‘I’m not normally outspoken about politics,” says Tai Olesky, 41, a California Growers Alliance board member. “But now’s not the time to bury your head in the sand. The people who have been in this culture for decades need a break before the whole industry is controlled by the Walmarts and the Amazons of the world.
“When Proposition 64 passed,” he continues, “there was to be a limit on big, commercial grows. [But] the regulations released last November didn’t include a cap. Nor were caps in place when recreational sales began the first of this year.”
Olesky, a Humboldt County native who grew up in Sonoma County, thinks that the fallout will be disastrous, not only for small and medium-sized growers but for the whole region. “If the state doesn’t create limits on big operations, the impacts will be catastrophic,” he says. “The whole North Coast economy will suffer and a whole culture will be destroyed.
“What are people going to do?” he asks. “Go back to logging and fishing? Marijuana is all that’s left.”
Almost everywhere he looks, he sees tragedy. “In Oregon, the state cares about taxes, not about the growers who are going bankrupt,” he says. “In the city of Santa Rosa, it’s a money grab, with exorbitant fees and taxes.”
As a citizen who leans toward the libertarian viewpoint, Olesky doesn’t think taxes and fees are the answer to the cannabis conundrum, though he doesn’t have a game plan. “The whole cannabis issue will end up in the courts,” he said. “Meanwhile, there’s a race to bottom. People
in the industry are eating each other up.”
After a lifetime in and around cannabis in Northern California, Olesky says almost everyone he knows is involved in the marijuana business on some level. For years, he owned and operated Mosaic, an upscale restaurant in Forestville. But when the economy crashed in 2008, he lost 50 percent of his business and had to close. Now he runs Biologic Crop Solutions, where he makes and sells soil for marijuana growers, farmers and winegrowers.
“I don’t think I’ll suffer economically if and when the small growers go under,” he says. “The big growers want organic soil for their plants. I think I’m in good shape.”
But small-scale growers will not fare so well, he says.
“Not to have protections for small growers is a real travesty of what voters wanted when they approved Proposition 64.”
Jonah Raskin is a frequent contributor to the ‘Bohemian’ and the author of ‘Marijuanaland: Dispatches from an American War.’