The plot thickens! The last time we checked in with our cast of characters across the state – the BCC, the Legislature, the cities and counties, the coming-into-compliance cannabis business sector, and the black market – it looked like a scene from “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”
As the audience awaited breathlessly for the impending January 1, 2018 deadline to hit like a tsunami with an understaffed and unprepared agency, a moment we knew would be like a “shot heard ‘round the world” with utter consequence, the BCC pivoted, and rolled out from under the train with seconds to spare. “Aha” could be heard from their magical regulatory workshop, “ We have a solution.” The beleaguered but spunky Can-Do girl, Lori AJax and her team announced their Ocean’s 11 workaround to their delayed (understandably so to some extent) bureaucratic roll-out. It was the Holy Grail, that Sword in the Stone - THE TEMPORARY STATE LICENSE (ta-da!). Sure, It wasn't the perfect start to the race, but rubber-stamping locally approved businesses - that took some courage and flexibility, hallmarks of a great hero.
The Bureau was off and running and high-flying, and buying some time, at least for a few months! A valiant shift. And, it was the right thing to do. Kudos for that one. Let’s see whether they can wiggle out of the next calamity!
[BTW, We’ll see more of the Bureau in an upcoming scene entitled,” The Jolly Green Giant Meets Weedzilla”.]
Meanwhile, the stars of our movie, (“C’mon guys, we’re rooting for you! )– the Coming-into-Compliance sector - were and are draining their bank accounts and making Las Vegas style marriages with capital investors (with predictable consequences to THOSE marriages). That’s all led to a spin-off series, “Canna Guy Get a Break?” and its sequel, “The Incredible, Shrinking Down-payment”, inspired by Wimpy’s famous “I will gladly give you a dollar tomorrow for a hamburger today”.
Our Black Marketeers meanwhile watch the action, hidden from view, from the hilltops, reading the future and dreading it, like how we imagine many Native Americans must have felt seeing Europeans as their ships arrived on the shores of the continent. Some have quit in disgust, but others have taken up the challenge to see how long and how far they can take their beloved black market. But they have a new enemy now, their former brothers and sisters, the Coming Into Compliance sector. This is going to get bloody as the BCC - having won over a handful of converts - will try to make further inroads into these Black Marketeers. The BCC’s weapons look nasty including a secret hotline to turn in non-compliant businesses! Meanwhile, will the converts be seen as traitors to a cause or trailblazers to a better future? Time will tell and more light will be shed in the sequel to this installment, “Back To The Future - the Weed Wars”.
BUT WAIT! WHO IS THIS? Who do we see coming over the hill like the cavalry? THE POLITICIANS!!! YES! We are saved!!!!! But wait, that assumes that our Legislature bases its decisions on rationally and scientifically-based, agreed-upon policies with facilitated and productive dialogue among all stakeholders leading to the best agreed upon decision!!!! We wish them Godspeed and hope that they start to hire professional facilitators, listen to objective policy professionals, and look at the experiences of other states.
But even if they don’t want to legislate scientifically and with common sense, that’s okay. It’s okay if they don’t want to make a strong effort to fix the massive mistakes made in the enabling legislation (AUMA and its combined regulatory scheme, MAUCRSA). That’s because our Black Marketeers, watching from the hillside, are banking on the Legislature not being up to the job of fixing the mess! They are already supplying most of the State’s consumers with cannabis and are more than ready to take back the less than 1% of the market they’ve lost with partial legalization! And from the way cannabis enforcement has looked from the past 4 decades, no one is expecting a miracle or any quick, effective way to eliminate the Black Market.
CAN WE POSSIBLY POLICY, POLICY, POLICY! (TORA! TORA! TORA!)
Take taxes. The recent proposal by Assemblyman Lackey - eliminate the cultivator tax temporarily and reduce the (retail) excise tax from 15% to 11% - won’t bring back the consumers to the licensed dispensaries/retailers (slightly less than 400 retailers in total compared to over 40,000 retail outlets to purchase liquor in CA). Even at 11%, consumers are still paying over 18% in taxes (that’s combined with the sales tax). That, along with the thriving Black Market - with a remarkable flexibility and ability to undercut the compliant market, and the right to home grow, makes writing this ending to screenplay fairly easy.
It will take decades to calm this marketplace under the current tax and compliance policies and requirements. That’s not a difficult prediction.
And finally, we get to the real villains - the cities and counties - and ultimately, the last standing voices of Prohibition. No legal retail marketplace with the demand curve that cannabis has can survive in a state of 39 million people with only 400 retail outlets. Sorry guys. Those Black Marketeers will be swarming all over your cities and counties, putting many of the very few compliant businesses out of business. Better help fix the Statewide legislation!
So, will there be a train wreck, or will the Government figure out how to avoid being the roadrunner (BEEP BEEP!!) STAY TUNED! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jd_41tM6H2Y