These are exciting times we are living through. Ten years ago if you would have told me we would be on the cusp of legalization, growers would be going mainstream and major politicians would be making marijuana part of their rhetoric, I don’t know if I would have believed you. We have come along way, but we are not there yet. For a lot of entrepreneurs it’s still hard to know when to put yourself out there. After all you don’t want to miss the boat, but people do still get busted all the time.
The other day I was interviewing one such entrepreneur for a story for a local paper. This person gave me all the details of their business in a very candid interview. It sounded like a great idea. They had put a lot of work into it and already had employees, forms, a business name and customers. About 2 hours after the interview they called me insisting that I don’t publish it. What happened I asked? After all they knew what it was for, knew it was on the record and we had planned it a few weeks in advance.
Many people who work in the emerald triangle’s underground economy think of it as just a job. However, for the majority of people outside the cannabis industry there is a lot of mystery. It makes sense, a black market is by definition veiled, secretive, and hidden in the shadows. We all know there is a lot of money to be made growing cannabis, but for outsiders that’s usually the limit of their economic understanding. There is a lot of resentment, because people feel that the rule breakers and outlaws are getting rich easily while the rest of us work hard for much less.
So how much are people making? Who’s getting rich? and how rich? To answer these questions I have spoken with dozens of people working in the industry. It’s time to bring some transparency to the black market economy that so many benefit from, yet so few understand. Given the nature of the business, hard data will probably never be available, so consider this more of a sketch than an exact measurement.
You hear it from your buddy who just bought another parcel, it’s whispered in the grow shop, in the convoy of soil and water trucks humming on the back roads, “we have got to go big this year.” It seems someone is saying this every year in recent memory. There is always some boogieman right around the corner to bring the economy and the outlaw way of life to an abrupt and final end. New regulations, a new ballot initiative, big corporations, Mexican cartels moving in, prices dropping, other states legalizing, whatever it is, it seems there is always a compelling reason that if we don’t blow it up huge this year we are not going to get another chance.
Don’t get me wrong, there are real concerns. Statewide legalization is looking better every day. New medical marijuana policies further regulate and threaten an old way of life. Not to mention the head start that states like Colorado and cities like San Francisco seem to have on Humboldt. Prices drop and drop so farmers start shooting for quantity over quality to improve the margins.
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Logo provided California State Resources Control Board via wikipedia.com
With more regulatory actions coming into place, cannabis growers find themselves increasingly under the microscope. For anyone growing medical marijuana on the North-Coast, it is now official – as of today February 15, 2016 – you must be registered with the North Coast Regional Water Quality Board (NCRWQB). This may come as a surprise to many, but the group has held many events in Northern California in order to answer questions and help growers with the registration process. I went to an event on February 2nd in Willow Creek, it was informative, there was a large discussion and many growers got to voice questions or concerns.
Here are some quick notes from the meeting:
- Water Storage
- No need for permits for collecting rainwater
- Any single storage tank over 5,000 gals needs a permit
- One can have more than 5,000 gals split into several tanks without permit
- The must:
- Not be eroding
- Not discharging into natural water supply
- Fill must be stable
- Fees and Penalties
- What if I don’t enroll?
- If you fail to enroll you may be subject to fines and penalties that are much greater than the cost of registering (more on the subject below).