California initiative expected to generate billions in marijuana sales
September 19, 2016
With a proposed marijuana cultivation ban slated to return to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, some local officials are weighing the potential harm pot farms pose to public health and safety against the possible financial boom cannabis production can create. Recently, observers have likened the financial opportunities both in the California and SLO County marijuana markets to the Gold Rush.
Legal marijuana sales in California will grow from $2.7 billion to $6.6 billion by 2020, if voters legalize recreational cannabis in November, according to the Archview Group, a pot investment and research firm. The nationwide market for legal marijuana sales is currently $5.7 billion, a total that is expected to rise to nearly $23 billion by 2020.
California’s marijuana legalization measure currently has the support of 58 percent of voters, according to recent poll conducted by the LA Times and USC Dornsife.
Some proponents of cannabis legalization are pointing to the recent success of the Mojave Desert town of Adelanto in luring investment from the marijuana industry. Last November, the city became one of the first in California to permit medical marijuana cultivation. [AFP]
Adelanto, a city of 32,000 residents, was on the brink of bankruptcy and struggling with double-digit unemployment. But after Adelanto adopted its marijuana ordinance, high-end investors rushed in to buy up warehouses and plots of land in the two areas city officials earmarked for marijuana cultivation. Rapper Snoop Dogg; actor Tommy Chong; and Ky-Mani Marley, one of Bob Marley’s sons, have each reportedly joined the scramble to secure a producer license in the city.
City officials have issued 35 licenses to grow marijuana and expect to distribute more in the coming months. Adelanto’s marijuana ordinance requires business to obtain 40 to 50 percent of their workforce from the local population.
John “Bug” Woodard Jr, a councilman and real estate agent, said an Adelanto building that was purchased for $725,000 a couple years ago is now worth $4 million.
On Tuesday, the SLO County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on an urgency ordinance that would put a halt to new marijuana cultivation for commercial purposes. Under the urgency ordinance, individuals with marijuana prescriptions or their caregivers could cultivate up to six plants at a time.
In recent months, growers poured into the sparsely populated California Valley in eastern SLO County after a marijuana magazine stated the county does not have any regulations and is tolerant of large cannabis grows. The influx of growers has led to numerous complaints about men with guns protecting the pot farms.
Also, county inspectors have found documented gang members at several of the sites, as well as harmful chemicals, many of which are banned in California. Additionally, dangerous electrical and plumbing problems are frequently encountered at the California Valley pot farms, according to county staff.
Sheriff Ian Parkinson has thrown his weight behind the proposed marijuana moratorium, saying growers in the California Valley are threatening the safety of the community.
But, four votes are needed to adopt the moratorium, and there is a strong likelihood the regulation will not pass. Supervisors Bruce Gibson and Adam Hill have expressed opposition to the proposal.
Gibson, and particularly Hill, favor the idea of attracting marijuana businesses to SLO County. Hill has said marijuana will be a big industry in California, and SLO County must capitalize on it.
Regardless of the outcome of the vote on the urgency ordinance, the supervisors are expected to discuss permanent marijuana regulations following the statewide initiative in November.