While Californians vote whether to legalize recreational marijuana on Tuesday through the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), aka Prop 64, up in Mendocino county growers are concerned that both AUMA & MCRSA may open the door for a corporate “green rush” that will threaten the region’s thousands of small craft farmers who fear getting forced out of the market as soon as cannabis is finally legalized.
Measure AF proponents are concerned about the regulatory gaps that fall short from protecting small farmers. If Prop 64 does not pass, MCRSA will be the governing law and counties must establish a local permitting structure first to be eligible for the state permit under MCRSA. Currently the County of Mendocino does not have MCRSA compliant permits available, whereas nearby counties and cities have moved swiftly to enact local permits. In the coming years, Mendocino farms and businesses risk getting left behind due to bureaucratic delays and CEQA lawsuits such as those that have been filed against the County when they have tried to move forward with cannabis policy in the past.
If Prop 64 does pass, growers are concerned that the floodgates will open, as there are no protections for small, local farms.
AUMA’s residency requirement doesn’t protect Mendocino County residents from other California residents trying to do business there.
AUMA contains a California residency standard that’s going to be good through at least the end of 2019 (unless the legislature deems otherwise): “No licensing authority shall issue or renew a license to any person that cannot demonstrate continuous California residency from or before January 1, 2015. In the case of an applicant or licensee that is an entity, the entity shall not be considered a resident if any person controlling the entity cannot demonstrate continuous California residency from and before January 1, 2015.”
Within 5 years, AUMA enacts a new cultivation category, Type 5 “Large” cultivation licenses, that will be created for farms over the MMRSA limit of half-acre indoors or one-acre outdoors. Type 5 gardens have no limit to their size, which presents a huge threat to California’s small farms and open the doors to large corporate participation and consolidation in the industry.
Measure AF is on the November 8 ballot in Mendocino and it was written to work seamlessly with both MCRSA (and AUMA if it passes). Mendocino’s cultivators and business owners want to enact Measure AF at the county level to specifically protect local farms and businesses by requiring a two-year minimum residency for cultivators and guaranteeing that Mendocino County residents are majority shareholders in any cannabis businesses such as dispensaries, manufacturing facilities, labs or nurseries.
AF also formally recognizes the Mendocino Appellations Project which establishes brand recognition for Mendocino craft farms like the wine industry based on appellations defined by geography, terroir and unique cannabis strains. The region’s future depends upon celebrating the boutique farmer that is known for quality over quantity.
AFs passage will help protect small farms and the way of life that has made a name for Mendocino, and its cannabis. Countywide regulation will protect against speculative investors and corporations who seek to exploit Mendocino’s history of cultivation and brand recognition. Philip Morris has no place in Mendocino. A region long known for renegade politics, the County was the first to ban GMOs and then fracking. They will be the last to welcome large corporate grows into their valleys and hills. But without laws & regulation, how can locals protect Mendocino and what it stands for?
If you’re a farmer in Mendocino you should get out and vote because it protects you. The California Growers Association supports measure AF.
If you just live in Mendocino but have nothing to do with the cannabis industry you should get out and vote for Measure AF because regulation is a monumental step forward in bringing the industry out of the shadows and protecting the small farms that are crucial to our economic future.