During last year’s campaign for Proposition 64, which made recreational marijuana legal for adults under California law, proponents of the measure repeatedly argued that it would protect small marijuana farms and mom-and-pop cultivators, many of whom have operated illegally for decades.
That’s because the initiative barred the state from licensing any marijuana farm larger than one acre until 2023—or at least that’s what voters were led to believe when they passed Proposition 64 overwhelmingly. Nevertheless, a state agency has quietly, mystifyingly issued a rule that could circumvent the proposition and open the new state market to Big Weed.
The five-year head start for small farmers was a concession specifically designed to win support—or at least quell some of the opposition—from growers in Northern California’s Emerald Triangle, who worried that well-funded corporate cannabis interests would crush them right out of the gate. The delay in Proposition 64 would give them time to get licensed under the new state regulatory regime and carve a toehold in the new legal marketplace for recreational marijuana.
But it wasn’t just farmers pushing for limits on the size and scale of the marijuana growing sites. A Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy created by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom recommended in 2015 that the state limit the size and power of marijuana businesses and offer incentives for smaller operations.