Cannabis is one of the hottest topics in the media. But can too much exposure put lives at risk?
Local cannabis operators across Sonoma County wince as the press digs into the private lives of the few brave first applicants, exposing every intimate detail—from Google searches to property sales—broadcasting their locations, their history and their business plans.
This may not seem like an issue to other small businesses, many of whom wish they could get this type of front-page attention for their organic cafe or public service project. But for new cannabis-business operators, this type of exposure can be an issue of security and safety. Not only are the applicants put at risk, so too are the employees and families who now have to answer for their association in a time when the prohibition stigma is still heavy.
While hundreds of operators would like to apply for a business permit this fall in Santa Rosa, many of them are not only too scared to be dragged through the press, but also fear vandalism and theft, as future permits require publicly posting intent.
"The process is already public enough," says Aaron, a local cultivator waiting to apply for a cannabis business permit in the fall. "I can understand informing the immediate neighbors of your business application, but blasting pictures of the address and the building across the news is just excessive, let alone unsafe."
In Oakland, operators applying for permits receive certain protections: the locations of the businesses are kept private, which can prevent the violent crimes and vandalism that have plagued the cannabis industry for decades.
With no privacy standards in place yet, and the media featuring the nitty gritty details of every applicant, who will step up to apply for Santa Rosa's conditional use permit?
If the goal is to encourage the local cannabis industry to follow the new regulations, get permits and pay taxes, then the program has to change, and so do actions by lawmakers, law enforcement, regulatory agencies and even reporters.
In order for this newly emerging industry to work, it will be a team effort as we share the heavy lifting of prohibition and herald in a new, more sophisticated generation concerned with public safety, environmental responsibility and strengthening our local economy.