"After decades of thriving in legally hazy backyards and basements, California’s most notorious crop, marijuana, is emerging from the underground into a decidedly capitalist era.
Under a new state law, marijuana businesses will be allowed to turn a profit — which has been forbidden since 1996, when California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis — and limits on the number of plants farmers can grow will be eliminated.
The opening of the marijuana industry here to corporate dollars has caused a mad scramble, with out-of-state investors, cannabis retailers and financially struggling municipalities all racing to grab a piece of what is effectively a new industry in California: legalized, large-scale marijuana farming.
And with voters widely expected to approve recreational marijuana use in November, California, already the world’s largest legal market for marijuana, gleams with the promise of profits far beyond what pot shops and growers have seen in Washington or Colorado, the first states to approve recreational use.
"Amid the frenzy, though, anxiety is growing in some corners of the state that corporate money will squeeze out not only the small-time growers, but also the hippie values that have been an essential part of marijuana’s place in California culture.
"Tommy Chong, of Cheech and Chong fame, has long been synonymous with California’s outlaw stoner culture, growing his own pot and crafting bongs from kombucha bottles at his Los Angeles home. Now he is negotiating with a corporate partner to license his own brand of legal marijuana.
"Twenty-three states* allow some form of legal marijuana, and up to 20 will consider ballot measures this year to further ease restrictions."