The Bigness

Green is addictive…if you’re referring to money:

Oakland could approve a plan Tuesday to set up four marijuana factory farms, a step that could usher in the era of Big Pot.

The proposal is a testament to just how fast the marijuana counterculture is transforming into a corporate culture. And it has ignited a contentious debate in Oakland that could spread as cities face pressure to regulate marijuana cultivation and find ways to tax it.

“Everybody knows it’s going bigger and big money is moving in,” said Dale Gieringer, an Oakland resident and prominent marijuana activist.

A common explanation for the insane legal status of marijuana, a plant that actually has beneficial qualities, when compared to that of tobacco is that the one that’s legal lends itself better to corporate-model mass production — thus, easier taxation.  Oakland is basically trying to buck this conventional wisdom, and they already have a partner in mind…

If the City Council approves the plan, one Bay Area businessman has already made it clear that he intends to apply for a cultivation permit. Jeff Wilcox, who owned a successful construction firm and has already incorporated as AgraMed, hopes to convert his empty industrial buildings near Interstate 880 into an enormous production facility. He plans to manufacture growing equipment, bake marijuana edibles in a 10,000-square-foot kitchen and use two football fields of space to grow about 58 pounds of marijuana every day, many times the amount now sold in Oakland.

What caught the City Council’s attention was Wilcox’s projection that he could hire 371 employees and pay at least $1.5 million a year in taxes. (emphasis mine)

Sounds to me like in exchange for revenue they’re, in essence, handing over control of virtually the entire medical pot market in the city.  Anyone want to bet on the quality of the product?

Oakland’s proposal, drafted by council members Rebecca Kaplan and Larry Reid, would still allow small unregulated cultivation in homes but is intended to supplant hundreds of larger operations, establishing the four industrial operations “as the only legal model.”  They argue that medium-size operations, often in gutted homes and illicit warehouses, are a hazard, causing electrical fires and drawing violent crime.

Because we all know huge-scale operations are less risky…

Under Oakland’s proposal, the four operations would pay an annual fee of $211,000, which would support a city staff to ensure they are operated safely and securely. But opponents see it as a steep barrier to entry and have proposed a sliding scale based on size.  “The ordinance basically sets up an oligopoly,” said Gieringer, the longtime head of California NORML, which advocates for legalization. “I don’t think we want just four humongous growers, not just Wal-Marts. We’d like to see lots of microbreweries, rather than Budweisers.”

Exactly, though the alternative doesn’t go far enough.  There should be NO special fee for running a medical marijuana operation, the city is already taxing pot anyway.  Try looking at the rest of the budget for once.

Edit: the plan passed today, including the ridiculous fee.

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About b-psycho

Left-libertarian blogger & occasional musician.
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