Article by Jackie Flynn, Green State
California’s recreational pot market begins commercial licensing this January, and industry leaders have long-expected weed farms to go from clandestine to conventional.
That means abandoning the steep hills, poor soil and lack of water in the remote mountains of Humboldt and Mendocino Counties and instead farm traditional agricultural lands in the Central Valley. There, the ground is flat, the soil is rich, and water and labor supplies — as well as connections to city markets — are abundant.
However, rampant pesticide use across California’s farmlands, combined with the state’s de facto organic standards for legal cannabis could mean the best place for pot farmers is the wildlands where they started.
“We won’t be able to grow cannabis next to traditional, full-scale agriculture. It just won’t be practical,” said Hezekiah Allen, the Executive Director of the California Growers Association. “I live in Yolo County. I see the crop dusters. It’s not going to work.”
“This is going to lead to huge conflicts,” said Chris Van Hook, director of Clean Green Certified, a sustainable cannabis certification program that operates in place of the United States Department of Agriculture’s organic program. “We have had farmers who have had their entire year’s crop rejected because they were next to a blueberry field.”
It was likely broccoli in the case of Steve DeAngelo, 59, executive director of Harborside Farms. DeAngelo was one of the first large-scale pot farmers to set up in one of California’s most productive farmlands — the Salinas Valley.
In 2016, he set up 200,000 square-feet of cannabis greenhouses and grew weed following organic standards, but the farm’s first harvest failed testing due to pesticides — chemicals he said he never applied. He suspected contamination by pesticides blown over from crop-dusters on a neighboring broccoli farm.