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Emerald Triangle Growers on Edge

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In November, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada doubled the number of states that have legalized marijuana for adult recreational use. That was the good news. The bad news was the election of Donald Trump as president.

Trump’s appointment of Jeff Sessions, who’s made a number of inflammatory statements about pot, as Attorney General has cast a pall over the marijuana world, signaling that the federal government will pursue a much more prohibitionist drug policy.

In Northern California’s famous cannabis-growing region, the Emerald Triangle, where state regulators have been aggressively registering growers and issuing permits under the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act of 2015, cultivators are concerned.

“I was all for getting my permit, and now that I’ve got it, I’m wondering if it was such a good idea after all,” says a Trinity County grower who prefers to remain anonymous.

The permits require growers to give the exact GPS locations of all the crops, processing and storage areas, and provide detailed records of whom the cannabis is sold to. Additionally, trimmers need to provide W-9 forms in order to work. Many, known as “trimmigrants,” are not U.S. citizens.

So far, Trinity County, with only 14,000 residents, has issued more permits per capita than the Emerald Triangle’s more populous counties, Humboldt and Mendocino. One of the scariest parts of California’s permitting process is the involvement of the state Water Sources Control Board and the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Under the new enforcement guidelines, if a property is not in compliance with regulations, either Fish and Wildlife or the Water Board can issue civil violations that have accompanying fines, and the land can be seized if those fines aren’t paid. The fines can cost as much as $1,000 per day, making seizure a serious possibility. The sad irony is that the fees from the permit applications are funding that enforcement.

Six months ago, it seemed that everything was coming up sinsemilla flowers. While investment dollars pour into the legal cannabis market and growers continue to cultivate ever-larger amounts of high-grade Cali green, many are anxious.

The federal government has never been a friend to the cannabis industry, and with prohibitionists like Jeff Sessions in charge, hard times may lie ahead.

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