A California legislative committee this week gave its approval to a bill that would permit small cannabis growers the ability to sell their harvest directly to consumers at farmers markets. The measure, Assembly Bill 2691, was approved on Tuesday by the Assembly Business and Professions Committee by a vote of 10-1.
The bill was introduced in February by Democratic Assemblymember Jim Wood, who represents a large swath of California’s famed Emerald Triangle cannabis growing region. Under the measure, the state’s Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) would be authorized to issue temporary event retail licenses to licensed cannabis growers with no more than one acre of land under cultivation.
The special event retail licenses would only be valid at events including cannabis farmers markets operating in compliance with existing law. Under current regulations, growers can participate in cannabis special events but are not permitted to sell directly to consumers, who must instead make purchases from licensed dispensaries. In a statement about the legislation to local media, Wood said that the bill would give small growers a new revenue stream many desperately need.
“It is no secret that cannabis businesses throughout the state are struggling, whether it’s taxes, compliance costs, competing with the illicit market or other challenges, but the focus of AB 2691 is to help legal cannabis farmers who grow less than one acre of cannabis get consumer recognition for their unique products, much as has been done for craft beer, artisanal wine and other family farm agricultural products,” Wood said.
“Giving these smaller farmers opportunities at locally approved events to expose the public to their products increases consumer choice and offers farmers a better chance to reach retail shelves which is their ultimate goal,” he continued. “This is not about circumventing retailers, but growing the industry overall.”
Small Growers Only
To qualify for a special event retail license, a cultivator must be licensed to grow cannabis by the DCC and local authorities. The cultivator also may not have more than one acre of cannabis under cultivation, a cap that includes all licenses held by the grower. Licenses are issued for specific special events only, with a limit of 12 licenses issued per grower each year.
AB 2691 is supported by craft growers groups including the Origins Council, which represents about 900 growers in California’s historic cannabis cultivation areas. Genine Coleman, executive director of the advocacy group, said that the legislation would benefit most of the Origins Council’s members.
“The vast majority of them are producing half an acre or less of cannabis, so this is definitely a huge potential opportunity for our membership,” Coleman said. “For small-scale producers to have direct marketing and sales opportunities with consumers is really critical.”
Drew Barber, owner-operator of East Mill Creek Farms and co-founder of Uplift Co-op, said that the legislation would give cannabis growers a chance to share their stories with consumers, who in turn would be given an opportunity to establish a connection with their favorite brands.
“This bill could patch up a really needed missing piece to the puzzle for us as cultivators of high-end cannabis,” Barber told the Lost Coast Outpost. “The ability to connect with our consumers in this day and age seems like one of the major assets that could and should come along with regulation, right? The consumer should know who is growing their weed. We feel like our stories say a lot about both the quality of the product as well as the types of farming that we do.”
Ross Gordon, policy director at the Humboldt County Growers Alliance (HCGA) and policy chair at the Origins Council, said that AB 2691 would help the cannabis industry receive the recognition as a legitimate agricultural enterprise it deserves.
“For us, this bill is a major step forward in recognizing that cannabis farmers are farmers, and we need access to the same types of sales opportunities that allow other small farmers to sustain a livelihood,” he said. “Every step towards normalization, whether it’s the conversation around cultivation taxes or farmer’s markets, brings us closer to a point where cannabis is treated at parity with other agriculture.”