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Why pot growers turned against Prop. 19

Cannabis Culture/FlickrEvery major pot-growing county voted against legalizing pot.

If someone wanted to sabotage Proposition 19 among pot growers, the wild rumor that spread around Mendocino County was perfectly crafted.

"My favorite piece of propaganda floating around these parts for the last few months," one Mendocino County resident told blogger Andrew Sullivan, "was that Phillip Morris was buying up giant tracts of land in Mendocino County in advance of Prop. 19 passing. The company would then, the theory goes, put every grower out of business. I found it amazing how many people fell for that stinker."

Now that California voters have rejected the initiative, which would have legalized and regulated marijuana for personal use, many supporters of Prop. 19 are blaming pot growers for helping kill the measure. Some wonder how these counties could have voted against their own self interest, turning away from potentially huge profits by creating a "Napa County of marijuana."

Indeed, the biggest marijuana-producing counties, Humboldt and Mendocino, voted with the rest of the state – roughly 47 percent in support and about 53 percent opposed. Pot-rich Trinity County voted against the measure by an even larger margin, about 40 percent to 60 percent. Only 11 counties – including San Francisco and Alameda – voted to approve the initiative.

Prop. 19 undoubtedly failed because some of the state's largest counties voted against it, not sparsely populated areas in Northern California. But that's not stopping supporters of the initiative from lashing out at pot producers in the so-called Golden Triangle. Here's one comment that has been getting attention:

Lets grab machetes and head up to Humboldt… Humboldt, your little community just pissed off a ton of people who are sick of paying your inflated crop prices!

Another wrote on the same blog, redheaded blackbelt:

It seems to me the 'growers' in Humboldt that I know all think that because they grow they are special and should be treated as royalty where ever they go. They expect everyone to cow down to them and just give them what ever they want. They think they are above the law and that the laws that the rest of us live by do not pertain to them. This is why I have a bad attitude tword them. They use the welfare system like a government subsidy for food and health care and don’t pay a dime into that system that they are sucking dry.

Bret Bogue, owner of Apothecary Genetics, a marijuana breeding and seed company, told Huffington Post blogger Steve Bloom that passage of Prop. 19 would have destroyed the economy of the area, and he blamed initiative supporters for failing to consult growers in Northern California.

"They needed to include the backbone," Bogue told Bloom, publisher of Celebstoner.com. "They voted 'no' because they didn't take the people into consideration. It starts from the ground up. You have to be able to walk in their shoes."

The arguments against Prop. 19 centered in part around the layers of regulatory oversight imposed by the initiative. Some worried about a provision restricting growing to a 25-square-foot plot of land, even though the initiative allowed for larger cultivation amounts approved by local authorities. The exact taxes and fees were uncertain and woukd have varied county by county.

"They're country people," Bogue told Bloom about growers. "They don't know how to pay taxes."

Many felt that asking pot growers to vote for Prop. 19 was like asking bootleggers to overturn Prohibition: Why would they give up such enormous, tax-free profits? But others might easily point out that any smart marijuana bootlegger was in a good position to start the next Budweiser of pot.

That Andrew Sullivan reader believed it was possible, writing that "if it were legalized, we would be rolling it greenbacks. We would happily accept our fate as the Napa Valley of Marijuana. But as long as it’s illegal, this will continue to be the Wild West." He said about the economic fallout from illegal pot busts:

Ask a county sheriff to drive you down a main street in one of our towns and he or she will point out all the 'retailers' who launder their pot money through their sham businesses. He’ll show you them right after he tells you how he had to lay off officers due to the dwindling cash problem up here. ... The irony that our county, of all counties, voted this measure down is just too rich.



Comments are closed for this story.
Malia's picture
Unfortunately, people who voted against Prop 19 have NO idea what a HUGE percentage of incarcerated individuals are incarcerated due to marijuana-related law violations, & how destructive incarceration is for their lives & the lives of their friends & family. People who have been incarcerated face huge challenges trying to re-enter life outside prison, find work, re-establish relationships. Incarceration is incredibly disruptive & traumatic to individuals who have experienced it. Legalizing marijuana would make a significant impact in reducing the number of people incarcerated & reducing the humongous amount of money directed towards the California prison system, which has one of the HIGHEST per capita rates of incarcerated individuals in the world.
Munchy's picture
Sorry Malia, but you're wrong about that. Some of us voted against it because we read the prop and studied it very carefully, and it was full of serious problems. I wish your opinion was true, but the facts are that prop 19 would have only allowed possession of up to one ounce, which has already been reclassified as a mere infraction in California, and no one goes to jail for anyway... you just get a $100 ticket. Prop 19 would not have gotten anyone released from prison, nor prevented anyone from being incarcerated. In fact it would have added more reasons to incarcerate cannabis users, as all private sales would have remained illegal, even for medical users now too, and requiring everyone to either buy it from a licensed club or grow their own. Also that any adult 21 or over who so much as passes a joint to another adult aged 18-20 would face six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, as opposed to the current penalty for a gift of marijuana of 1 oz. or less, which is only a $100 fine. Also under the initiative, even adults consuming marijuana in the privacy of their homes could face arrest if there are minors present (not something one would expect from an initiative that claims to treat marijuana like alcohol and tobacco). Current marijuana law contains no such restrictions. Thanks to Prop. 215, which legalized marijuana for medicinal use, cannabis consumers have been legally free to smoke in the privacy of their homes since 1997. This initiative seeks to undermine that freedom, making it absolutely illegal to smoke marijuana if there are minors present. (The initiative is ambiguous with regard to whether “present” means being in the same room as the consumer, the same house, the same apartment building, or within wafting distance—apparently leaving this up to the interpretation of judges.) There is no exception for medical marijuana patients or for parents consuming in the presence of their own children. And that was only one of about a dozen big problems with Proposition 19. I would have gladly voted for it, if it had the potential to accomplish what you hoped. But instead it was written in a manner that only insulted our intelligence, and apparently relied on the stereotype that we are all too stoned to read the text of the proposition, and comprehend what it really meant. Maybe in two years they'll try again, and offer a better initiative that's actually designed to legalize cannabis, not just to tax and regulate it.

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