The first meeting of the Production Management Working Group was held today. Major points of discussion: plants vs. poundage, license stacking, aggregate limits, additional license tiers.
Plants vs. Poundage. Should Colorado retail marijuana production be limited by the number of plants or total output? Currently, license categories are determined by the number of plants a cultivator is allowed to grow. Because the amount of usable product that can be taken from a single plant varies widely by strain, growing techniques, etc., limiting production based on plant numbers doesn’t seem particularly efficient. However, it’s where we started and what the industry is used to and after so many changes already it’s one more thing to try to switch midstream.
Think of it this way. Let’s say a liquor license allowed you to produce 3500 bottles of liquor at any one time. Your bottle could be any size you want, a gallon jug or a 1-ounce shooter. It doesn’t really matter what kind of liquor you produce or how big your bottle is, as long as you aren’t making more than 3500 bottles. Does that sound like an efficient way to control production?
With medical marijuana, plant numbers are tied to patients. But if they ever break the patient-plant count connection, medical will have to deal with the same production issues as rec. At this time, having two separate systems for measuring production (output for rec, plants for med) would only create unnecessary chaos. Ultimately, total production output would seem to be inevitable, and the MED may want to start carving a path in that direction. Do we really need to do that now?
License stacking. How many licenses is any one owner allowed to have, and should there be a limit? Should that limit apply equally to minority owners and majority owners? Should the number of licenses at a single location be limited?
All together now! The industry was surprised to find out that the MED has been applying an aggregate plant limit to owners. In other words, they’re applying the plant limit to a licensed owner across all the businesses he/she has an ownership in. So someone who owns a license for 3500 plants would limit all the business they own to 3500 plant total. Sounds like a nightmare to try to track.
A new lower tier for licensing? I have to admit that my shock of the day came when Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace suggested adding a lower tier for a “craft license” maybe something up to 500 plants and fewer restrictions. I certainly didn’t expect to agree with him on anything marijuana, but there it was. We’ve been advocating for a small grower’s license for a couple of years now. I remember sitting down and talking with a group of growers about it back in 2013. Fewer restrictions and requirements. Lower barriers to entry. I’ve said it over and over again: There are two ways to deal with the black market: criminalize and put people in jail, which hasn’t worked, or give them a path to legitimacy, if they choose it. You have to give people a way into the legal system, especially now that you expect caregivers to get a license if they have more than 99 plants. It’s a pretty big leap from 100 to 3500 plants.
There was a collective gasp when one of the members suggested that the MED track all the marijuana produced in Colorado, including private home growing. And what then? Throw people in jail for not complying? Haven’t we just gone through decades of that? Aren’t we trying to come out of prohibition, not go back in? This smacks of protectionism. He needs to realize that this industry is built on the backs of patients, caregivers and private home growers. I would venture to say that Amendment 64 that legalized recreational use of marijuana in Colorado and the industry that goes along with it would not have passed if it didn’t allow for home cultivation. It is the constitutional right of everyone 21 and older to cultivate up to 6 plants. Stop whining and get over it. You don’t see Safeway complaining about people growing tomatoes in their garden, then trying to change the rules to get their way.
I doubt the MED was too fond of that idea either. They’ve got their hands full already without having to monitor every pot plant in the state.