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California Cannabis Growers Becoming a Political Force to Be Reckoned With

HUMBOLDT COUNTY — Standing next to Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom on a hill overlooking southern Humboldt County, a second-generation cannabis farmer pointed to the valley below. “There’s one,” he said, gesturing at a clearing in the trees. “And there. And over there. They’re all over.”

Newsom and Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, nodded as they gazed at marijuana grow operations below, taking it all in. They were in the middle of what had been billed a “Cannabis Fact Finding Tour” — a new rite of passage for California politicians grappling with questions of legalization.

It was a journey to the state’s Emerald Triangle, three northern counties that produce 60 percent of the weed consumed in the United States, and where calling the local herb “marijuana” is offensive to some for its perceived negative connotation. Here, the scientific term “cannabis” is preferred, and fear of law enforcement still runs high. Though they were the guests of honor, Newsom, Huffman and Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, were escorted to this 450-plant farm without learning its address or the grower’s full name.

Yet, the fact that top officials even made the trek is a sign of how California’s 50,000-plus cannabis farmers are already becoming a political force. Growers are shaping potential 2016 ballot measures to legalize recreational use of marijuana and influencing legislation in Sacramento that would regulate the state’s 19-year-old medicinal market in unprecedented ways. [Read more at the San Francisco Chronicle]
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