CA: Will San Diego Farms Grow Legal Marijuana?

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Ten days ago, the Board of Supervisors took a sternly principled stand in opposing Proposition 64, a statewide measure that legalizes the sale of recreational marijuana and, lets not forget, the industrious hemp.

The unanimous vote was a ringing affirmation of law enforcements deeply jaundiced view of legalization.

But if the supervisors unanimous declaration moved one voter to the No column, Id be surprised.

Polls strongly indicate that the nearly century-old prohibition against marijuana is going to be history. California is heading the way of Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

No matter how deeply theyre believed, the moral and/or public-safety warnings of Apocalypse Soon are going to be moot.

The un-moot question will be how much, or how little, cities and counties profit from the so-called Green Rush, a cannabis-based industry that will generate billions of taxable dollars.

In the city of San Diego, thanks to the pragmatism of Councilman Mark Kersey, voters will decide with Measure N whether to impose a local sales tax on recreational marijuana in the event 64 passes.

N assumes two things: First, San Diego will permit legal recreational pot shops within its borders; and second, the city can use a hedge against costs associated with legalization.

Kerseys solution: Slap on a local tax, estimated to net $22 million its first year, and, if theres excess revenue, well, so much the better for the citys coffers.

Theres plenty of anecdotal evidence, however, that the pols around our county may not be so ready to catch the high tide. They may very well invoke their right to declare their city or county dry, inhospitable to the legal traffic of cannabis.

Beyond the troubling issue of retail distribution, however, consider another more grounded facet of the legal weed industry that will test San Diegos official hostility to marijuana.

A number of members of the San Diego Farm Bureau are looking into the opportunity of commercial pot cultivation, according to Eric Larson, the local bureaus executive director.

A seminar was conducted recently by the state Farm Bureau to inform San Diego growers about the brave new farming world that in all likelihood is coming.

Right now, the California Department of Food and Agriculture is developing rules for permitting commercial medical cannabis. The department anticipates the first licenses will be issued on Jan. 1, 2018.

If 64 passes, that process will go into hyperdrive to include recreational and hemp farms.

Though the San Diego meeting was private – the state bureau declined to provide details – its pretty certain that one of the major talking points addressed the power of San Diegos cities and county to ban or limit cultivation just as they have the right to ban or limit dispensaries.

Its entirely possible that a county or city that wanted to express its hostility toward marijuana could deny farmers the right to grow a cash crop within its borders.

During a candidate forum Monday night hosted by the San Diego Farm Bureau, Larson asked the two District 3 supervisorial candidates – Supervisor Dave Roberts and Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar – if they would support the cultivation of marijuana in the countys unincorporated areas.

In their haste to express their disapproval of recreational marijuana, the candidates fumbled Larsons question, which was about farmers making money, not preserving public safety.

When pressed to address the marijuana farming question, Gaspar simply said, I respect the laws that are passed. I respect the will of the voters.

For his part, incumbent Roberts strayed into the countys moratorium on dispensaries and echoed the public safety worries but, so far as cultivation is concerned, he too seemed to miss the point.

If thats the will of the voters, we have to implement it, he said.

No, its the will of elected politicians, not the voters, that rules. (Unless, of course, politicians choose to punt and hold an advisory vote.)

Maybe its just me, but as an old student of politics, I find this prospect something to live for.

How is culturally conservative San Diego, as reflected by the Board of Supervisors, going to balance its official belief in marijuanas negative social effects with the plants potentially positive effects on farmers cash flows?

Blessed by a warm Mediterranean climate and varied terrain, San Diego is built for the Green Rush.

Northern California, of course, has for decades been the anarchic hotbed of illegal cultivation.

Interestingly, the state Farm Bureau, according to one inside source, is internally conflicted over legalization.

Some northern farmers are opposed to commercial production because illegal pot growers have fouled the land and diverted water. Legalization, some northern farmers believe, will open the door to increased illegal (and environmentally damaging) production for out-of-state sales.

Down south, we dont have so much of that freighted history. Were known for an incredible diversity of crops.

If turned loose, our typically small farms would be ideally suited to compete for a cash crop that requires lots of TLC to modulate its THC.

Just imagine.

Like vineyards of today, high-end marijuana farms advertising tours of grows capped off with a sojourn to the sinsemilla toke room.

Visitors, baked in the San Diego sun, shuttling through the backcountry in (thankfully) driverless vehicles as farmers rake in the greenbacks.

Not exactly what the current crop of supervisors like to envision.

But remember, thanks to term limits, not one of the current crop of supervisors will be on the board come 2021.

The times, and the countys leadership, really are a changin, to borrow a phrase from our countrys most recent Nobel Prize winner.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Will San Diego Farms Grow Legal Marijuana? It’s An Open Question
Author: Logan Jenkins
Contact: (800) 533-8830
Photo Credit: TNS
Website: The San Diego Union-Tribune