PHOTO BY NVELICHKO/THINKSTOCK.COM.
In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. As I write this, 23 states and Washington, D.C., have enacted medical marijuana legislation; Maryland, Minnesota and New York joined the list this year (visit http://bit.ly/1nUoEdq for a list of states and details about their legislation).
In June, Florida enacted a law allowing for use of the Charlotte’s Web strain of marijuana to treat epilepsy, cancer and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Charlotte’s Web is “not for smoking and is specially cultivated to be very low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the element that gets users high,” according to The Huffington Post (http://huff.to/1rt4rBt). In November, Florida voters will determine the fate of a proposed medical marijuana amendment. In July, Illinois passed a law that will allow children and adults with epilepsy and other seizure disorders to use the drug to ease their symptoms. Medical marijuana is on the move across the country.
So far, only Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational use of the drug, but they may not be alone much longer. In November, voters in Oregon will determine whether their state will legalize and regulate recreational marijuana. The ballot measure has a good chance of passing. According to The Huffington Post (http://huff.to/WBQ9U3), “A recent poll showed that 57 percent of the state’s likely 2014 voters support recreational marijuana legalization. Oregon has already decriminalized cannabis and legalized it for medical use.” Voters in Alaska and Washington, D.C., may see similar ballot measures this year. “Backers of legal marijuana are looking to states such as California, Nevada and Vermont for ballot measures in 2016, when political observers say hefty turnout in a presidential year would be expected to bring a wave of support from younger, socially liberal voters,” according to the The Wall Street Journal (http://on.wsj.com/1npFZiO).
More and more states are legalizing medical marijuana, and efforts to legalize recreational marijuana are gaining momentum. It can be a lucrative endeavor for states. According to MintPress News (http://bit.ly/W7E3BY), “In the first half of 2014, Colorado’s marijuana industry was responsible for generating around $20 million in state taxes and fees.”
What does all this mean for growers? There is no clear-cut answer to that question. A lot is going to depend on the nuances of legislation in individual states. For instance, the recent Florida legislation will only allow five licenses for growing, extracting and distributing Charlotte’s Web. To be considered, nurseries must be producing at least 400,000 plants and must have been in business continuously for at least 30 years. Even if the drug is legal in a state, that doesn’t mean you can grow it anywhere you want; marijuana cultivation is not allowed in some municipalities in Colorado. There are all kinds of regulations that need to be followed, and again, that doesn’t just vary at the state level, but from town to town. Growing marijuana indoors or out can cause environmental damage.
Marijuana has been cropping up more frequently in the news lately. It’s still illegal at the federal level, of course, but states are increasingly considering various legalization measures. There are many variables to consider, and it will be crucial to stay well-informed, but some growers may find that marijuana can be a valuable alternative crop. What do you think? Drop me a line and let me know, or share your thoughts on Twitter, Facebook and FarmingForumSite.com.