It’s an almost constant battle in the cannabis community: the back-and-forth between hating corporate interests we fear will ruin the industry and needing corporate money to change laws we can’t change on our own.
It’s an issue I talk about frequently on Cannabis News. A lot of people fear the specter of “Big Marijuana”, but I’m not one of them. If you think about it, most of the commodities and services we enjoy on a daily basis come from big corporations, and not because they have “run the little guy out of the market”. Many of us could pay more and shop at a smaller store or website, or eat a meal at a local restaurant. So why do so many choose instead big chain stores, Amazon, and fast food giants?
Several reasons, chief among them being cost and convenience. Big companies can generally sell better quality products at lower prices than their smaller competitors. Yet, we still see corner stores and local diners. That’s because you don’t need to dominate an industry or even come close to the top to have a successful business. If a market is big enough, there is plenty of room for many companies.
The key is consumer choice. If a big corporation isn’t able to use fees, regulations and other restrictions to keep smaller competitors out of the market, then choice for consumers is the result. The newly legal cannabis industry is a great example.
There are going to be big corporations that will take a majority of market share between them due to their ability to sell better cannabis products at lower prices. Think Wal-Mart and Target and Amazon. But if licensing fees and regulations (aka barriers to entry) are low enough, many companies can get into the industry and survive. Think regional retailers, discount outlets, niche websites, Ebay sellers and mom-and-pop corner stores.
This can be the cannabis industry, as long as massive fees and exorbitant start-up costs don’t drive away smaller entities. And when it comes to cannabis, there is another aspect to consider that retail companies in other industries don’t have to worry about: home growing.
This is at the center of the controversy brewing in Florida over multiple attempts to bring adult-use legalization to the ballot in 2020. It seems the measure with the best chance to reach the ballot and pass at this point is backed heavily by dispensary giants Surterra Wellness and MedMen (yes, the same “MedMen” slammed in the Season 23 premiere of South Park).
Another thing that separates the Surterra/MedMen measure (Make It Legal Florida) from the others is the lack of home growing. “We looked at home grow, and I think it’s something probably for the next chapter of the movement [in] Florida, but at this point, I don’t think it’s something we can get across the finish line at 60-plus [percent],” said MedMen’s director of government affairs, Nick Hansen.
While it’s true that home growing is something that law enforcement and more conservative voters tend to shy away from, very few people believe these companies are doing anything other than protecting future market share.
And as I said before, the most important thing is consumer choice. It creates industry growth and innovation. And in the end, the people who buy and consume cannabis make the legal industry possible. If they keep buying on the black market, the industry is dead in the water. I’m all for business opportunities for marginalized groups, but only because it leads to more choices for consumers. I don’t care who sells it, as long as they have to compete against others in a free and open market to do so.
So where does this leave home growing? As I’ve said many times before, it is an integral part of any decent legalization, for many reasons. But the main reason is that it gives cannabis users the maximum amount of choice. Can’t get to a store? Too sick? Store is too far? Car broke down? Don’t want to give our money to the Marlboro of Marijuana? Don’t like the cannabis at the closest retail shop or dispensary?
You have to be able to grow your own. You are not hurting anyone or infringing on anyone’s rights to do so. You are not a criminal. You are an adult human being who can make their own decisions about their own life.
Without home growing, there is no legalization.