Should horticultural growers consider cultivating medical marijuana? That’s up to the individual grower, of course, and certainly a number of growers already have jumped in. On paper the prospects are tantalizing:
- Twenty-three states now have laws legalizing medical marijuana, according to Governing.com. And these are some of the most populous states in the country, including California and New York. (Four more states have legalized recreational use, as well.)
- Estimates of the size of the domestically grown marijuana crop range from $10 billion to $35 billion, Marijuana Business News reports, and even that could be quite low. The market could be as large as $100 billion – eight times the size of all horticultural specialty crops in the U.S. But no one knows for sure.
And therein lies part of the problem: Marijuana still is illegal at the Federal level, which can make sourcing inputs for the product and taking it to market a little tricky. And growers can risk alienating some customers and even losing business for their core products if they suffer bad PR from cannabis production among those who oppose its consumption.
But then, public sentiment on marijuana legalization is changing swiftly. As the Washington Post reported, just six years ago 52 percent of respondents to a Gallup survey thought cannabis should remain illegal, 41% thought that it should be legalized. Those numbers have nearly reversed — to 52 percent in favor of legalization, 45 percent opposed. The tipping point in favor of legal marijuana consumption seems to have been reached.
If cannabis is going to become a truly legitimate cash crop, who better to produce it than experienced horticultural growers with their greenhouse structures, LED lighting, equipment and growing know-how?
Greenhouses, in fact, are more efficient than warehouses for marijuana production, says Tim Beall, chief operating officer of GrowCo, a Denver-based company that builds and finances greenhouses. A former greenhouse vegetable grower himself, Beall told Greenhouse Grower that producing cannabis in greenhouses can bring about significant energy savings, a much faster rate of plant metabolism and more effective venting of unfavorable heat and humidity.
We at Meister Media Worldwide, publishers of Greenhouse Grower and American Vegetable Grower, do not necessarily endorse nor oppose the production of medical marijuana. But we do feel it is an option worth exploring.
We intend for our “Medical Marijuana” series of articles to give you the information you need to make your own call. We hope you find it useful, and we do welcome your comments, thoughts and ideas as we continue to cover what we’re fairly certain is only going to be an increasingly viable and growing market for this emerging crop.