My Word: "Cannabis Conversations Welcome" by Scott Davies
As someone who has been involved with the cannabis industry in Humboldt County for 30 years, I’m writing to weigh in on the outrage and fear being expressed by a segment of the cultivation community over the industry’s newly regulated marketplace and the burdens associated with it, like taxes.
Changes are often difficult, and I speak from personal experience when I say that for cultivators the changes we are currently facing are monumental, and the associated regulatory compliance is not only extremely challenging but often involves a shifting goal line.
That said, it is disingenuous to suggest that any of this is a surprise, or that the county didn’t communicate the compliance requirements well in advance. Challenges not withstanding, many of us have found our supervisors, planning director, agricultural commissioner, and sheriff to be enthusiastic partners in forging a regulated and functioning cannabis industry. For me personally, the single most rewarding aspect of the industry’s transition has been the ability to forge productive working relationships with these same county employees, and to see them responding to the ideas and concerns of our industry. Additionally, it has been gratifying to feel more connected to those segments of our Humboldt community that are not directly involved in cannabis. The lack of a regulatory framework in the past has had the effect of isolating us from each other. Conversations are now taking place that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. I find this open discourse to be most helpful and gratifying.
What is not helpful is when cultivators fail to recognize how tone deaf their economic concerns are in relation to the rest of our community. If cultivators expect the support of the community at large, then surely that must include a basic understanding of what life is like in the “real world.” Does anyone who announces that they’ve been growing for 40 years without regulations or taxes, or who presents as evidence of hardship the fact that they may need to sell one of their multiple properties really expect sympathy from the wider community?
The irony is that instead of affecting the changes they profess to desire, these protests undermine ongoing efforts to reform the tax code by painting the cultivation community at large as wholly out of touch, and thereby eroding the support of the wider community. As cultivators, we can ask that the regulatory framework function fairly and effectively and work to bring forward proactive proposals. We cannot collectively stamp our feet and whinge about having to face the same hurdles that the rest of our community always has.
Conversely, the community at large should be cautious about celebrating the demise of (some segments) of the cannabis industry. It has been convenient to have blinders on regarding the extent to which non-cannabis businesses have been supported by the cannabis industry. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the process of discovering its true extent may be economically painful.
Some cultivators will, for a variety of reasons, not move forward in the new cannabis marketplace. Many businesses across the county will suffer as a result. However, I see these short-term challenges as an inherent part of the process of re-fashioning our Humboldt community into one which is more sustainable, and in which we can be more united as a community. To that end I hope we can all bring empathy and intelligence to the table as a new paradigm begins to emerge.
Scott Davies is a Humboldt County Grower’s Alliance board member, a co-founder of Humboldt Legends, and owner of Winterbourne Farms.