day, and up to 11 hours if the temp spikes above 100 to 105 or so, as it did last August around here.

            I’ve lived here for the majority of my 5.4 decades here, and the thought that we could compete with the Emerald Triangle is flattering, but not realistic.

    • sibusisodan says:

      And now its likely to be destroyed because America has decided it wants to save a few bucks on the price of a bong hit.

      This really isn’t about the price of weed, is it? It’s about not going to prison for utilising…

    • djw says:

      But it’s more egalitarian, democratic, environmentally sustainable, and socially just than America.

      I expect a good number of people trying to live on a non-pot modest income disagree pretty vehemently with that one.

      • Humboldt Native says:

        Yeah, it’s tough to find legal work that pays a damn up there. I mean drive through Eureka, and what do you see? A bunch of fast food joints, motels, a coupla car lots, and the biggest building in the county — the jail. That’s sorta the point. There ain’t a whole lot of other ways to make a decent living there.

        The thing is that’s true a lot of places, but in Humboldt there’s an alternative that has provided a couple of generations of blue-collar people with a path toward some level of financial security — just at the time that was being destroyed across the rest of the country.

        And as for a modest non-pot income, I’d suggest you explore the backside of Fickle Hill. Everything from there to Blue Lake is Simpson land. There’s good access starting about seven miles up from Arcata.

  15. Humboldt Native says:

    As for labor laws — that’s a non-issue in any operation I’m familiar with. The casual/temp/day-labor types get paid decent money (especially by the standards of legal work in Humboldt County), but the bigger share of ‘hired work’ tends to be sharecropping situations. That’s a nasty exploitative practice in a lot of situations, and it may not be ideal in these circumstances, but I would suggest that someone sharecropping a successful grow operation comes out doing pretty well and is certainly better off than if they had been simply employed as simple wage labor for the same period of time (not that there isn’t a long history of shady dishonest and occasionally violent crap happening — it is an underground economy after all — but employees in this situation have a whole lot more leverage than they do in the above ground economy if things get ugly).

    Oh, yeah, and there’s no rat poison that works worth a damn. The only way to keep rats from chewing on your dope is to use traps, and you’ve got to modify ‘em to be on a hair trigger because otherwise they’re just lunch. If you’re in seriously rat infested areas, you’ve got to use one inch chicken wire, and it’s got to be buried at least a couple inches underground or they’ll dig right under it. Total PITA. But rats just want to use the stalks to build nests with (they use hemp!). Late in the year the bigger problem is deer. The deer in the area have developed a taste for weed, and I hope to someday read someone’s research on ‘the junkie deer of Humboldt County.’

  16. (the other) Davis says:

    NPR has reported that Philip Morris trademarked the brand “Marley” at the height of Just Say No in 1983 (though this doesn’t turn up at the United States Patent and Trademark site, and the company is mum).

    I know this post is focused on other issues, but I find it absolutely infuriating that reporters write about trademarks (and other forms of IP) without even bothering to understand the basics of how they work. It’s clear without even checking that Philip Morris did not obtain a trademark on “Marley,” because you have to *use* a mark in commerce to obtain trademark rights. The NYT tech blogger recently posted a similarly stupid item based on his failure to understand the difference between design patents and utility patents.

    • TribalistMeathead says:

      It’s just a variation on the old “Philip Morris even has designs for the packaging ready for the day they legalize pot” urban legend that’s been around for at least 20 years, probably longer. Hell, you could probably even substitute any other major tobacco company for Philip Morris.

  17. stratplayer says:

    What about the impact of the expansion in home-growing that is certain to follow legalization? Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe marijuana is much, much easier to grow in sufficient quantities for personal use than tobacco. Once ordinary people no longer have to worry about the prying eyes of the local constabulary, they’ll be able to set up some nifty little gardens wherever they can find the space. Is there anything agribusiness can do post-legalization to thwart the proliferation of home-grown (for strictly personal use, not distribution)?

    • rea says:

      I believe marijuana is much, much easier to grow in sufficient quantities for personal use than tobacco

      Maybe easier than tobacco, but still rather complicated, particularly if your goal is to produce something good.

      • Not really, I have a friend who used to grow indoors, and it’s pretty cut and dry on what you do with the plants ane when.

        Also, the ‘hydroponics’ stores around here have plenty of products and friendly clerks who can help you figure out what fertilizers to use at what stage, along with books on growing, or, if one is too cheap, websites like the one above that tell you what lighting to use, etc.

        It’s much less complicated than, say, making meth, where only 8-10% of the people who do so have any real-life chem lab experience.

    • snoey says:

      Homebrewing isn’t that hard but most people don’t bother.

      They key question is whether you can grow it outdoors. Indoors is a pain in the ass and runs up your electric bill.

      If the price is high enough to make it worth stealing from your garden but not so high that if makes indoors worthwhile there won’t be much homegrown.

      If the price is anywhere near current levels lots of people will have a basement closet full for personal use and a few bucks on the side.

      If you can safely grow outdoors it will be like zucchini in August.

    • Is there anything agribusiness can do post-legalization to thwart the proliferation of home-grown (for strictly personal use, not distribution)?

      Arrange for the legalization regime to resemble that adopted in Washington, where only licensed commercial growers are to be permitted.

  18. Fine’s basic argument is that with the increased likelihood of legalized marijuana production, we have to keep pot farming out of corporate hands.
    Now, you might agree with this in principle. Certainly corporate farming has gigantic problems–terrible labor practices, vast monocultures that threaten the long-term health of the ecosystem, fertilizer use that creates a giant dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, erosion, the squeezing out of small farmers, etc. So it’s not a good model for a sustainable and just food (and other things) system.

    I think the biggest issue with large-scale corporate cannabis production is the incentives the producers will have… as Mark Kleiman never tires of pointing out, to a commercial producer, one customer who smokes 8 joints a day is more valuable than 50 customers who each smoke 1 a week. The commercial producers’ incentives will be to maximize the number of heavy users, both by marketing and lobbying against effective regulations.

    • rea says:

      Man, the heaviest users I’ve encountered would have difficulty going through 8 joints a day on a binge. Nobody could live like that long run.

      Is the liquor industry trying to develop customers who go through a gallon of vodka a day?

      • Cut the guy some rhetorical slack. How about “4 joints a day” for the heavy users v. a couple dozen 1-joint-a-week dabblers?

        Though I have to say, as I’ve followed the news about MMJ users in California over the last 15 years, I occasionally see references to consumption levels that leave me wondering how anyone could possibly develop such high tolerance.

        I think the apt comparison to the liquor industry is the 6-pack-per-night crowd v. the couple-of-beers-on-weekends people, or the pint-of-spirits-per-day drinker v. the two-cocktails-with-dinner-on-saturday folks. The existence of a market for pint bottles of Popov vodka and Old Crow bourbon is evidence that yes, the liquor industry is interested in marketing to people who drink way too much.

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