www.ediblemontereybay.com 25 county area for investors to snap up, due to the decline in the cut flower industry here. But it does take a significant investment to set up a commercial cannabis growing operation, Roach points out. In addition to fees, taxes, permits and insurance, growing operations require greenhouses in Monterey County—no outdoor cultivation is permitted there yet—and the greenhouses typically need expensive capital improvements such as special shade and lighting setups, heating and cooling equipment, and of course, security. “It’s perhaps not as lucrative a business as many hope,” Roach says. And that initial investment might be beyond the scope of what small would-be growers can muster. Prop 64 was specifically designed to prevent licenses for large-scale marijuana businesses until 2023 to prevent unlawful monopoly power, but there’s no doubt that big investors are very interested. And that’s what worries Collins the most about all this, that “big corporate ag,” in her words, will come in and crowd out small growers. Maekawa says it’s hard to tell how much of the recent ag land price increases are simply due to the overall rise in Central Coast property values. But she suspects that cannabis business investors with deep pockets will be able to outprice what many local farmers will be able to pay, and has heard of a few instances of land going for “four to five times the asking price,” making her think the purchases have been for cannabis cultivation. Like others, though, she doesn’t envision a mad rush by small farmers to cannabis cultivation if they’re not already in it. “Our hope is that (cannabis cultivation) doesn’t affect standard agriculture, which is the backbone of our economy,” Santa Cruz County’s Hoppin says. “I don’t believe it will affect standard agriculture.” Kathryn McKenzie, who grew up in Santa Cruz and now lives on a Christmas tree farm in north Monterey County, writes about sustainable living, health and horticulture for numerous publications and websites. Dhillon agrees, saying that he foresees small operations being “gobbled up by big business. “ere might be a short little window in there when small growers can make some money,” he says. “ere’s going to be a real fight to keep it artisanal.” Hoppin says most existing pot farms, legal or illegal, farm five to 10 acres or less, and Santa Cruz is working to bring them all into the fold of being officially licensed. So far, though, only about 100 have registered, the first step toward obtaining a license. For small farmers who decide against marijuana cultivation and just want to grow food, a likely adverse impact of recreational cannabis legalization will be increased ag land lease and sale prices—a phenomenon that some people believe has already started to happen. “We have had a couple of (cannabis businesspeople) come our way, looking for greenhouses,” says Mika Maekawa, Central Coast program coordinator for California Farm- Link, a nonprofit organization that matches independent organic farmers and ranchers with landowners.
edible Monterey Bay Winter 2016
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