Surplus Sorrows

Federal law keeps California from spreading its seed (legally)

We all know Humboldt County has been the weed capitol of the U.S. since before Mary Jane was a household name. (As an Oregonian I'll profess better bud is grown north of the border until I die, but I'll acknowledge the consensus held by '90s rappers.)

But now that cannabis is making its way into a legitimate market, federal law is holding California back from its blossoming potential.

The state is poised to legalize recreational marijuana on Jan. 1. Unlike Nevada, which faced a shortage within days of legalization, experts say California is growing eight times more weed than it can distribute, leading to an issue in surplus.

Where does all that extra pot go? Where its been going for the past 60 years: the black market. Despite the movement to legitimize the marijuana market, federal law restricts that market to individual states, isolating markets and interfering with effective market structure.

Interstate commerce falls under the purview of the federal government, and it's one of the biggest economic impacts on the marijuana industry admonished by pot proponents.

As it stands, marijuana cannot be transported across state lines, even between two states that have legalized it recreationally or medically, even if the person transporting it has medical needs and documentation to possess it.

This is the basis upon which two children joined the lawsuit against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency to remove marijuana from Schedule I classification. (See last week's column for more on that.)

Interstate trade would result not only in decreased costs of enforcing the law, but cheaper cannabis across the nation, especially with a power (green)house like California producing the vast majority of marijuana.

Without it, California growers will either have to scale back production or continue supplying the black market. Additionally, all that bud going into the black market will only keep prices low throughout less-legal means of acquiring weed. That means even those considering going through legitimate channels may simply choose to continue buying illegally.

It's another example of how federal government half-assing policy leads to spending more money on something that has the potential to provide economic stimulus to the benefit of the nation.

One of the major goals of the legitimate market is to disrupt cartels and the negative side effects of illegal activity across the border. Just a few years ago, the Counter Narcotics Alliance of Southern Arizona had their hands full investigating murders in connection to the transportation of mass shipments of marijuana across the border.

If anything has the ability to disrupt the cartels' grip on the marijuana black market, it's a huge source of legitimate marijuana like California has the potential to produce.

The Senate recently agreed to continue to protect medical marijuana markets against Sessions' wishes. But maintaining the status quo isn't enough to improve the conditions surrounding marijuana.

Descheduling marijuana wouldn't be a free-for-all. It'd be an improvement in line with the efforts of thousands of Americans in the industry to make marijuana safer and more profitable for the entire nation.

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