Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Northern California transitions to legal marijuana economy as pot harvest begins in the Emerald Triangle

International Business Times map
As the cannabis harvest begins in northern California, those interested can begin to get a picture of whether legal grow operations will help or hurt the area economy, especially in a region sometimes hostile to growers. Last year was the first year marijuana growers had to follow new local regulations in Mendocino County; the high costs of complying with those regulations as well as wildfires disrupted the harvest though. This year will be the first with a regular harvest and will provide a more reliable benchmark, Julie Johnson reports for the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa.

"It’s unclear how rural counties like Mendocino where residents have long depended on the medical marijuana and illicit markets will weather the transition from an underground industry to a corporatized and commercialized one," Johnson reports.

Genine Coleman, who serves on the California Growers Association's board, told Johnson that Mendocino is in a "hard place" because its illegal grow operations have been bolstering the county's economy. Fewer seasonal workers appear to be needed for legal operations, she observed, since those jobs aren't as lucrative, and growers are more inclined to give those jobs to locals.

Most of the area's estimated tens of thousands of growers are still operating on the black market because it's expensive to comply with regulations, but many are trying to make a go of it legally. Though profit margins are slimmer, even legal marijuana can be a cash cow. "Roughly 279 acres are licensed for outdoor cannabis cultivation across a five-county Northern California marijuana growing region — the Emerald Triangle counties of Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity and lesser-known cannabis country in Sonoma and Lake counties, according to a Press Democrat analysis of state licensing and Sonoma County permitting data," Johnson reports. "That translates to a legal outdoor harvest worth about $474 million a year, barring catastrophic crop loss and based on industry standards for yield and the current wholesale value of marijuana, about $500 a pound."

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