There's Not a Drought of Good Weed in Cali, Risk is High for Your Favorite Unlicensed Grower

Back in the days when I was a teenager

Before I had status and before I had a pager

You could find the Abstract listenin' to hip-hop

My pops used to say, it reminded him of Bebop

I said, "Well, Daddy, don't you know that things go in cycles?

Way that Bobby Brown is just ampin’ like Michael"

- Q-Tip, A Tribe Called Quest, Excursions (1991)

Man, there are some deep lessons woven into ‘90s hip hop and as writer and philosopher George Santayana once said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

The same holds true for cannabis, a regenerative crop that perfectly illustrates the cyclic nature of the universe every time a seed sprouts and a plant is harvested.

So it is important that the people who choose to associate with cannabis here in California, but for any number of reasons choose not to associate with the regulated cannabis market, know that the new era of “legal weed” is a dangerous place for old school mentalities.

You really need look no further than very recent headlines of enforcement actions being taken everywhere from the dusty desert backroads of Anza, to the high dollar coastal communities in Santa Cruz, and extending northbound into the heart of the Emerald Triangle with taxpayer funded military presence propagating PTSD in those who already lived through the nightmare of prohibition for so long.

When California passed Proposition 215 in 1996 it established the largest and most influential medical marijuana market the world had ever seen; the impact of which still forms the foundation of cannabis culture worldwide.

It also started the toppling of legal dominoes making it safer and safer to cultivate cannabis with what felt like at least a veil of protection against the cops or the Feds, at least if you played by the loose rules set forth by the mostly self-policing marketplace.

But that is no longer the case according to leading cannabis attorney Heather Burke, of Origin Group Law LLP, who laid out a stark warning to those old school farmers who figure that they’ve “always” dodged the law and that nothing has changed since the passage of Prop 64 in 2016, legalizing the adult recreational use of cannabis in the state and establishing the regulatory framework for becoming a legal operator.

Burke doesn’t sugarcoat it in a recent blog post on her site, “There is NO legal protection for unregulated commercial cultivation.

The Collective and Cooperative as we knew them since 2004 are DEAD. In fact, this is the first season since the Compassionate Use Act in 1996 where there is no clear defense to unlicensed commercial cultivation. While unregulated commercial activity is a straight misdemeanor, conspiring to commit a misdemeanor is a felony, as is misdemeanor cultivation occurring in conjunction with an environmental crime.

Also, as this is the first season under the new rules, it’s within the realm of possibilities we see aggressive criminal enforcement on unregulated mom-and-pop farms. It is also possible law enforcement take a more measured approach by focusing on cartel grows, environmental degraders, and interstate interdiction.

We just don’t know.”

What we do know is that Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing pressure from all sides to heal the crippled cannabis market and has vowed to shell out as much as $200 Million this year alone in combating the unregulated market. That sounds like a lot of money, and it is, but it’s not enough to bust every dimebag dealer in the state so they are quite literally going for the root of the problem as they see it and cracking down on unpermitted grows with swarming raids reminiscent of darker days.

Burke goes on to warn about increased fines and penalties, particularly for those that pollute or damage the environment. She points out the latest trailer bill tacked onto the state budget where Gov. Newsom is expected to approve a new $30,000 fine per infraction for non-license holders who get busted.

Remember, as we wrote earlier this week, the government is ONLY IN THIS FOR THE MONEY. Tax revenues or fees and fines, they don’t care what form it comes in and they don’t care who goes to jail or has their life ruined as a consequence. Unlicensed operators now have little legal recourse against federal charges. Blanket federal statutes like the Joyce Amendment might limit or restrict funding for the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute state-legal cannabis operations, but if you are not licensed you are not “state-legal” and you are low hanging fruit for lazy law enforcement.

Digital innovations like Google Maps and Weedmaps drysnitch on grey market and black market players daily as they still openly operate in the Prop215/SB420 mentality, when really, they need to go much further back… back to when weed was really scary.

That’s why you’re starting to see signs of what some people are referring to as a “drought” of good weed in California. The legal market will never, ever grow the best weed – supply and demand and overhead costs will dictate the proliferation of midzotics on that side. The illicit growers are looking around and seeing National Guard troops rolling down the Main Street of their town and although they may continue their clandestine cannabis grows going, as the risk continues to rise as will the prices. Actual grow rooms will shrink, as will trust and collaboration.

It’s about to get dangerous for your favorite grower. Remember that next time you are about to send a passive aggressive text message over a $10 price hike per 8th.

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