I’ve long maintained that the biggest argument against marijuana legalization is that stoner culture is really irritating. Throwing hippies in prison? Well, there’s an argument for it! Anyway, the idea that marijuana culture is somehow this wonderful thing operating under the capitalist radar and is going to be destroyed by legalization and operating the industry something like alcohol is very annoying, especially when coming from supposedly respectable publications like Politico, who decided to run this hack piece about the future horrors of legalized and regulated weed in California.
In Sacramento, he insisted that growers be treated like farmers of any other crop. Most important, he won the removal of a limit on the number of growing licenses for small farms. But the price of that legitimacy has been steep and it is about to redefine the nature of the marijuana industry in ways that make many of its most committed supporters deeply uncomfortable. California’s iconic counter-culture drug is about to be treated just like a six-pack of beer.
Treated just like a 6 pack? The horrors! You mean, you can go to the store and buy it? And that there’s a system regulating that economy that might not just be a bunch of hippies getting back to the land, a description of the marijuana industry last accurate sometime around 1982? I have never heard such a horrible tale.
Under the new regulations, licensed distributors were given control over measurement, taxing and testing for all medical marijuana before it can move to the retailer. The rules are modeled on the system that emerged at the end of Prohibition to wrest control from mobsters and their illegal liquor empires. States required wholesalers to bring alcohol from the manufacturer to the retailer, a system that has proven fantastically lucrative for distribution companies. Some of those players are now poised to make millions of dollars as the middlemen in California’s burgeoning medical marijuana market.
Again, I am mortified. For some reason. Because this sounds totally rational to me.
But the transformation is causing discomfort within California’s community of renegade pot growers, many of whom worry that their long wished for legitimacy may end with them being coopted by the implacable force of corporate America.
Smoke another joint dude and let’s talk about The Man keeping us down!
“But it’s complicated,” she continues. “A lot of growers are thinking only about law enforcement and getting Water Quality enforcement off their backs. What they don’t realize is by January 1, 2018, if you’re operating a commercial grow and you don’t have a cultivation license and aren’t in the process of getting one—it’s just a cease and desist order. That can be thousands of dollars a day. And it could be ugly when the IRS comes in in a few years and businesses get audited. We do want to keep all our small farmers. They hold the culture. They hold the innovation. If we lose the small farmers we’re going to lose a lot.”
Oh noes! Licensing! Regulation! Not being able to dump a metric ton of rat poison in the forests!
Because, some say, groups with deep pockets to spend on political lobbying wanted it that way. Groups like the Teamsters.
“We concluded it was the best model for us and we proceeded to forge an alliance with law enforcement and local government because we thought that it fit their needs as well,” says Barry Broad, legislative director of the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council.
Broad acknowledges the potential gain to the Teamsters’ organization.
“I’m not hiding our self interest. This is a growing industry and we’d like it to grow unionized,” he says. “To have local government, organized labor and law enforcement all together is a pretty potent alliance. What’s on the other side? A couple marijuana people with illusions of grandeur?”
THE TEAMSTERS! OH MY GOD THE MOST EVIL ORGANIZATION IN HUMAN HISTORY! JIMMY HOFFA WILL COME BACK FROM THE GRAVE AND FORCE THE COOL AS SHIT WEED GROWERS TO BE UNION MEMBERS!
Seriously, this is embarrassing. When was the last time dropping the IBT as some sort of symbol of Big Evil Organization was remotely legitimate? 1977? Ever? But no, if the Teamsters benefit–if the weed farms are unionized–evidently the entire culture of weed growing is destroying and replaced by the evils of regulated capitalism. I didn’t know that Politico was the resurrection of the Whole Earth Catalog, but maybe it is.
It goes on from there. It’s not that the regulation of tobacco or alcohol is perfect. But the idea that marijuana is somehow this special industry that is anti-capitalist or down with the earth and the people or whatever is complete and utter hogwash. The unregulated marijuana industry is a labor and environmental disaster, with dangerous and poorly paid labor dominating the workforce and the wanton use of pesticides and chemicals, the diversion of water, the bulldozing of mountaintops, the construction of illegal roads, and turning the forests into trash dumps. Marijuana needs to be legal. It also needs to be regulated. It needs to be regulated similar to other legal drugs in distribution and sales. And it needs to be regulated like any other agricultural product in the production. Otherwise, the problems that result are immense.
But at the very least, let’s stop pretending that hippie capitalism is somehow more pure and down to earth than regular capitalism. It’s still a bunch of people looking to do anything to make a buck.