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California referendum could deal devastating blow to BC's lucrative marijuana export industry

In Vansterdam, pot growers are taking note of California's referendum and speculating on its economic impact on BC's biggest cash crop.

Brain bake

British Columbia’s cannabis activists and law enforcement officials are bracing themselves for a political earthquake that’s set to hit California this fall when voters head to the polls to legalize marijuana. Vancouver-based activists fear BC‘s bud industry could be wiped out if California opens the door on pot decriminalization.


If the referendum passes next November, individual growers will be able to cultivate up to 25 square feet of marijuana while local governments would both regulate and tax the sale of cannabis.


“We’ve got to protect our pre-eminent position by legalizing now,” said Marc Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture and "BC‘s prince of pot."


Speaking from his magazine office on Hastings Street, Emery (pictured below) said BC‘s marijuana industry could only compete with a possible pot haven in California if the province legalizes cannabis within the first two years of any such move south of the border.

If California legalizes, the demands for BC marijuana at $2,400 a pound will greatly diminish, said Emery, who faces a five-year jail term in the U.S. for drug trafficking and distributing cannabis seeds over the Internet. 


According to Emery, the homegrown market will evaporate if Canadian pot users flock to California for cheap, high-quality cannabis that could be available for a little as $10 per ounce, compared to the current rate of C$200 in Vancouver.


Should BC also decriminalize pot, Emery said the provincial economy could benefit from industry innovation focused on developing high-quality cannabis strains.


Hopefully, said Jody Emery (pictured below), Marc’s wife and fellow pot activist, “our politicians here can no longer say that Canada can’t legalize marijuana because the USA won’t let it happen.”

Jodie Emery

Jody Emery, a former organizer with the Marijuana Party and current Green Party candidate running on an anti-prohibition ticket in Fraserview, said legalization would decrease the influence of organized crime and cut into profits gleaned from the illegal market.


The BC marijuana industry is estimated at $5 to $8 billion and, if decriminalized, presents significant taxable revenue. William Austin, a BC Marijuana Party activist who phones MPs as part of the anti-prohibition drive, said the province and law enforcers are failing to see the bigger picture.


“The black market won’t go away but [legalization] will be a significant hit and it will allow the police to actually focus on more dangerous things like people-trafficking or weapons smuggling,” said Austin.


Jody Emery said that she and her husband bought weed from friends and acquaintances who grew marijuana in their homes, and were in the business to express their opposition to prohibition rather than to get rich.


“My role is to protect our industry and advocate for people not going to jail for a plant,”  said Marc Emery.


This is not the view of U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, who alleged in 2005 that Emery engaged in Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana, Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana Seeds and Conspiracy to Engage in Money Laundering.


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