Virgil Grant, a longtime cannabis-industry player and co-founder of the Southern California Coalition (SCC), gets right to the point when I ask him about Proposition M.
“This is the most progressive and influential ordinance that I’ve ever been involved with in the history of this industry,” he says.
With Los Angeles residents set to vote March 7, Prop. M reflects the efforts of the SCC to finally bring comprehensive, sensible cannabis regulations to a city widely regarded as the No. 1 marijuana distribution market in the world. Should it prove successful, the measure may also serve as a blueprint for other cities and California — as well as other states.
“[Prop.] M is definitely going to be the model of what everyone will definitely want to take and plug into their localities, as well as their states,” Grant says. “It will lead the charge for how other cities, states, and counties will respond by taking that model and using it for themselves.”
Grant, who has been a part of the scene since California passed Prop. 215 in 1996, has seen the industry’s tumultuous history and says it’s time for the chaos to end.
“I’ve been around for a long time,” he says. “I’ve been through the Bush years, through federal intervention, DEA raids, and landlord threat letters — the whole nine. I was indicted by the federal government and served six years in federal prison for owning and operating a legitimate medical marijuana facility.
“When I came home, I saw that the industry was not progressing forward in the right way,” he adds. “I saw a lot of outside interests coming into L.A. and trying to dictate how L.A.’s market should run, and I said, ‘Not in our backyard.’ ”
That’s why Grant started the SCC, one of the driving forces behind Prop. M. Comprised of cultivators, manufacturers, distributors, lab testing companies, delivery services, and collective owners, the SCC offers an accurate reflection of the cannabis industry.
“We needed one unified voice instead of 15 different voices chanting 15 different things,” Grant says.
Now that those voices are joined, they are trying to raise awareness for M, a measure that promises to legitimize L.A.’s cannabis industry by creating regulations, establishing a licensing mechanism, and setting reasonable tax structures. In doing so, it will provide a transparent and fair rubric for law enforcement to crack down on so-called illegal operations.
As Adam Spiker, SCC’s executive director, explains, discussions with Grant and pivotal figures like Eric Holdstrom from the Cultivators Alliance and NAACP’s Donnie Anderson, laid the groundwork for Prop. M.
“Time will tell,” Spiker says, “but Prop. M is trying to account for all of the ancillary pieces that need to have their voices heard: the neighborhood councils, the stakeholder groups, certainly the city of L.A. and their elected officials and staff — and, of course, the industry.”
Spiker says it was imperative that the SCC highlight what made this legislation different from ones that came before.
“What’s different this time? I would say MCRSA [Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act of 2016] is different,” he says. “Prop 64 is different. The city council’s opinions of it are different. That’s why the council voted unanimously to put Proposition M on the ballot.”
Another significant factor is the fact that M will finally do away with the 135-dispensary limit on the number of medical dispensaries allowed to have licenses under the auspices of 2013’s Prop. D. A lack of licensing was to blame when the passage of Prop. D immediately deemed over 1,000 local dispensaries illegal.
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Susan Soares has written for Cannabis Now Magazine, Alternet, and Sensi Magazine.