The tension in the air up here in the heart of the Emerald Triangle is as thick as dripping rosin. The time has come to put up or shut up. In other words, to choose to be legal and in the system or to continue to hide in the hills from hungry helicopters. Both have their benefits as well as their drawbacks. To go legal requires money and the time to understand all the current requirements, with the risk that it could all change tomorrow. The hope is that it will provide security from the powers that be and allow us to continue to grow this plant we love so much for deserving patients.
However, several farmers are choosing to stay outside of the system, attempting to survive by selling on the black market as they always have. Many are frightened by all the hoops that one needs to jump through for the proper permits. But prices are plummeting as other states begin to grow their own crops, indoor mostly, and middle men who have been in the biz for decades are suddenly out of a job. Plus there is a glut on the market due to so many people moving up here to grow “world class cannabis” with zilch experience but lots of energy. They come from Eastern Europe, south of the border, and every state in America, all convinced they can grow top-shelf weed their first year.
The story going around right now via reliable sources is that Mendocino County political leaders are beginning to realize that approximately nine out of 10 growers here will not make it. Surprise, surprise! At last they have discovered that costly permits, taxes and new regulations are driving people out of the cannabis business, and this will severely effect the economy. Just this past week alone I have heard of four longtime farmers who are throwing in the trowel. One man who was considering going through the official permit process reported, “I did the math and figure I made more selling vegetables than cannabis last year, so I’m quitting the cannabis.”
The buyers aren’t around like they were in the old days, when they’d show up with suitcases of cash to buy cannabis at four times the price of what it is now. Just last week I was told of a total of 2,000 pounds, one ton, of unsold cannabis from last season, that’s just sitting somewhere in these hills, because of the glut. And that is just from a handful of growers I happened upon. Many well-seasoned farmers simply refuse to sell for such egregiously low prices. While this cannabis crash has been predicted for several years, it has become fully evident just the past couple of months as farmers realize it’s time for the next crop, but they never got rid of last year’s harvest.
Likewise, property values in the Emerald Triangle are plummeting. A year ago, there were maybe two listings available in the area where we live in northern Mendocino County. Lately, a new place is listed every other day it seems. So many fully outfitted ranches and farms are hitting the market that there are already several listed as “price drops.” I’ve heard that Bay Area people are looking this way for their country retreats as the prices are right. They had better check the zoning codes if they plan on growing any cannabis though — not being able to grow may well be the reason the land is for sale. It seems now that if a person purchases property in rangeland zone, for example, they will never be able to get a cannabis permit to grow there. If it’s upland residential or ag land, they can get one after 2020. It’s all in the fine print, and not clear legally yet, so beware.
The latest scuttlebutt around the county is concerning the power struggle between the agricultural commissioner and the sheriff. We’ve been told that 650 applicant fees were needed for the county cannabis cultivation program to cover the costs of the expanded work load. Yet last count is approximately only 450 applicants who have materialized out of who knows how many farmers who actually grow in this county? Is it 10 percent – assuming there are 4,500 growers in Mendo? Sounds like a very low estimate to me, but the message clearly is: not enough people signed up. Ironically, applications were first accepted almost two moths ago, yet so far only one farm has been fully permitted. They simple do not have the necessary amount of inspectors to get to 450 farms, most at the end of a long dirt road.
Mendocino may return to a logging-fishing-hunting economy once again after all, if the craft farmers are pushed out. It’s the classic feud of hippie vs. redneck all over again, just more refined in the 21st Century. A competitive atmosphere is seeping into the county, as those of us who have submitted the permit application to the ag commission are a step ahead of the game, but only because we have been participating in the practice sessions for years. For those who are thinking ahead, such as cooperatives across the county who have formed to hold strong in numbers, there is a chance of survival.
My faith in the future of the small farmer does remain strong, however, even considering all the limitations and restrictions. The large commercial grows that are already springing up across the state do not scare me. We are the rare birds, the farmers who only cultivate clean and pure cannabis with love and devotion, to offer to patients who realize we even exist. We simply need to get the word out. The same people who insist on buying organic vegetables will soon be requesting our sungrown with organic methods cannabis flowers and products. We just need to get over this hump and we’ll be gliding into an expanding market, for the good of all. That is my prayer and I am sticking to it!
TELL US, is then cannabis climate changing in your neck of the woods?