California blew it on pot

When CA wrote it’s enabling legislation and regulatory rules after passing Prop 64 enabling a legal regulated cannabis market, it looked pretty good. Sure, it was heavy in red-tape and annoying fees, but this is California. And, coming in late to the game, they had the benefit of experiences from other states which had to be retrofitted in those states. I was optimistic that they’d come up with a bunch of great ideas.

But just days before the legislation was passed, a clause to protect and encourage small illegal growers to jump on the legal program was eliminated. Most states recognized that the best strategy for bringing up a new regulated market was to make it easy to “capture” the small grower operating “up in the hills”. Instead, CA just kept going with the rule-making minutia that added complexity and expenses which strongly (deliberately?) favored those with money and busloads of attorneys. Two years later, they might have captured 1% of the renegade growers in the state. 99% of the illegal growers have yet to get a license pay any fees or submit any taxes to the state.

As I wrote the other day, the mess that is temporary licenses is getting worse by the day as those licenses expire. Without a valid state license you are prohibited from operating at all. In the Emerald Triangle it’s seed planting time, and they grow the bulk of the state’s crop, in addition to the seed stock for next year.

Meanwhile, the governor has thrown $10 million dollars at law enforcement to go after the illegal growers, and Los Angeles has put emphasis on shutting down the operators there without allocating resources to implement their license system.

Even San Francisco has installed an uninformed political appointee in charge of their program. SF needs a bureaucrat to sell pot?

Mostly, the growers and sellers are ignoring all of this and continuing on as they have been, being quite used to such bullshit. There are those that are trying to play the game, though. The few that have opened stores have very thin inventory of legal weed. One store in Humboldt County did not offer any product from the region, instead relying on factory-grown machine processed product grown in Desert Hot Springs.

So for those very few putting up with the double-dealing and capricious red tape, business is very confusing. Yet those that are willing to take the risks are continuing on illegally as before.

Yesterday the Assembly passed SB67 to extend the expire dates of the temporary licenses. That’s a good thing, sorta, but no one can say California has implemented a “well-regulated legal marketplace” in cannabis.

Bandon, Oregon

There’s been a lot of rain lately, and I don’t see a sun break in the forecast for quite some time. In the meantime, I’ll be doing a lot of sitting until favorable travel conditions appear. I’ll be several days in Bandon exploring the area.

Crescent City, CA

One of my favorite places to park is the City-owned Shoreline RV in Crescent City. On the bay, next to a river, across a channel from the lighthouse, next to the marina, seals barking on the wharfs.

Nice day for travel through the redwoods, but the rain will return tonight for a few days.

Rain or not, it’s a quick 15 mile drive to Brookings, OR to get gas and no sales tax. I think I’m done paying CA prices for gas…

Crescent is in Del Norte County directly north of Humboldt, and south of Curry County, OR, the most productive cannabis counties in the nation. But Del Norte is a “dry” county, not allowing any legal licensed cannabis places. They don’t get any of the marijuana tax money because they are happy with a 100% black market.

California Cannabis

California’s legal marijuana regulations are a mess. That’s the opinion of everybody involved, not just my idea.

When the rules went into effect January 2018, temporary licenses were issued because the rules were still in work. This was risky for license-holders, but this type of thing has happened elsewhere and the impact was minimal. Trouble is, there was a deadline date for the temporary status, and when it expired in June, the response was to issue “provisional” licenses while more rules were written. The deadline for provisionals came and so they went back to temporaries. Those currently holding licenses are now facing the deadline for those, and it’s illegal to do this again without the legislature passing a new law allowing the extension.

SB67 is currently stuck in Appropriations as the end of the session approaches.

Each time one of these phony arrangements happened, the bureaucrats had to re-issue licenses, really gumming up the works for new licenses as old licenses had to be redone.

Meanwhile, at the local level, some jurisdictions were inventing their own rules and getting geared up to issue their own permits. That process was made a tad bit easier by an exemption granted to locales to bypass CEQA rules (CA Environmental Quality Agency) and procedures. That saved a ton of money and time for licensees. But, that exemption expires shortly, which means licensees might have to file Environmental Impact Statements.

I’ve been in Mendocino and Humboldt counties lately, the most productive cannabis producing regions in the world. In Humboldt there are an estimated 6000 growers, about 100 have been licensed. It’s similar in Mendo. Meanwhile there are 600 retail stores licensed in CA, slightly more than Washington, much less than Colorado or Oregon. Two-thirds of the state has enacted bans or moratoriums on the businesses, meaning it’s rare to find a [legal] retail outlet anywhere but in the large cities.

Five years ago the wholesale price for CA-grown weed was about $2500 a pound, much more when it was exported to other states. Once sold, the money returned to places like Ukiah and Eureka and went into vehicles, farm and ranch supplies, and other consumer items which generated sales tax revenue. In Eureka right now, those sales tax revenues are down 25% and the city leaders are looking at budget cuts. It’s partly that the [illegal] export market is down as other states legalize, but the wholesale price is currently $500 a pound, and dropping fast.

Regulation compliance costs are growing fast, the licensing process is bogged down in useless red tape, anticipated tax revenue is way below expectations, and the market itself is crashing as other states grow more than they need. Retail prices, if you can find a store, are ridiculously high.

I’ve asserted this before: If you want to engage in the legal marijuana thing in California you’ll need an unlimited supply of money and an army of lawyers. And hope like hell that some East-coast sucker wants to buy you out.

Eureka

I made it to Eureka, and will be here a week at least.

It took a long time from Fort Bragg on Highway 1. I cannot recommend anyone pulling a trailer take this road unless you need to check this route off your life list. There are a lot of 15 mph hairpins, I don’t think I got over 40 mph, and only the occasional turnout going northbound. Luckily there was very little traffic.

The Mendocino coastline is beautiful, though . Lots of rocks and haystacks with crashing flying surf. There’s a great RV camping spot that is almost above the high high tide line, but I doubt I’ll drive this route again pulling anything.

Who in their right mind would go to the extreme effort to build this road in the first place???

Fort Bragg, CA

Fort Bragg is along CA-01, the Pacific Coast Highway, in Mendocino County. I’m glad I finally made it out here, but the challenge of the roads here hints that it might be a while before I return.

When I sat down to update my blog, it wouldn’t allow me to log in. I did some obvious things, then sent a note off to tech support. Today it’s fixed, the hosting service updated my version of WordPress, which I wasn’t anxious to do, but now I’ve got the new version. It’s quite different, so we’ll see how it works.

All roads out here are slow and winding, figure an average of 30 mph; some curves are 15 mph. The surface is good, and there are passing lanes and turnouts, but it’s still a lot of work.

The weather has been unusually nice, clear without even a breeze along the coast, flat seas. I’m parked at an RV place in the center of town with a view to the west. And it’s Whale Festival time this weekend; supposedly it’s the best time to see migrating gray whales go north. I haven’t seen any, but I wasn’t really looking. I’ll be on the coast for a while and am sure I’ll spot some soon.

Ten miles south of Ft Bragg is the town of Mendocino, an absolutely lovely historic town overlooking a beautiful bay. They have a great book store, and the new retail pot shop overlooks the bay and features product from just down the road. Mendo living would be very nice. Well, until you needed to go somewhere. Best just to stay out here, Ft Bragg has everything you need.

I continue north on Tuesday, hopefully reaching Eureka unless the road is too slow to make it in a few hours.

Ukiah

Every year I make this trip north on 101, and always stay at the fairgrounds rv lot. Ukiah is a must-stop so I can visit the Solar Living Center, which is now called Eco Terra something.

The other reason I stop here is to do a weather and conditions check. I expect, and have experienced, forest fires, floods, mudslides, and road collapses along 101 in California and Oregon. This year conditions are great so I can finally move over to Fort Bragg on the Mendocino coast and explore that area. I’m aiming for Thursday, and really looking forward to it.

Washington pot legislation

This is an update on the bills being considered for cannabis in Washington state.

Rumor has it that politics stopped the attempt to allow homegrown cannabis in the state, potentially leaving WA as the only state that doesn’t allow it. It’s hard to discern why the reluctance. There’s always the moral objections to cannabis, some licensed growers might fear the competition from 6-plant grows in basements, and law enforcement complains they can’t enforce the law. Some lawmakers might be thinking of Colorado’s experience when they had a 99-plant limit for “homegrown”, which leads to supplying the unlicensed black market.

Personally, I don’t see the threat from amateur back-yard growers. The output can’t be sold, and won’t go anywhere but amongst friends and neighbors. Besides, the status quo might be the best approach: be discrete, share with friends, and don’t give the cops permission to search your premises.

One way or the other changes in the license ownership rules will be loosened a tad bit, but details are hard to predict right now. Anything would be big progress in Washington.

Cannabis testing protocols have passed the House and are in the Senate. WA’s current rules are quite rudimentary given current thinking, and this effort would be considered a “reform” measure, advancing the state to advanced techniques. That’s good, but no state has succeeded in completely implementing top-shelf rules yet. Keep in mind that no consumer product (except medical stuff) is subjected to such extensive testing as cannabis. And there cannot be any federal help in setting standards, which adds to the complexity. California is trying to implement their rules, but it’s still in progress. Interestingly, Arizona, which is totally medical, has no testing requirements at all. [Testing usually covers dirt, mold, insect parts, pesticides, fertilizers, and other things].

A bill which should pass sets up a state cannabis commission. These commissions (or boards) exist for almost all agriculture products in all states. The idea is to get a basis in law to collect a small fee allotted to growers to pursue common goals. The Washington State Apple Commission, for instance. Usually these organizations function as marketing or PR efforts, and distribute best-practice information. Cannabis growers want something else, though. Because of the federal law, Washington State University cannot assist cannabis growers, like they do for other farmers. All farmers benefit from their state’s ag-research universities, which in turn get funding from the feds. WSU can’t provide help or information to federally-illegal cannabis farmers. But, they can provide their services to a commission which doesn’t touch the plant. So a commission is a good move, albeit for goofy reasons.

And then there are a handful of bills I call “revenge” bills designed to reign in the Liquor and Cannabis Board and their aggressive enforcement policies. This issue has become severely political and there’s going to be a lot of fighting. Whether any of the bills will actually pass is unpredictable.

Those are the high points right now. There are only a few weeks left of the session; bills in progress but not passed or killed will reappear in the second half of the session in January.

Santa Rosa

A break in the storm allowed me to comfortably reach Santa Rosa, and highway 101. I’ll be here a few days waiting out the rain.

I’m at the fairgrounds, which still has a lot of the trailers supplied by FEMA for the wildfire victims well over a year ago. I didn’t expect to find so many still here, but apparently there’s another deadline on Monday to have them out. I don’t see anyone making any moves to leave, though.

Lodi

As planned, I made it through the central valleys and am now in a decent rv park waiting for the next storm to start. Flood warnings are posted, and I’ll be watching things in Sonoma county. Hopefully I can make it over there on Friday.

Meanwhile it’s books and video games here.