If you haven't read this week's cover story yet, an expanded "Week in Weed" of sorts looking at local reactions to new state weed regulations, I urge you to take a look at it. A lot of smart people involved in the marijuana industry are saying a lot of smart things.
Among those players is Paul Gallegos, the sometimes-embattled former district attorney, who for 12 years was the top law enforcer in America's most famous marijuana-producing county. The tl;dr version of his thoughts on the cover is: Get legal now. In private practice now, Gallegos is advising marijuana businesses on how to get compliant so they can get on a priority list when the state begins issuing licenses. He also had some fascinating insights that couldn't fit in the cover story, so we've highlighted some of his other thoughts about the state of the industry.
Even after 12 years as the county DA, Gallegos has been surprised by the scale of the industry that he's learned about in his recent work. "Many people don't have a fair understanding about how thoroughly enmeshed [the marijuana industry] is in our community," he said.
He called it an "inefficient industry," with a "large profit margin that allowed it to operate with those inefficiencies."
He's also come up with a great acronym for the state's new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation: It's the BOMM.
Gallegos said he spent many years as the DA working toward a paradigm shift; medical marijuana was legal, but many people wanted to treat it like it wasn't, he said. Oftentimes, Gallegos said, he wouldn't charge suspected marijuana growers criminally, but would sue them in civil court over permits and workers' compensation. Now, he says, a lot of "key players" in local law making and enforcement are "looking at [medical marijuana] the right way."
Now he's working on another paradigm shift: getting people in the medical marijuana industry to come out of the shadows. "Their job has been to not keep records, now they have to keep pristine records." For growers and manufacturers, he said, it's "Bizarro World."
Gallegos is part of a coalition of businesses working to create an industry support network consisting of attorneys, accountants, human resource experts and insurance agents. "This industry needs a whole group of people around them to transition into this new operating system. ... We should be engaged in their successful transition."
In 2008, then-Attorney General Jerry Brown developed guidelines for the "security and non-diversion" of medical marijuana. But, Gallegos said, people in the marijuana industry who were following those guidelines (and other state medical marijuana laws) kept getting arrested. "We would've had, since 2008, all sorts of nonprofit corporations in the county paying taxes, getting permits to pull water out [and donating to local nonprofits]. But ... we refused to change our way of thinking," Gallegos said. "At least since 2008, we've been freakin' kicking ourselves in the freakin' lower parts."
Does Gallegos think Humboldt's medical marijuana industry can successfully transition into an above-board enterprise? "Yes. All things are possible."