How would legalization affect Sonoma County dispensaries?

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As Prop. 64 gets closer to the Nov. 8 vote, we asked dispensary owners in Sonoma County for some quick thoughts on how legalization of recreational marijuana, along with the many new regulations, would change their business.

For the most part, the dispensary owners we talked were most concerned about how Prop. 64 would affect local growers, especially smaller grows that wouldn’t be able to compete with larger, better-funded operations. Most agreed that Sonoma County, however, would play an important role in the emerging legalized marijuana market.

Specifics on the exact changes Prop. 64’s passage might bring to  their dispensaries were hard to come by, because so much is still unknown — from how existing medical dispensaries would have to comply to sell recreational (most likely as a separate business venture and separate permitting), to how their relationships with growers would change, new packaging laws (child-proofing and extensive warning labels on all products) and marketing and branding laws.

Local dispensaries would have to comply with city, county and state regulations if Prop. 64 is approved. Though Santa Rosa and Sonoma County have drafted some recommendations for zoning and permits, much is still unknown at the local level.



Photo courtesy Mercy Wellness of Cotati.

Photo courtesy Mercy Wellness of Cotati.

Mercy Wellness of Cotati
We don’t exactly know because there aren’t any guidelines or any real method for the how and when. If there is, it’s not finalized. Even with MCRSA (the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act passed last year providing the framework for Prop. 64) they’re still actively putting together the guidelines for cultivation and manufacturing, so it’s still all really new. I don’t know, to tell you the truth. They haven’t come up with a method for distribution yet.

I’m not sure if it’s gonna be good for the industry or bad. Everything new is a scary to people, but we’ll either have to adapt or maintain what we’re doing.

Obviously, our concern is that Prop. 64 is going to do away with some of the smaller growers in the future, especially with the unregulated size of grows. The smaller growers have been the backbone of our community here. Marijuana has brought people together, and a common ground for a lot of people, and we see a lot of value in that. And we’re not sure how it will affect those people. We try to protect smaller growers because I was one of them. I want to make sure those people are still eating and doing what they love to do. They’re passionate about what they do, and I am too. If there’s a way we can protect our small farmers, if it does pass, we have to figure out how we keep them in business.”

organicann-menu-logo-300x230The Natural Cannabis Company (Organicann)
“While sharing some industry concerns with the new laws, Natural Cannabis Company also sees Prop 64 as an exciting opportunity. One concern people have is, will this lead to the proliferation of subpar, corporate cannabis? Our community has a deep, more meaningful connection to this plant than just thinking of it as a cash crop. We recently announced our Best of Harvest box that showcases the small farms who grow cannabis with love and respect and I believe it shows in the superior quality of their product.”

PD File photo at Peace in Medicine

PD File photo at Peace in Medicine

Peace in Medicine
Ashley Nelson, media representative

“As with many new laws, the full impacts of Proposition 64 will not be clear for years to come. Governor Brown signed the MCRSA more than a year ago, and state and local governments are still working on the finer points of the new regulatory structure.

A valid concern voiced by many in our community is the fate of the small farmer, should Proposition 64 become law. We share this concern, as these small farmers support not only our dispensaries, but our local economy. We hope that any regulations encourage small farmers to come into compliance and seek licensure, instead of staying in—or going back to—the black market.

No matter the result of the election, we are confident that Sonoma County will continue to play an important role in this industry, as it has for decades. If Proposition 64 succeeds, we hope that Sebastopol and Santa Rosa, where we operate fully permitted medical cannabis dispensaries, will also permit us to serve the non-medical market. We believe that our impeccable track record, our strong inventory controls, and our exceptional team make us an ideal candidate for non-medical cannabis sales.”

Redwood Herbal Alliance

“We just don’t know, but we hope it will bring more people out of the shadows. We’re excited to see what will happen. We see that now people worried about cannabis use and their careers will finally have an alternative.”

Sonoma Patient Group
“Recreational is just a completely different dynamic,” said Sugg. As the oldest continuously operating dispensary in Sonoma County, the collective allows him to know his patients as members, rather than simply checking an ID to make sure someone is old enough to use recreational if Prop. 64 passes, Sugg said. “I just hope they won’t put a large excise tax on medical,” he said.