In the wake of the passage of Prop 64 last week, Vice News has done a piece titled "A Tale of Two Growers," contrasting the fates of Steve DeAngelo, the hugely successful founder of Oakland-based medical marijuana operation Harborside Health Center, and an anonymous black market grower with an illegal operation in the woods in the Sierra foothills, who appears on camera disguised.
Because Prop 64 prohibits the granting of recreational growing or sale licenses to people with marijuana-related felony convictions in other states, the grower who goes by the name Trip says he doesn't think he'll ever be able to go legal in California. And while the fates of medical growers statewide look to be only improving as they seize opportunities to shift into the enormous recreational market, Trip has seen two of his three marijuana grows raided and shut down this year, and is watching his profits dwindling.
DeAngelo, however, says that Prop 64 is "the culmination of my life's work." Harborside, with its three existing medical dispensaries and 200 employees, is looking at revenues perhaps in the hundreds of millions in the coming years. At last count, Harborside made $39 million, and DeAngelo says, "When we next sit down maybe we'll have 500 employees with well paying jobs and great benefits."
It's estimated that the recreational marijuana market in California is worth $7 billion.
Trip foresees "Big Cannabis," i.e. corporate interests from Big Agriculture and Big Tobacco, coming in to eventually monopolize this market which could potentially be a detriment to established businesses like Harborside.
But marijuana remains illegal at the federal level and even medical sellers aren't totally in the clear as a result. Only six months ago Harborside still had a federal lawsuit hanging over it, and DeAngelo is still doing battle with the IRS over his ostensibly legal business.
Although, maybe after everything we've learned about eating locally when it comes to produce, people will still tend to go for local weed and patronize their local growers here in California over companies owned by Big Tobacco. Time will tell.
The Vice segment is airing on their HBO show Vice New Tonight, tonight.