Keeping Centered: Changes in California Cannabis
An outlaw industry goes legit.
All of a sudden it seems everyone wants to know about cannabis. Cannabis for their aging parents, their cantankerous pets and for themselves. Funny, what a difference the word “Legal” can make in some people’s lives. Now that they know the state government has approved it, it must actually be OK. I guess the rest of us just figured that out on our own.
Unlike some cool trends that fade when too many people catch on to them, cannabis only gets better the more fans she has. Spreading the word about the benefits of cannabis does not cheapen it or make it common. She is meant to be shared. She only gets more beautiful the more she is appreciated. While some of us have known her intimately for years, decades really, she still inspires young love in new admirers everyday. Praise the lord and pass the joint.
Yet my hackles are rising these days and I feel some pangs of jealousy and protection around my girlfriend ganja with all the eager business people coming around her and us. I fear the only green they really care about is dollar bills. Naturally, there are some honest ones who truly do want to help us floundering farmers muddle through the processes of coming into the legal world of business. But rapacious vultures lurk, circling in the illusion that there are piles of bank to be made in these hills. They speak city talk and can easily bamboozle a farmer into believing just about anything. They make used car salesmen look like angels.
Like the insurance guys who are tracking me down. That’s this week’s vulture. Last week it was the compliance consultant vultures. Suddenly there are “cannabis consultants” everywhere. Instant experts are a dime a dozen, yet only a handful really know what they are talking about. “My cousin has been growing for years,” one woman told me with a straight face, citing her qualification for being a consultant. I hear she charged one innocent farmer $500 for a two-hour appointment that could be summed up in a few words: Pay me more and I’ll keep talking.
Yes, we do need help explaining how to navigate these new, rather murky waters. Insurance, payroll, taxes, pest and waste management plans and on and on, are all such new concepts to growers. There was a reason people were outlaws: to avoid all that. We are paying for it now, with crash courses in how to run a business and actually make a profit. Keeping any kind of records, let alone numbers, was obviously never done in the black market world. Your best notebook was your memory.
Farmers lived from harvest to harvest and somehow it was usually just enough. That world is long gone now.
Take the insurance thing, for example. We will now be required to have crop insurance, Workmen’s Comp and liability insurance on subsequent cannabis products. Living out here on the edge of the world in the Mendocino coastal range of mountains, no one would ever give us any insurance before because we are 50 minutes from the closest fire station and over an hour to the nearest police station, mostly on dirt roads. Obviously, an alarm system would be useless way out here, off the grid, without a phone. If a siren blares in the forest and no one hears it, does it really happen? Know what I mean? While most urban folks couldn’t imagine living this remotely, that is exactly why we do it.
Honestly though, it may take one of these compliance consultants to help us figure it all out. To read and understand the literally hundreds and hundreds of pages of the combined regulations in heavy official legalese, requires a certain skill to be able to slog through it all, understand it and actually remember it.
I admit we’d be really lost without our trusty accountants who are able to work their magic massaging numbers which mean so little to most farmers. Making budgets and spreadsheets can be as frustrating to me as high school mathematics classes and I still don’t understand algebra. We are blessed to have some knowledgeable accountants on the cannabis scene, although a few have expressed what a challenge it is to keep up with the constant changes in cannabis tax law. As one particularly light-hearted one expressed while clasping his hands together, “Let’s have some fun with this!”
On the horizon are the distribution birds of prey, perching nearby hoping to transport goods legally for yet another healthy fee. The old lure of the supposed treasures of the West seems to continue, attracting a whole new type of carpetbagger/cowboy. They’ll thin out eventually, once they can’t squeeze any more excess “green” out of the cannabis plant.
It’s our job to weed out the scamsters, while supporting the true and honest professionals who are eager to help in a positive way and consider the benefit to the community at large. That’s just another part of coming into compliance and transitioning to being a legal cannabis farmer — sorting out the fair and the just from the unscrupulous.
There have been professional experts involved in the world of cannabis since it first became illegal. Famous attorneys such as J. Tony Serra and Bruce Margolin have fought the fight valiantly for years to save those wrongfully accused of cannabis (and other substances) crimes. Hannah Nelson and Omar Figueroa have been prominent here in the Emerald Triangle throughout our struggle into acceptance. These people, and others, have all shown their mettle by defending the cause.
Cannabis is a plant which encourages us to share the goodness of life and to grow in knowledge and compassion. An open-hearted vibration around her during her entire lifespan, from seed to sale, is necessary to instill such virtues. It is important to stay centered while the new world spins around us, like a cannabis plant in a storm. And don’t forget, “Let’s have some fun with this.”
TELL US, when did you discover cannabis?