Thursday, April 8, 2010

Legalization worries pot growers

If you think you face challenges in your farming operation, consider for
a moment the problems now contemplated by growers of illegal marijuana
in Northern California.

They have dreamed for years that their prized crop would be made legal
and they could grow and sell it openly. If Californians approve a ballot
initiative this November, they may finally get their wish.

So, dude, what's the problem?

Big agriculture. At least that's what some illicit growers in Humboldt
County recently told county officials and community leaders.

The Northern California community has long been known as a primo
destination for those involved in alternative crop production.
Humboldt's wet and mild climate, its remote landscape and the liberal
live-and-let-live viewpoints of the citizenry have made the area one of
the most grower-friendly places in the West.

Growers, governmental officials and community leaders met last month to
discuss how the area might capitalize on its unique position if voters
legalize marijuana. As one might expect, the ideas were big. They want
to turn Humboldt County into the Napa Valley of legal weed, offering
tours and tastings to discriminating users.

Whether they possess sharp business savvy or a heightened sense of
paranoia from sampling too much of their own product, the growers worry
that legalization might end up being bad for them. They're worried that
big, corporate agriculture will move into the business. Before you know
it, marijuana will be growing like, well, weeds, across the fertile
farmland of the Central Valley. As every farmer knows, when everyone
starts growing a crop its price falls as the market adjusts to increased
supply. That could force the little guy out of the business.

Before you know it, the business will be dominated by big, "corporate"
farmers and the small growers will lose their way of life. Could Roundup
Ready seed and government support programs be far off?

We doubt it. What now-illicit growers really fear is the regulation and
taxation that comes with legalization. They'll need water rights; the
state will monitor their fertilizer, insecticide and herbicide use; the
health inspector might pay a call; they'll have to follow labor laws;
their scales will have to be certified; and the taxman will want to see
their books. Suddenly, a relatively straight-forward and care-free
business will get a lot more complicated, and a lot less fun.

What farmer can't sympathize with that problem?

No comments: