SANTA ROSA, Calif. — California’s multibillion dollar marijuana industry, by far the nation’s largest, is crawling out from the underbrush after voters opted to legalize cannabis in this month’s election. In Sonoma County alone, an estimated 9,000 marijuana cultivation businesses are operating in a provisional gray market, and are now looking to follow the path of the wine industry, which emerged from its own prohibition eight decades ago and rose to the global prominence it enjoys today.
But the bruising ordeals of one of the state’s largest cannabis companies, CannaCraft, have made many in the marijuana industry fearful, and they also suggest a long and bumpy road from marijuana’s approval at the ballot box to the same on-the-ground acceptance enjoyed by wine and beer businesses.
When CannaCraft, which produces medical marijuana products, came out of the shadows this summer, the company was hammered for it. It is still recovering from a raid in June by federal and local law enforcement officers on its newly opened headquarters and the seizure of $5 million in equipment, inventory and cash. This year, company drivers have twice been stopped by the California Highway Patrol, and, in one case, 1,600 pounds of marijuana was seized.