California’s experiment in marijuana legalization is spurring some radical thinking on the political left. Lo, high taxes and over-regulation are bad for the economy—or at least the pot economy.
Golden State voters in 2016 legalized recreational marijuana on the promise that this would reduce the black market. While marijuana remains a banned substance under federal law, nine states including Washington, Nevada, Oregon and Colorado have legalized consumption and production within their borders. Many are still struggling to draw cannabis businesses out of the shadows, none as much as California. Less than 1% of the state’s 68,150 marijuana cultivators had obtained licenses as of last month, according to a recent report by the California Growers Association. The problem turns out to be the heavy hand of the state.
“The incredible volume of regulation is part of the issue,” the report notes, adding that “consultants and attorneys are often a major cost for small businesses.” Pot growers also complain that the “division of responsibility” among an alphabet soup of regulators—CDFA, BCC, MCSB, Water Board, CDFW, CDTFA, OSHA—can cause confusion, and that “delayed permitting can have make-or-break impacts for businesses.”