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Why California Cannabis Growers Are Coming Out Against Prop 64

As California prepares to vote on recreational cannabis in November, some growers can’t bring themselves to vote yes on Prop 64.

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After making history almost a decade ago for being the first of the United States to regulate the medicinal use of cannabis, voters in California will soon have the opportunity to legalize recreational use as well. Proposition 64, once called The Adult Use of Marijuana Act, would allow adults to legally cultivate, sell, and consume cannabis for recreational purposes, and could raise up to $1 billion in taxes per year. Even Ethan Nadelmann, the founder of the Drug Policy Alliance, has claimed that the new legislation would be the “Gold Standard” for marijuana legalization.

So, why exactly are California cannabis growers coming out against Prop 64? It’s a stickier situation than the buds growing in Humboldt County and cultivators dependent on this crop for their livelihood are questioning what this legislation would mean for the future of their business. 

For instance, Hezekiah Allen, the executive director of the California Growers Association, is a third-generation cannabis farmer who has been waiting for cannabis prohibition to end for years. According to Reuters, Allen has stated that he can’t bring himself to vote for Prop 64, a dissenting stance that many local growers have taken up as of late. 

Throughout the year, the Prop 64 debate has revolved around social and health consequences of legalized pot use, but a majority of growers are more concerned about strict regulations and potentially troublesome oversight. Some also fear being pushed out of the industry by the inevitable takeover of corporations, which is looking like a serious possibility come 2023, when the state plans to issue Type 5 “Large” cultivation licenses. 

"We are asking farmers to come out from behind the curtain, but not providing the assurances they need," said Steve Dodge, the CEO of the Humboldt Growers Collective. "This law is setting the state up for failure." According to Dodge, he has decided to vote against the intiative due to a stipulation that would allow “regulatory inspections” that many pot growers view as warrantless searches.

A recent poll conducted by the California Growers Association on 750 cannabis farmers, distributors, and retailers found that only 31% supported Prop 64, 31% were against it, and a whopping 38% were still undecided. Clearly, there are many in the cannabis industry who are unsure about how Prop 64 will affect them. The measure is still expected to pass despite the pushback by the state’s cannabis cultivators, but the concerns that growers have expressed will not fade away regardless of the outcome. 

The gravest concern seems to be that Prop 64 will open the doors to big agriculture and drive smaller growers out of business. Others, such as Stephen Dillion, the head of the Humboldt Sun Growers Guild, notes that the measure would allow the state to inflict environmental regulations that could possibly cost farmers $20,000 to $100,000 per farm. All in all, most of these farmers have staked their entire lives in the cannabis industry, and it’s become quite clear that they won’t support Prop 64 until they are assured that the upcoming ballot initiative will benefit them.