Addressing the 500lb gorilla

Those of us in the retail nursery trade in California will have to face the 500lb. gorilla that has been hanging out in the corner of the room for the last last 20 years or so. This November California we will be voting on Proposition 19, The Marijuana Legalization Initiative. If passed it would allow "people 21 years old or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use. Permits local governments to regulate and tax commercial production and sale of marijuana to people 21 years old or older. Prohibits people from possessing marijuana on school grounds, using it in public, smoking it while minors are present, or providing it to anyone under 21 years old. Maintains current prohibitions against driving while impaired.

Not sure if it will pass or not. The last time this was tried was 1972 where is failed 66-33%. Now states and local municipalities are licking their chops for the tax money that will come. One municipality, Rancho Cordovawants to implement a tax. "The city's Personal Cannabis Cultivation Tax measure on the Nov. 2 ballot would impose an annual tax of $600 per square foot on indoor marijuana cultivation of up to and including 25 square feet, and a $900-per-square-foot tax for anything larger. The tax, which makes no distinction between medical and recreational cultivation, would cost a resident $15,000 a year if he or she cultivates pot in a 5-foot-by-5-foot growing space indoors."

If the initiative passes what is a nursery to do? These people will have to buy their supplies somewhere. Right now hydroponic shops get the majority of that business. That's why we have seen the explosion of growth of these places around here. Make no doubt about it; this is the fastest growing segment of horticulture in this state. Most nurseries have eschewed this business. Nursery owners have shied away do to unknown or murky legal issues. Right now the growing of medical marijuana is allowed with the proper permits.

Nurseries are selling equipment and supplies for growing marijuana, whether they know it or not. Just what is grandma doing with that potting soil? Seed trays? Fertilizer and pest controls? No one knows. What happens when the legal issue is mute? What are you going to do when a customer asks you how to optimize their 5X5 plot of herb? Will you jump in and help? Or send them to the hydro shop down the street?

This could be the biggest change in the horticultural businesses in this state in quite a while. It has implications not only for Nurseries and allied businesses in our state, but also in other states who are watching to see how this all plays out. What about garden columnists, and other media personalities? Will you be taking questions and offering advice to these people? There was quite a discussion at Garden Rant concerning the GWA (Garden Writers Association) refusal to consider a book on growing marijuana for their annual book awards. Why? They felt marijuana cultivation "wasn't gardening", despite the huge popularity of the book.

The implications are huge, and i's about time we addressed that gorilla before he is possibly let loose.