Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It's farming: Marijuana

Ok, I'm going to talk about something pretty controversial here, and if you're offended by this topic, I'd bypass this whole entry. 
A legal crop

I live in Washington state, and the state as a whole legalized Marijuana (MJ for short) in the most recent election, as did Colorado.  The majority of voters in this state decided that prohibition of MJ wasn't working,and that it was time for a change.  Historic vote. 

Some of the immediate consequences of this were that hundreds of pending criminal cases were dropped in the local court systems across the state.  Thousands of cases actually; each county and each city in the state dropped hundreds. 

I think that this alone was worth the vote.  This means that thousands of people are free of legal fees, fines or the threat of jail.  It means that defense attorneys and prosecuting attorneys can spend their time on other cases, and it means that our prison system doesn't have to spend $32,000 per inmate per year to feed and house these unfortunates.   Humans seem to want to get drunk or high, and making it illegal just steers all of the profits into the hands of criminals -- and in the case of MJ, is one of the primary sources of profits for drug gangs that are destroying Mexico

I talk to quite a few farmers on a pretty regular basis.  Every single one of them is looking at the possibility of raising some quantity of MJ.  In fact, I cannot say that I've seen anything else capture the attention of every single farmer like this one has.  Unless there's some sort of limit on producer licenses, I think that we may well see tens of thousands of MJ producers in Washington State. 

Doing a little bit of gardening, farm-scale.   Wonder what I could plant there?

The biggest risk that farmers face, other than the obvious gold-rush aspect of this whole thing, and the normal risks of any crop, is that the federal government will crack down on local producers.  Personally I think that they will not.  Anyone charged with any MJ violation is going to ask for a jury trial, and the first question on every jurors mind is going to be "why are they prosecuting this?  isn't this legal?".  It is going to be very difficult to get a jury to convict anyone. 

There are several things that will also happen immediately:

First, the importation of MJ into Washington is pretty much done.  The market for MJ will be entirely local.  Who wants to risk federal charges for crossing a state line when it can be produced locally and legally?  That also applies to BC bud and california products.   People will move the plants here and grow it here. 

Second:  Growers  and folks involved in the legal production will suddenly be able to depend on law enforcement.  The whole thing comes out of the shadows.  If it's legal, it's legal.  I believe that people who are currently illegally producing it will continue to do that, and that those folks will find that the profit for the product drops substantially -- and the old penalties for illegal production are still there.  If you grow illegally, you're risking your money and property to confiscation.  Kind of like moonshining -- the revenue agents will be out looking for that.  If you're doing this under the table it'll get much harder, and the days of $3k a pound are done forever. 

Third:  Suddenly the producers are thrust into the mainstream agricultural market, and honestly, American farms are the worldwide masters of producing crops at the lowest possible cost.   It costs about $500 an acre to plant and maintain hemp crops in Canada -- about 1/5th as much as it does to plant blueberries.  Sure, there's labor involved in it, but I don't think that the current producers have any idea what a legal farm can do.  I think that the price of MJ is going to plummet. 

Lets assume that an MJ plant requires a 4x4 foot space -- 16 square feet per plant.  That's 2,725 plants per acre.  Imagine 10,000 acres planted in the spring of 2014,  and each plant producing about a pound.  That's, in round figures, 27,000,000 lbs.  Twenty seven million pounds. 13,625 tons.  Thirteen thousand tons of MJ. 

Alfalfa sells for $300 a ton.  Wonder what MJ will sell for?    

How many of you would consider this as a crop? 



Anonymous said...

I'm intrigued as well- I think you're right, what grower of anything wouldn't be? A crop that grows like a weed and has a huge market?

I almost can't get my mind around where this is headed- will it become more like tobacco in the way it is farmed, handled and marketed? Can we use the byproducts as cattle forage (do ruminants get stoned?)? Will there be barriers to entry at first, because theft may still be a problem until it becomes as commonplace as corn? Maybe LGDs will become MGDs? :D

Will farmers switch to this high profit crop in droves at first, causing some kind of weird food shortage or other disturbance to the AG status quo?

And yes, the awkward issue of the Feds- but if hundreds or thousands of people start growing it legally here, it would seem they'd have no choice but to acquiesce?

I have so many questions about where this will lead! It is truly a fascinating turn of events in history.

President Anthony Taurus said...

Please be very careful. The threat of federal government is obvious. However, the threats from your neighbors aren't so obvious. Just because the local police can't be called doesn't mean local people won't call the DEA. It's happened before. Sometimes, it comes from other growers, out of competition. Most people are serving 10 year sentences. Some are getting 5 years and others can get 20 to life (if there are guns anywhere on the property).

Keep in mind, the vote didn't pass by some 95%. It only passed just above half. That means there's still a good amount of people who don't want legalized marijuana and they will snitch.

This also goes for law enforcement. Don't be so willing to trust in them. They have just as much right as a citizen, and are more likely, to dial up the DEA. Don't let a few LEAP members throw you off that reality.

And, it seems like you don't have much experience growing marijuana. For example, in outdoor conditions, you'll need a little more than 4x4 space for one plant. Also, you'll be pushing more than 1 pound per plant. Try upwards of 10 pounds per 10-foot TREE. You should start reading up on outdoor marijuana growing if you plan to grow.

Lastly, it's a given that marijuana prices are going to plummet. The cost driving factor is primarily prohibition. However, marijuana would still be illegal so as it stands, a farmer in a legal state, who can keep his mouth shut, stands to reap serious rewards if they can ship out of the state. That $3k per pound is still very feasible with the feds still acting stupid.

Now, is a good time for growers in WA and CO before marijuana is removed from the schedules.

Adam Stevens said...

Obama says tonight in an interview, that the fed are not going to waste their time chasing pot in states where it's legal.... I think it's on 2020 tonight.