Will small cannabis farmers survive?

Small cannabis farmer outlook

Jordan Stanley and others prune hemp plants growing on their family’s farm outside Wray, Colo., July 31, 2014. SOURCE: MATTHEW STAVER

End of an Era

Come 2018, California’s legal cannabis farmers will face a new era of state regulations, licensing, and taxes. Many of the estimated 40,000 farms in the state could go out of business, said cannabis cultivator attorney Heather Burke, in a recent Facebook.Live video with GreenState.

California legalized cannabis in November, and will dual-regulate its 21 year-old medical pot market and its new recreational market over the next 36 months. Adults 21 and over could begin walking into legal stores in select cities by January.

Burke, interviewed in the video by San Francisco Chronicle Cannabis Editor David Downs, said overproduction severely threatens small farmers . If supply outpaces demand in California, the price of weed will decline, as it has in Washington and Colorado. Consumers like lower prices, but not farmers.

Farmers must stay “cognizant” of overproduction, “careful” about saving money, and “start thinking in long-term projections,” said Burke.

As a result, consumers should vote with their dollars to support small cannabis farms. Burke recommended consumers ask for “small batch” craft cannabis at dispensaries.

“That’s what we do now with wine,” she said,

Small farmers are mostly at the mercy of state regulations, said Downs, which could support the growth of small businesses, like the law does for craft beer and small wineries, or discourage small businesses, as it does with tobacco.

For the best chance of survival in a new economy, Burke suggested farmers work year-round (rather than taking winter months off), get involved with policy decisions, and stay informed.

“Is it going to be easy?” she said. “No…It will take a fight.”

Watch the full interview above or on our Facebook page— Jackie Flynn