A leading California cannabis industry insider has warned of an impending volume issue waiting for state officials once new recreational regulations take effect in 2018. With exponentially more weed than the state consumes, and no way to legally export, California’s growers will need to drop prices, scale back, or take their chances operating in the out-of-state black market.
According to the L.A. Times, Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers’ Association, brought the issue front and center at a recent panel discussion at the Sacramento Press Club. Thanks to California’s Wild West ethos, growers have for years been producing as much pot as possible for the state’s loosely regulated medical market, sending any extra product over state borders for a hefty profit.
“We are producing too much,” Allen said, noting that state-licensed growers “are going to have to scale back. We are on a painful downsizing curve.”
One panel member estimated that California produces five times as much cannabis as state residents consume, but a respected member of the audience chimed in to propose the production number was closer to 12 times the consumption rate. But whatever the number, all of the panel’s experts agreed that California has too much weed to just sell in state-licensed stores.
Currently, state regulators are focused on turning underground growers into regulated farmers, but with so much more money to be made in illicit interstate sales, officials concede that corralling the state’s entire crop is unrealistic.
“For right now, our goal is to get folks into the regulated market, as many as possible,” Lori Ajax, chief of the state’s Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation, who also spoke on the Sacramento panel, said. But, she added, “There are some people who will never come into the regulated market.”
If cultivators ignore the calls for reform, and continue to deal in black market sales, in-state or out, Ajax is confident that California’s new regulations will leave more illicit farmers fined, locked up, or otherwise prosecuted.
With a local industry so used to the decades old game of cops and cultivators, it will be interesting to see if the soon to be minted recreational system has the desired effect on the state’s black market, or if California’s tried and true outlaw methods will still rule the west.