Phipps: Is Marijuana the New Cash Crop?

November 21, 2016 09:32 AM

Bob Dillard noticed something important, I think, that also happened on November 8 concerning marijuana legalization:

"At what point do we begin recognizing the tremendous number of our fellow citizens who now can use a cash crop that is transforming the economies of Colorado, Oregon, Washington 

and now over 12 percent of the population in California, plus Massachusetts, Nevada, Maine as well as Florida, North Dakota. It's clearly a growth industry with a giant upside that will only continue to grow."

Bob, you make a great point. Recreational and medical marijuana measures passed in numerous and varied states. I do not think this is going to become a big money maker for ordinary farmers.

I may be one of the few of my generation who did no experiment with marijuana in the 60's and 70's or since, believe it or not.  I'm relying on excellent information from Michael Pollan's book, The Botany of Desire.

His explanation of marijuana breeding and production soon dispels any dream a lucrative cash crop for ordinary row crop farmers. High quality marijuana production is almost entirely done in greenhouses with intensive lights, just like most profitable vegetables are grown under irrigation. There are growers producing outside, but the lower electricity costs are offset by higher security expenses.

The breeding is highly sophisticated and as scientific as corn hybrids.

Production is also labor intensive, and highly regulated - aspects most farmers dislike. But most of all, big companies including tobacco giants have been poised for legalization for years and will bring enormous financial and technical assets to dominate the market.

It only takes relatively few acres, unlike grains. While local marijuana will still be grown, like backyard gardens, the big market will be served by bigger players.

There is simply too much money to be made to be ignored by big business. States will likely encourage this industrialization to simplify regulation and maximize tax revenue. I support legalization, but don't expect it to save many family farms. 

Watch Customer Support and John's World on U.S. Farm Report every weekend.

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