Oakland may approve a plan today to set up four marijuana factory farms, a step that could usher in the era of Big Pot, reports the Los Angeles Times. The proposal shows how fast the marijuana counterculture is transforming into a corporate culture. It has ignited a contentious debate in Oakland that could spread as cities face pressure to regulate marijuana cultivation and find ways to tax it. “Everybody knows it’s going bigger and big money is moving in,” said Dale Gieringer, an Oakland resident and prominent marijuana activist.
As the state edges toward legalization, he said, more businessmen will seek to capitalize on a fast-growing market in a recession-hindered economy, forcing cities to make difficult choices on how to exert control. If the City Council approves the plan, one businessman has made clear that he intends to apply for a cultivation permit. Jeff Wilcox, who owned a successful construction firm, hopes to convert his empty industrial buildings into an enormous production facility. He plans to manufacture growing equipment, bake marijuana edibles in a 10,000-square-foot kitchen and use two football fields of space to grow about 58 pounds of marijuana every day, many times the amount now sold in Oakland. What caught the City Council’s attention was his projection that he could hire 371 employees and pay at least $1.5 million a year in taxes. Oakland faces severe budget deficits and has let go 80 police officers.