By Mary Carreon
California grew millions of pounds of legal cannabis in 2021. But instead of harvesting that product to sell in dispensaries, many legal cultivators intentionally let tens of thousands of pot plants rot, while others set piles of their buds aflame. Spring would typically be the time farmers begin sowing seeds to harvest in the fall, but many legal farmers aren’t planting at all this year because they simply can’t afford to.
The plight of the cannabis cultivator is a symptom of a much larger issue: Problematic regulations. Right now, California’s legal market is drowning. Most of the state’s outdoor cannabis farms are going out of business. Legal dispensaries rarely turn a profit, and businesses are shuffling debt bubbles up and down the supply chain. This isn’t exactly how cannabis legalization was pitched five years ago when voters approved Proposition 64, which created the nation’s largest legal cannabis market.
“When you go back and look at what the advocates of Prop. 64 said would happen and you look at their policy proposals, they clearly over-promised, they clearly chose not to follow best business practices and fundamentals in these promises,” says Dr. Keith Taylor, a professor of extension at UC Davis who researches the efficacy of Prop. 64.
He predicts that the next two years will be dire for small cannabis businesses unless the state reforms the legal framework ASAP. “The clock is ticking,” Taylor says. “I’m not saying that to over exaggerate. It absolutely is.”
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