A billion dollar industry built on 21st century values?

I am a farmer.  I am also an environmentalist.  Balancing these two aspects of my life requires much work and continued education on my part.  I seek to be more sustainable in my practices, and to see greater sustainability from agricultural methods. 

I am also the Chair of the California Growers Association, an organization of more than 450 cannabis businesses statewide that share these values. I help craft a mission statement that specifically includes “the restoration of natural resources and watersheds." Me, our board, our staff and our members are committed to realizing our mission. Over the last 18 months we have spent significant amounts of time trying to answer the question: how can we pay for the cleanup and enforcement necessary to protect our watersheds and the quality of life that depends on a healthy and safe environment? 

I want to see small farms survive, which is why I am cautious about supporting taxation.  My support hinges upon a tiered tax that would minimize the amounts paid by the small farms, while still providing significant revenues from larger farms.

A tiered tax would mean that small farms would be more economically competitive because they would pay a smaller tax rate.  This would offset some of the economies of scale that can be achieved by larger farms, helping to avoid the potential for small farms to be priced out of the marketplace because they can’t compete on the same scale as larger ones.

Tax monies can be used to support sound environmental practices and heal denigrated landscapes.  There are problems within our industry; algae in the rivers kills dogs who swim in them in August, there is not enough cold water for fish.  We must move towards a more balanced land-use reality.

I cannot un-see the negatives related to cannabis cultivation that I have experienced; there has been much damage done to the land by unregulated cultivation.  As an environmentalist, I want to see the effects of trespass grows mitigated.  I want to see farmers have access to funding to cleanup legacy timber effects; to install new culverts where they are needed; to build capacity for water storage. 

I’m no fan of taxation, but I do not see another way to create the sources of funding for these types of efforts.  I am very open to discussion on the subject, and invite folks to email me with ideas. Agricultural industries have done a tremendous job of externalizing their impacts, something along the lines of “I don’t know who should pay for it, but not me”. 

As a 21st century cannabis industry, we can do better; we can lead the way to a future of agriculture that does not pollute the landscape, and heals the negative effects that others have had on the land.  This will not be easy, but it is possible.