California’s new recreational marijuana industry still faces major hurdles. To help address them, the first Monterey Cannabis Summit took place this week.
The Monterey County Cannabis Industry Association hosted the premier Monterey Cannabis Summit at the Portola Hotel and Spa on December 13 and 14. Everyone from marijuana cultivators to attorneys to industry experts like Andrew DeAngelo filled the lobby.
DeAngelo starred in the Discovery Channel’s 2011 docuseries “Weed Wars” and was a keynote speaker for the Summit. He’s also Co-Founder and Director of Operations of Harborside Health Center in northern California, the nation’s largest dispensary.
DeAngelo says despite the legalization of California’s marijuana industry, illegal grows are still a big problem.
“So the black market has advantages that we don't have in the legal market because they don't have taxation, they don't have regulation. They don't have all this packaging, all this lab testing, all these things you have to do that drive up the cost,” said DeAngelo.
DeAngelo says one way to reduce the number of illegal grows is to make it more affordable for farmers to operate legally, like lowering taxes.
That’s something Monterey County Supervisors did this May. They lowered the tax rate for cultivation in greenhouses from $15 per square foot of the foliage area to $5 per square foot. Still, DeAngelo thinks the county’s cannabis business taxes are too high.
“I do commend the folks for lowering them. I think we've got to look at it again,” DeAngelo said.
Former Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin moderated a panel at the Summit called “Effective Partnerships to Counter the Black Market.”
McMillin now works in the legal cannabis industry. He’s Chief Compliance Officer for Indus Holding Company. Indus Holding is a vertically-integrated cannabis cultivator, manufacturer and distributor.
McMillin says better enforcement will also help counter the black market.
“To go out and bring the people who want to participate in the legitimate market into the fold and the people who just want to stay in the black market, to get them out. Whether that's an arrest or seizing of their equipment, or whatever that is,” McMillin said.
The enforcement model McMillin sees working best is having the state of California help fund local taskforces.
“These black market issues are very local. In unincorporated Monterey County, it might be illegal cultivation. In the city of, name your jurisdiction, it could be the illegal dispensaries. And so it’s really best-tailored for local folks to deal with their own local problems. But they can’t do it without the funding and support.
Last month, the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office assigned two deputies to work full-time on investigating illegal marijuana operations. The deputies will partner with two investigators from the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office.