What’s Happening With Cali’s Cannabis Crisis?

Despite the size of the California marijuana market, issues are still present. Many growers, both large and small, are feeling the strain as these problems remain unresolved.

What's Happening With Cali's Cannabis Crisis?

The mood amongst Cali’s cultivators has shifted. Rolling Stone reports that not long ago, uniformed agents from the Department of Cannabis Control accosted mom-and-pop cultivators. They had entered the 18th annual Emerald Cup Harvest Ball in Santa Rosa, California to disrupt it.

The agents pushed cultivators to move all marijuana out of eyesight. This is a serious issue for these growers, especially when considering these small operations lack retail licenses. Despite this fact, the event organizers told the cultivators they could show flower samples at their booths, directing purchasers to a nearby dispensary booth to make their purchases.

But this obviously wasn’t the case.

Many of these farmers traveled from far away rural Northern Cali to put their cannabis on display for buyers. They were confused by the agents’ instructions. Imagine attempting to sell products that cannot be displayed. It simply doesn’t work.

Consumers want to check out the products, give them a whiff, and make a decision. Showing a photo of the flower simply isn’t enough.

This is extremely frustrating for the growers, who only want to come in and tempt buyers to purchase their flower. But unfortunately, small growers are getting the short end of the stick.

Corporate cannabis continues to dominate the legal market. But small farmers are still trudging along, trying to carve out a living in a space that’s seemingly choosing affordability over small grow operations.

Small farms have been struggling as their contracts haven’t always been getting renewed. Many believe that during his push for legalization, Steve DeAngelo, the director of Harborside, one of the first licensed dispensaries in the state, prioritized affordability for the consumer rather than offering protections for small farms.

“My primary allegiance has always been to the people who use and need cannabis, which means the product must be safe and tested as well as affordable — a primary objective of Prop 64.” he said. “When adult-use regulations went into effect, only 10 of the 500 small farmers who had been supplying Harborside had been able to get licensed, and we continued to do business with all of them. In fact, in the weeks prior to Jan. 1, 2018, we stocked up on hundreds of pounds of weed so our small growers could get their cannabis into the system before the deadline.”

Some cultivators who’ve spoken with Rolling Stone believe they’ve been betrayed by DeAngelo. They say he sided with corporate cannabis over the small operations, even going as far as to stop purchasing from smaller farms in 2017.

Between an expanding illicit cannabis market taking customers, high licensing and permitting costs, limited access to traditional banking services, and agencies like the CDFA making it challenging for small farms to compete, the industry is in trouble.

These days, there’s an overproduction issue that’s driving prices down, as well. The collapse of the wholesale price is putting the entire market at risk.

Ultimately, the costs involved in establishing infrastructure within the cannabis space make it challenging for small cannabis farmers to get a foothold. However, the larger corporate operations are building their empires with ease as they’re backed by more capital.

Competing with these commercial ventures is nearly impossible for small farmers. These cultivators don’t have the time to stop their farming activities and learn how to compete properly.

Jacob Lawrence, a cannabis activist who runs a nonprofit called MedVets supplying military veterans with medical marijuana, believes the problem will continue. He thinks the small Northern California farms have some of the best cannabis in the country. But the business side of things is a serious challenge for them.

“To create logos, to set up to go cross-platform for mobile operations… they don’t know these things, and they don’t have the money to stop,” Lawrence explained.

He says many cultivators are shifting to supply the illicit market as the legal industry fails. This is where corporate cannabis leads, and the temptation to earn money through the legacy market is becoming increasingly apparent.

What do you think? Is big cannabis going to continue to fuel the illicit cannabis market? How will the migration of small legitimate farmers to the illicit market impact legal cannabis?

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Louis Levey is the Content Success Manager and Founder at No Strings Content. He's passionate about helping cannabis businesses use content to attract, educate, and convert audiences. His hometown is Boca Raton, Florida, but he currently lives and works remotely in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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