Proposition 16, on the November ballot in California, permits personal possession of one ounce of marijuana. Medical marijuana dispensaries would transform into mom and pop pot stores.
Across the Bay from San Francisco is Oakland, dubbed “Oaksterdam” for its liberal approval of dispensaries. It’s also home to America’s first marijuana college, Oaksterdam University, which trains people to enter “the budding cannabis job field.”
Sounds good. But wait: there’s more. Maybe too much more. It seems to be the fate of every successful industry: the big boys take over. It’s happening fast in this scenario--even before the business is off the legal ground.
Oakland is salivating at the prospect of an annual $211,000 farm operator fee, not to mention tax revenue. The City Council is about to license pot operations with no size limits. One entrepreneur is eyeing a 100,000 square foot warehouse space. That’s two football fields. Currently, mom and pop dispensaries are buying from mom and pop growers.
Yes, it may push small farmers out. Isn’t that the price of progress in a free enterprise system? One modest-sized producer suggests that little guys join together as co-ops to finance the fee.
But what about excellence and diversity? WalMartization of the industry. Small operations might be forced to concentrate on the delivery market, or develop a Tupperware-like party business. Perhaps, after a period of corporate dominance, a rebellion of micro-growers will blossom similar to the micro-beer industry.
The good old days are going fast. You want to score, you go to your dealer’s pad, meet with like-minded "heads," sample, rap. There is connection and camaraderie. It’s a social club. I miss it already.