Greed Could Stop Your Right to Grow a Cannabis Plant at home?
Don't Be Greedy! Why Cannabis Companies Should Support Home Cultivation
** Healthy Hemp Outlet Narrative: You can almost compare the Cannabis industry to the Beer Industry - 50 years ago there were 4 beers and 2 kinds of cannabis, now there are 50 craft brews in your home town alone, and when you go do a legal state and a dispensary - you get as many choices. Is the Beer industry worried about you brewing your own beer at home - NO. Why, because IT IS HARD TO DO.
Marijuana is not an easy plant to grow just the same way as not everyone can brew craft beer at home. There are many different factors and when you let a professional do it - the results are usually great.
Yes, It should be natural to have access to the organic seeds for cannabis so you can grow your own at home, the same way you may try to grow your own strawberries. In reality - not everyone can do this for their own use or family use (sustain a growing farm of products), so the fear of American's taking the plant home and not wanting or needing a professional presented products may not be such a big issue...
One of the great things about the cannabis industry is that it has dramatically sped up the process of ending cannabis prohibition and achieving advocacy goals that many of us have worked on for decades, long before there were profits to be made in producing and selling legal cannabis.
The cannabis industry has attracted people with money and political influence that never previously supported reform, and its growth has led to businesses pushing for state-level legalization if for no other reason than it opens new markets for their business. But every now and then, advocacy goals and business interests collide, and it’s in these moments when a company’s moral compass is exposed.
Nowhere is the clash between advocacy and business more evident than the debate over whether consumers should be allowed to cultivate cannabis at home for their own personal use.
This controversy recently erupted in the debate over New York’s efforts to legalize cannabis. New York has a largely dysfunctional medical cannabis industry, typified by a restrictive set of qualifying conditions, challenges finding doctors willing to issue recommendations, and restrictions on what kinds of products can be sold in medical dispensaries. The state has issued licenses to only ten companies, each of whom must be vertically integrated, and can open four retail stores each. In order to comply with the state’s rigorous regulations, these companies have had to spend millions of dollars building out state of the art infrastructure, while the market has largely been slow to develop and companies have struggled to turn a profit.
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With New York on the cusp of legalizing for all adults, these incumbent companies understandably want to ensure an advantage for themselves in the new adult-use market, to help make up for years of losses they have suffered in a restricted medical market. This dynamic has played out in most states that have transitioned from medical to adult use, where existing companies typically push for advantages like a head start in licensing, additional retail stores, or larger cultivation capacity. In New York, the New York Medical Cannabis Industry association (NYMCIA), which represents many of the ten license holders in the state, sent a 29-page memo, obtained through a freedom of information law request by Kyle Jaeger and Tom Angell from Marijuana Moment, to Governor Cuomo’s office offering policy suggestions for what legislation in New York should look like.
Unfortunately, among these recommendations was a plea for the state to ban home cultivation for consumers, prohibiting individuals from growing a small number of cannabis plants in their own home for their own personal use. According to Marijuana Moment, these companies listed the following five reasons for their home cultivation opposition:
- Home grow will make it impossible for the state to eliminate the black market.
- Home grow will make it impossible for law enforcement to distinguish between legal and illegal products, thus frustrating enforcement efforts.
- Home grow will undermine the state’s harm reduction goal of ensuring that cannabis sold in New York State is grown without noxious pesticides or other contaminants.
- Home grow will undermine the state’s public health interest in ensuring that cannabis sold in New York State is tested, packaged, and labeled correctly.
- Home grow will cost the state tax revenue, thus hindering the state’s ability to fund priorities such as drug abuse treatment and community investment.
Interestingly, the companies excluded the one reason these companies really want New York to ban personal cultivation: corporate greed.
The reality is that they, and many in the cannabis industry, believe that if consumers are prohibited from cultivating cannabis at home, they will be forced to buy all their cannabis products from state-licensed operators. This policy position is fueled by a desire to boost their bottom line, while shrouded in disingenuous arguments about public safety.
Understandably, marijuana advocacy organizations were incensed by this play for profits disguised as concern for the public good. Morgan Fox, media director for the National Cannabis Industry Association (of which I sit on the national board of directors), responded that home cultivation “can act as an incubator for people to develop skills which can be used in the legal cannabis industry, which benefits businesses as well as individuals looking to enter the market.”
Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, was more blunt, telling Marijuana Majority: “From our perspective, it’s really hard to see any real reason—other than individual and corporate greed—to be against home cultivation at this point. There’s not a lot of rational concerns when it comes to allowing a limited amount of plants for an individual to grow at home.”
The sad thing is that these companies may be doing more damage to their bottom line by taking this morally indefensible position than they would if home cultivation were simply allowed. Consumers can cultivate their own cannabis in Colorado where the legal market is thriving. There is no evidence that home cultivation harms cannabis business profits, which may explain why they typically stick to arguments about public safety and security, the very same arguments used by prohibitionist organizations like Project SAM. When you are a cannabis company making the same argument as those who wish to keep marijuana illegal and destroy your business, perhaps it’s time to rethink your motives.
This opposition to home cultivation also risks alienating the very consumer base that these companies need to thrive. Most cannabis consumers, whether they cultivate at home or not, do not like being told by companies making millions of dollars growing and selling cannabis that they should face civil or criminal penalties for engaging in the same behavior on a smaller scale. The cannabis industry already faces arguments that the wealthy are profiting from conduct that has criminalized generations of predominantly young people of color. Making a public argument that some should be criminalized for the same conduct that they profit off is a great way to turn off and alienate your most devoted customer base.
The reality is that people who are likely to cultivate at home are some of the best customers of cannabis dispensaries. People have been allowed to brew their own beer at home for decades, yet the beer industry does not try to curtail this through legislation because they realize that home brewers are some of their most devoted customers. Most people choose not to brew their own beer for the same reason most choose not to cultivate their own cannabis. Home brewing and home cultivating are difficult, time consuming, and the product is rarely as good as what they can purchase in a store. By and large, people who cultivate their own cannabis, like home brewers, do so because they are enthusiasts of the product.
Someone who brews an IPA in their basement will enjoy the fruits of their labor, much like someone cultivating blue dream in their closet. But that same home brewer also purchases large amounts of lager, wheat ales, pilsners, and the dozens of other varietals available at their local liquor store. Similarly, the cannabis enthusiast doesn’t only stick with their closet-grown blue dream. They are likely to be among the biggest customers at their local dispensary, where they can find better quality flower, different strains, and the hundreds of other cannabis products like edibles, topicals, and vape pen cartridges.
Virtually no home cultivators will set up a full extraction lab at their house, let alone the equipment they would need to produce their own cartridge line. But when deciding where to purchase their vape pens, an informed consumer may well avoid a dispensary run by a company who has tried to prohibit them from engaging in a hobby like home cultivation that brings joy to their lives.
It is telling that once the policy memo leaked, very few of the companies in the association were willing to defend their position on the record. They fully understand that, while they may have pushed for a policy in private that they feel could boost their bottom line, they didn’t want their position to become public and turn off the consumers that they need to shop for their products to earn those same profits.
As the industry continues to grow and mature, we will be faced with other policy dilemmas where, at first blush, the interests of the consumers and the advocacy community will seemingly collide. In these instances, cannabis businesses should think long and hard about how their policy positions may turn away and alienate the people they rely on to survive as a business. Whenever possible, they should take their cues from the advocates who better understand both the nuances of policy and the consumer base that they serve.