You may want to grab a cuppa.... This is going to be long one! Please set aside more than just a few minutes to read and consider, and then - most importantly - respond, share your thoughts and reactions and dreams and concerns for this new year.
Our mission - the overarching mission of ICFA - is to achieve full legitimacy for our cannabis farmers. When we formed this organization, we identified three "buckets" of effort that we believed were needed to move that mission forward, and to care for our members along the way. Those were:
- Advocacy. Advocate for the cannabis community with the local government and agency administration.
- Public Outreach. Proactive outreach, community education and community service.
- Member Benefits. Provide education for members through workshops, speakers and seminars and negotiate discounts on goods and services.
At our first 2017 board and general meetings, we revisited those three categories, and asked ourselves "are these still relevant?" And if so, what, specifically, shall we work on this year? Below are - to the best of my ability - notes and fragments and ideas shared by members in attendance. There are some wonderful ideas and some tough questions and some really powerful opportunities. So let's take them one at a time... in highly abbreviated form. I'm not trying to completely recap our conversations, it's more important to me, to us, to ICFA, that you add your voice to the mix. After all, ICFA is YOUR organization!
Advocacy. Within our ranks are folks who welcome regulation, folks who abhor it, and all kinds of stops along the spectrum. But with the passage of MCRSA and AUMA the question is candidly moot. Regulation is here. And as you all know, laws may get passed at the state level, but they are interpreted and implemented locally. Our job now is to decide what the new legislation translates to locally, what will best serve our community, and what we're willing to do both individually and together to create working solutions.
For 2017, at a minimum, we plan to continue to attend Butte County Supervisors meetings and expand relationships and conversations with both elected and appointed officials. Keeping in mind that only 37% of our county population lives in the unincorporated areas, expand our efforts into Chico, Oroville, and Paradise city councils and with their staffs. Where relevant, make presentations and submit data on the record via the "open comments" segments; provide samples of ordinances and regulatory practices by other counties and municipalities to inform and educate our representatives. Push for a stakeholders group to provide input as the cities and county draft or modify their existing ordinances to accommodate the changes required by the passage of 64. We also need to be looking farther out, to the local elections in 2018. What offices/positions are coming up for election/re-election? We may want to be identifying potential candidates for both city and county seats, perhaps from within our own ranks!
Does doing this work interest you? How? Specifically? Are there things you'd like to see us work on that you aren't able to, but that you would support?
Public outreach. This is a powerful tool whose results may not always be immediately visible, but which in the end does more to win hearts and minds - and therefore erode the obstacles to legitimacy. When Butte County voted on Measures A and B, Measure A won by about 21 points (61% for, 39% against); when Measures G and H, which were confusing even to our community, were on the ballot, the spread reduced to about 18 points (58% against, 42% for). In November, with the Board making a public recommendation to voters to oppose Measure L, the spread reduced to 9%! AND the majority of Butte County voters agreed that residents have the right to own, consume, and cultivate cannabis! That's moving the needle of public opinion - and YOU can take the lion's share of the credit for making that happen.
For 2017, the following plans and/or suggestions were made: Site cleanup projects, Adopt-A-Highway, Chico Thursday Night Market, community education events, participation in existing community and non-profit organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Farm Bureau, sponsor or host community benefit events, holiday adopt a family and winter clothing drive, adopt an issue - such as homelessness - and plan/coordinate projects and efforts around the issue.To build a robust outreach effort, we would benefit from major improvements to our communication tools: our website needs a calendar, forums, the ability to donate, a library of press releases, a button to join ICFA, and more. We need to get our database immaculate. We might consider a quarterly newsletter (would you read more often if you got a limited number of communications and you knew what would be included?). We also might want to pick up the concept of neighborhood "captains" to reach our geographically far-flung communities.
Again, does doing this work interest you? Which ones, specifically, might you be willing to engage in? What other actions or projects would you like to see here?
Member Benefits. Just as regulation is now a given, so too is our need to be prepared to make it work for our benefit. Each of us will decide whether we want to grow a business, or simply grow a crop. It's a choice, and it's yours. No harm either way. But know this: if your farm wants to take even a small portion of its goods to the legitimate market, then you can only benefit from running your farm like a business, and doing the work it takes to understand how to navigate the new playing field. Those of you who want to survive and thrive in the new marketplace will be best served by beginning.... well, yesterday. The big pharma and big ag guys don't need to learn this stuff, they're poised to act when the floodgates open and they've got the capital to act quickly. What are you going to do to defend your place in this industry that YOU - and thousands just like you - created???
For 2017, we're going back to knowledge and education, starting with a primer on the basics: MCRSA, AUMA, and the legislation in process to amend and reconcile the two. Proposals for monthly workshops during the spring and summer were submitted that would - together - benefit both those seeking licensure and those not. We also intend to explore the creation of a for-profit entity that is member-owned, to operate as a branding and business development consultancy as well as a distribution entity. We are also looking at how to better offer legal guidance to members; suggestions include a slate of vetted attorney recommendations for both business, code enforcement and criminal issues. A suggestion was made to create a defense fund like various labor and trade unions do. And of course we want to expand our business memberships, so that we can deliver more discounts on goods and services for our farmer members.
As a member, what do you want from ICFA? And what are you willing to contribute? Please be as specific as you can!
Finally, there's always a smattering of random questions and considerations.
- What have we done well? What can we do better?
- How do we best serve our entire cannabis community - farmers, patients, small businesses and professional supporters?
- Simple questions like where do we hold our meetings? Does it make sense to host them more centrally so more folks can attend without driving for hours?
- Should we open an office in Oroville, where we can have regular days/hours, host small meetings or workgroups?
- And what about our membership fees? Are they fair, are they sufficient, are the tiers working, and should we pro-rate and have everyone's renewal fall in January or February?
I'm sure you can add more! And I'm sure I've left things out, so if you proposed something and don't see it here, please accept my apologies and propose it again!
My gratitude for hanging in there through this long missive. I look forward to hearing from each and every one of you!!!
One Team. Together We Rise.