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THE LITTLE GUYS The California Growers Association represents mostly small-scale cannabis growers,

farmers who were supposed to be protected by a Proposition 64 acreage cap.

Wait and See CGA may drop its lawsuit over the state’s acreage limit flip-flop BY TOM GOGOLA

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lawsuit filed by the California Growers Association against the California Department of Food and Agriculture could be dropped—but only if the state relents on a late-season switcheroo around small-acre grows as it finalizes statewide cannabis regulations.

At issue, says California Growers Association (CGA) executive director Hezekiah Allen, are emergency regulations put into place late last year as the California legalization experiment was approaching the Jan. 1, 2018, moment of retail liberation of cannabis. Part of Proposition 64 stipulated that small growers would be protected against a predicted

onslaught of Big Pot seeking to gobble up acreage and create mega grow sites—and crush small growers in the process. But in November, much to the surprise of the CGA, which represents small growers throughout the state, the Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) stepped in and opened up a regulatory loophole that would allow grow

sites to eclipse a single acre by allowing larger-scale growers to buy up as many one-acre lots as they could. Part of the driver behind any reluctant embrace of Proposition 64 by organizations such as the CGA—which emerged as a lobbyist for the state’s medical cannabis community in 2015—was premised on the inclusion of a five-year window within which none of the “Walmarts of Weed” could come in and dominate the industry with massive fields of herb. Thanks to pressure from a few dozen larger California grow operations, Allen surmises, the CDFA backed away from the tiny-plot pledge to the so-called cottage scale who comprise the backbone of the California cannabis economy. But the CDFA’s Feb. 23 response to the suit, filed by attorneys for the California Department of Justice and the CDFA, does provide a measure of hope for those growers and the CGA. Allen now says the association may drop the suit if the permanent CDFA regulations now being written adhere to the original legalization blueprint first sketched out by Jerry Brown’s pot point person, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. The CGA lawsuit provides a glimpse into high-stakes cannabis brinksmanship over the path forward for a roughly $1.8 billion state cannabis economy—since the CDFA is now arguing that any negative future outcomes proffered by CGA in its lawsuit are purely speculative, given the absence of those very permanent regulations that CDFA is now writing. In its response, which was filed by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the state argues that contrary to the CGA legal assertions, the CDFA regulations did not “‘eviscerate’ any mandate of Proposition 64.” In its seven-page response, the state goes on to argue that the CGA had made speculative assertions about the CDFA’s

Profile for Metro Publishing

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April 18-24, 2018

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April 18-24, 2018