Beware Concentrating Marijuana Sales into a Few Factory Farms

Liz Davidson Liz Davidson is a community and environmental activist in Humboldt County. She is a freelance writer, a producer for KMUD radio, and a member of a collective of small sustainable farms. Her recent radio documentary series , “The Cannabis Chronicles”, may be heard at http://bit.ly/9jfi9l.  She wrote the following piece for Oakland Seen.  I stole it and put it here because I think it points out how cities error by dealing with what should be zoning issues by limiting marijuana cultivating to only a few large factory farms.

Oakland’s proposed ordinance to concentrate all medical cannabis growing into four huge indoor factory farms sets the wrong precedent on many levels. It has a broader impact than just the City of Oakland and goes far beyond the issue of cannabis when the impacts of energy usage are factored in.

When a manufacturing effort demands as much energy, as say, the minimum six megawatts the proposed Agra Med will need daily, one must ask, where will the energy come from, and where will the carbon emissions go? The answers are, from coal (mountaintop removal) natural gas (hydraulic fracturing, and the resultant groundwater pollution) and oil (the Gulf). Carbon emissions from generating plants know no city boundary. What’s worse is this energy use is entirely unnecessary.

Cannabis is a botanical medicine. According to the American Botanical Council, 80% of herbal medicine worldwide is wildcrafted. (Think ginko, echinachea, saw palmetto or St. Johns Wort.) Of the remaining 20%, most is grown on small farms. The World Health Organization’s “Good Agricultural Practices for Medicinal Plants” encourages sustainable organic cultivation that is sensitive to the environmental and social impacts on local communities. This ordinance does neither.

This ordinance takes away the rights of patients to grow their own and share the extra within a medical collective as per California law. The contributions some small growers receive by supplying their extra medicine to collectives is often their survival—the very ill cannot work, or may have huge medical expenses. This ordinance is not sensitive to the needs of the patients medical cannabis is supposed to help.

Why is cannabis being treated as an unnatural substance to be manufactured when it is a safe and natural herbal medicine? This rush to make an herb a manufactured pharmaceutical, to make it a commodity that must be restricted for capitalism’s sake, is not good medicine. Cannabis is easily and safely grown in a back yard or a rooftop garden; it doesn’t take a factory.

The city of Oakland should instead decentralize production, make collaborative arrangements with sustainable and organic patient collectives in rural areas, and pass a carbon tax on factory cultivation. These behemoths would pay corporate rates of only about $300 per pound for this climate killing electricity. This is far less than a patient must pay when growing their own with loving attention and to their own and others’ needs in mind. A hefty carbon tax can raise funds for mitigation efforts, to underwrite patient access, or yes, to help the city. It will also focus the factories’ attention on their usage, by making it more expensive to be profligate with energy.

Don’t “go there,” Oakland. It’s not fair to patients, and not good for the environment we all share.

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