Commercial pot farms legal in San Diego on January 1 - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Commercial pot farms legal in San Diego on January 1

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. (NEWS 8) -- Come January 1, recreational marijuana cultivation and sales become legal in California and here in San Diego.

A local medical marijuana operation already is up and running in El Cajon.

The pot grown at the Outco indoor grow operation near Gillespie Field isn't the stuff you smoked -- but didn't inhale -- in high school.

“If you sold that stuff today it would be dirt weed like the cheap stuff coming out of Mexico.  This is a whole different ball game,” said Outco CEO Lincoln Fish.

These days pot is a lot stronger and it grows a lot faster thanks to powerful indoor lights.

“Right now, anybody with a garbage bag full of weed can sell it just about anywhere,” said Fish.

Currently, it's the wild, wild west out there with illegal grow operations, unregulated products and unlicensed storefronts.

“The big question that's on everyone's mind is, ‘What is the state going to do about all the (stores) that aren't licensed?’” said Fish.

Once recreational marijuana sales become legal in 2018, the state will start receiving tax revenue from licensed shops.  That gives the government a big incentive to shut down illegal shops that don't pay taxes.

“Enforcement of closing down shops is going to ramp up a bit next year,” according to Dallin Young with the Association of Cannabis Professionals in San Diego.

At first, the supply of legally grown marijuana won't meet demand, Young said.

“Until there are enough licensed, retail locations to meet the demand of consumers, the black market is going to continue,” he said.

“Ultimately what everybody wants is an end to the black market here and good, safe, clean product for adults and for patients,” said Young.

The City of San Diego envisions up to 40 cultivation and manufacturing businesses in addition to retail outlets.

But not everybody thinks legal pot is a good thing.

Because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, retail outlets cannot use banks, said Enrique De La Cruz with Say San Diego.

The pot stores deal only in cash, which can be a big incentive to robbers looking for easy money and marijuana.

“So, you have large amounts of cash that have to be stored somewhere and that's where the danger lies.  That's why it important to think about safety,” said De La Cruz.

Like it or not, the big business of recreational marijuana will soon be upon us and growing faster than the weeds in El Cajon.

“A (grow) room like this will be able to yield 160 pounds, five times a year,” said Fish, the Outco CEO.

In 2018, Outco expects to suck in $5 million in revenues from its cultivation operation alone.

The state of California will collect 15 percent in taxes on marijuana sales.  San Diego will impose a 5 percent tax in 2018.  Of course, there’s also local sales tax on every gram of pot purchased.

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