Cannabis, A Farm Industry in Southern Oregon

Cannabis, A Farm Industry in Southern Oregon

By Rob Pendell

Last November, Oregon became the next State in this great country of ours to legalize cannabis for adult recreational use. What does this really mean?

As of July 1st, adults 21 and over can use and possess a limited amount of cannabis in private without the risk of legal ramifications. How nice!

But is that all there is to it?

Based on the heated debates going on in practically every legislative body in the state, obviously not. Much of the debate revolves around whether or not cannabis should be grown and/or sold in their communities. The recently passed HB3400 has given municipalities the ability to ban cannabis cultivation or sales of cannabis in their area by putting the matter to a popular vote.

So, why all the debate?

If a municipality or concerned citizen doesn’t want cannabis cultivation or sales in their community they can gather signatures, put it on the ballot and let the people vote. However, it seems some municipalities are arbitrarily attempting to ban or seriously curtail the presence of cannabis in their districts without so much as a “what do you think?”

However, it seems some municipalities are arbitrarily attempting to ban or seriously curtail the presence of cannabis in their districts without so much as a “what do you think?”

Where’s the democratic process in that?

It’s understandable for those who have never used cannabis before, and avoided it due to its illegal and nefarious reputation, to be a little nervous. Cannabis has been vilified and labeled as a “gateway” drug for a long time. However, patient after patient have found relief from pain and dependency on other prescriptions by switching to cannabis. It seems to me to be more of a “destination” drug.

In an economy as depressed as Southern Oregon, a new industry can benefit everyone in the region. Cannabis really isn’t a new industry. It has been thriving in S. Oregon for nearly 50 years. We just haven’t heard much about it because until 1998 it was totally illegal and the growers were very secretive about their business.

According to Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development, Inc. the three largest employers in the S. Oregon region are; Asante with 4231 employees, Harry and David with 2000 employees, and Providence Hospital with 1100 employees for a total of 6331.

According to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program there are currently 9129 registered medical growers in S. Oregon. Most patients utilize a professional grower to grow cannabis for them, and a grower can serve 4 patients. If we assume that a quarter of the growers are personal patients growing their own cannabis that leaves about 6800 growers who are serving at least 2 patients or more. A grower serving many patients will hire anywhere from 2 to 5 people to help them. If we say it’s the minimum, 2, that’s 13,600 people employed in the cannabis industry, not counting the growers themselves! What’s that number going to look like once it all becomes legal?

Washington and Colorado collected upwards of 40 million dollars in tax revenue in their first year of legal cannabis sales. It seems to be a no-brainer to me.

There is also a vibrant environmental discussion. Illegal growing operations are routinely found in public, pristine woodland areas. Imagine if law enforcement had the resources to focus on that!

As a general rule, sun grown family farmers are very careful about minimizing the environmental impact of their gardens by using organic and sustainable growing practices. Also as an agricultural crop, cannabis uses far less water than most other local crops.

Typical water usage for a cannabis garden with 48 plants is only about 1,500 gallons per week. My neighbor uses nearly 15,000 gallons a week to grow hay!

Personally I’m very excited about this new and dynamic time we’re all living in and look forward to the collective sigh of relief all growers will feel when this industry can operate in the open.

The Oregon Sungrown Grower’s Guild, is the largest cannabis advocacy group in the state and has been very active in the legislative process ensuring that the rights of growers and patients are addressed. They are an excellent source of information and resources to anyone who is interested in or is already a part of this industry.  www.oregonsungrown.org.

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