20 Small Business Ideas in the Growing Cannabis Industry
Small Business Trends - By. Annie Pilon - 10/09/2016
The cannabis industry is growing fast. And that means there are plenty of potential business opportunities available for entrepreneurs who are interested in this expanding niche.
Serge Chistov, Chief Financial Advisor for the Honest Marijuana Company and president and founder of Serge Import LLC spoke to Small Business Trends in a phone interview about all the possibilities.
Chistov explained, “It’s a lot like any other business. If you’re going to a liquor store you’re going to have liquor stores that are just there and they’re convenient for people to just stop in. And then you have higher end or specialty options. And you also have the producers and the packaging and everything else. So there’s a lot that goes into it.”
Here are 20 potential business ideas for those seeking just the right opportunity for them.
Marijuana Business Opportunities
Before anyone can produce or sell cannabis products for this market, of course, someone needs to actually grow it. So you can build a business by being the first step in the process, working as a farmer or grower who supplies the plants to companies that then process and make it into other products.
You can also provide the essential middle part of that process between growing and selling finished products. Processors take the plants grown by the producers and get them ready to turn into products for medical or recreational use.
Once the finished product is created, you also need retailers to sell those products to consumers. You can do this in a storefront setting with basic products. But Chistov cautions businesses from simply relying on the novelty factor to keep sales high.
He says, “The hype is over. You can’t just hope to set up businesses and immediately become billionaires. You have to actually sell a product that is going to be up to consumer standards, with proper packaging, preservation and all the other things that go into making great products in other industries.”
There are also some states where retail businesses and other businesses that want to sell any cannabis based products need to go through distributors. So that’s another potential business opportunity for those who want to manage the sale of product to businesses in certain states.
Aside from just selling basic marijuana product, you can potentially get a little more creative in how you present your products. Marijuana edibles can range from cakes to candy and even hot sauce. You just need to be aware of the processes and challenges of creating, packaging and selling those edibles.
You can also potentially use marijuana as an ingredient in other products like soaps and lotions and then sell those items to consumers in a retail setting.
Concentrates are potent marijuana substances that people can use with vaporizers or similar devices. You need some equipment and skill to be able to produce this type of substance. But if you can do so, you may be able to sell concentrates to distributors or consumers in some states.
Aside from the actual marijuana product, you can potentially build a business around selling accessories, like glass vessels, papers and trays.
If you have the right equipment to keep the products fresh and protected, you can potentially offer your services in the delivery part of this process, either getting product from growers to processors or from processors to retail businesses or distributors.
Since there are so many potential opportunities, you can also build a business where you provide consulting services to the growing number of entrepreneurs and perspective entrepreneurs in the market, as long as you have knowledge that’s really specific to the cannabis industry.
There’s also a huge need for specialty packaging of a growing variety of products. Retailers and other businesses need packaging solutions that are protective, childproof and will keep products fresh.
You can also potentially start more of a service based business in the cannabis industry. You can start a hotel or lodging business where you also offer cannabis products to appeal to that specific customer base.
You can also build a niche in the floral industry by starting a florist shop that uses marijuana plants along with other flowers and plants in its arrangements.
You can also specialize in planning events for cannabis businesses or even start your own events where it’s a main feature or draw for attendees.
There are many mobile app possibilities related to the cannabis industry as well, from those that locate dispensaries to those that provide information or even social features to users.
Social Network Founder
You can also potentially start your own social network aimed specifically at cannabis consumers. This could also present some unique advertising opportunities for other cannabis businesses.
Since the cannabis industry is relatively new, the businesses involved still have a long way to go when it comes to finding the exact tools that really suit their needs. Restaurants, retail stores and other types of businesses all have software programs made specifically to help them perform essential business functions. So if you’re a software developer, you can potentially do the same for the cannabis industry.
In addition, security has become a major concern for some cannabis businesses with an increasing need to protect their product and their profits.
Consumers also need access to information regarding the cannabis industry and the products available. So you could potentially build a business around providing reviews and other pertinent information to help consumers make informed decisions.
And if you live in a place that’s become a destination for cannabis consumers, you can potentially also offer a tour guide service where you take people to relevant destinations around your city or state.
Study: Marijuana Arrests Outnumber Those for Violent Crimes
Rolling Stone - By. John Blistein - 10/13/16
African-Americans more than four times as likely to be arrested for possession of small amounts of pot than whites
More people were arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuanathan committing violent crimes in 2015, and a disproportionate number were African-American according a new study, The New York Times reports.
The study, released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, found that law enforcement agencies made 574,641 arrests for possession of small amounts of pot intended for personal use, while 505,681 arrests were made for all violent crimes, including murder, rape and serious assault. And while violent crime arrests have dropped 36 percent from 1995 to 2015, the number of arrests for all drug possessions has increased 13 percent.
The study also found that black adults were more than four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white adults in 39 states that provided sufficient data. More so, black adults were two-and-a-half times as likely to be arrested for possession of small amounts of any illicit drug, even though white adults were more likely to use such substances. The disparity in arrest rates is even greater in states like Iowa, Montana and Vermont, which have relatively small black populations.
Not only do the initial arrests clog up the court system, but those arrested are often burdened with fees and fines, which, if they can't pay, frequently lead to further warrants and incarcerations. Making matters worse, those arrested often struggle to find work after their release due to their criminal records.
Many criminologists point to problematic police practices as one major reason for the vast discrepancy in arrest rates. For instance, officers policing areas with high crime rates are likely to arrest citizens for minor offenses, further driving up crime statistics and thus increasing police presence.
The hyper-vigilant approach to policing marijuana can also have disastrous consequences. Last month, Keith Lamont Scott was killed by police in North Carolina following an incident that began, in part, because the police said Scott was smoking marijuana.
"It is selective enforcement, and the example I like to use is that you have all sorts of drug use inside elite college dorms, but you don't see the police busting through doors," said Inimai M. Chettiar, director of the Justice Program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.
New Mexico Voters Want to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
Support for legalization has grown since 2014.
MerryJane- By: Mike Adams 10/10/16
The majority of the voters in New Mexico would like to see marijuana legalized for recreational purposes, according to a new poll conducted by the Albuquerque Journal.
The survey, which was published this past Sunday, finds that 61 percent of the voting public would support a measure aimed at establishing a taxed and regulated cannabis trade – similar to what is currently underway in Colorado. Only 34 percent of the respondents said they would oppose such a proposal. Others were undecided when asked their position.
Interestingly, the latest poll indicates some changing opinions among the residents of New Mexico. In 2014, the same survey found only 44 percent of the voters in favor of legal marijuana, while a whopping 50 percent said they had absolutely no interest in this reform.
“It demonstrates that public opinion (about marijuana) is shifting quickly, similar to other social issues such as same-sex marriage,” said Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc.
The Journal’s poll comes just a week after the subject of cannabis reform was brought up during a special session in the New Mexico legislature. Representative Bill McCamely suggested the state could resolve its $600 million deficit by establishing a taxed and regulated cannabis market. But his proposal, which aims to give adults 21 and over the freedom to buy legal weed at a tax rate of 15 percent, was not well received.
Similar proposals have failed miserably over the past few years, but there is hope that a bill designed to pull New Mexico out of prohibitionary times will be revisited once again during the 2017 legislative session.
Some of the latest data shows that New Mexico stands to sell more than $400 million of marijuana during the first year of legal sales. That number would increase to almost $680 million with the first five years of operation – bringing the state around$60 million in annual tax revenue.
Cannabis Conversation: Is pot safe for pregnant moms? Does marijuana cause lung cancer?
OC Register- By: Brooke Edwards 10/10/16
A pregnant woman has morning sickness so severe she can’t keep food down, so she stirs some cannabis-infused oil into her morning tea to regain her appetite.
An elderly man has chronic pain that keeps him up at night, so he smokes marijuana most nights before he and his wife go to bed.
There’s a growing body of research that suggests marijuana can help with conditions such as nausea and pain while posing only modest health risks for adults. But as Californians get ready to vote Nov. 8 on whether to legalize recreational marijuana, there are broader public health questions to consider, from whether it affects developing fetuses to the impact of secondhand smoke.
“We often hear there are no negative effects,” said Kevin Alexander, who works with addicts at Hoag Hospital’s ASPIRE program in Newport Beach. “But we need more research and information on how it would affect us as a community and the societal impacts.”
The Register is continuing a series that surveys research and interviews experts on common questions about marijuana use: the potential health risks, issues of government regulation and the experience of states where recreational cannabis is legal.
Q. Is cannabis dangerous for pregnant women?
A. There’s no level of marijuana use that’s considered “safe” for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, per the experts, just as there’s no safe level of alcohol, tobacco or many other substances.
While expectant moms report using marijuana to ease severe morning sickness, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologistsrecommends they stop using cannabis until they’re finished breastfeeding.
“Although we still need more research on the topic, the data we do have raises concerns regarding negative effects of marijuana on the growing fetus,” said Dr. Joseph Wax with the organization.
Research published in the journal Psychopharmacology found that even low doses of marijuana in pregnant rats produced offspring with learning delays plus tremors and unusual emotional behavior.
A 2010 study by researchers out of the University of Pittsburgh studied children at 10 years old who’d been exposed to marijuana during pregnancy. They found these children were more likely to miss school and show early signs of depression and attention disorders.
The Pittsburgh study’s authors pointed out that they couldn’t say how environment or family might play into that equation, though, noting it’s possible that a mother who smoked marijuana while pregnant simply passed along a predisposition for risky behavior.
More research is underway. But the American Medical Association feels there’s enough evidence of risk to push for this warning on all marijuana products: “Marijuana use during pregnancy and breastfeeding poses potential harms.”
Q. Does smoking marijuana cause lung cancer?
A. The cancer link appears increasingly weak, though more research is needed.
Marijuana contains many compounds also found in tobacco, including some known to cause cancer. That’s triggered reports suggesting that smoking marijuana must be more dangerous, since it’s typically inhaled more deeply and held in the lungs longer than tobacco.
However, the research so far suggests otherwise.
A comprehensive 2014 study published in the International Journal of Cancer found “little evidence for an increased risk of lung cancer,” even among heavy or long-term cannabis smokers. Those results are buoyed by a number of other large studies, including an examination out of UCLA in 2006 that was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
One possible explanation is that marijuana users typically don’t smoke as often as tobacco users.
Dr. Donald Tashkin, a pulmonologist who led the UCLA study, suggested marijuana doesn’t pose the same cancer risk as tobacco because THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, has been found to slow the growth of some cancers.
THC is known to reduce inflammation, too, Tashkin points out, which may explain why there also doesn’t appear to be a link between marijuana and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which plagues cigarette smokers.
Several studies have shown a correlation between heavy marijuana smoking and other respiratory conditions, such as chronic bronchitis.
There’s an alternative, advocates say: Don’t smoke it. While edibles and concentrates come with their own set of risks, lung issues aren’t among them.
Q. Is secondhand pot smoke dangerous?
A. The jury is still out, but experts say best to avoid it if possible.
First, there’s the potential – albeit a small one – for a “contact high.”
Nonsmokers who were in a car or other small, unventilated space with heavy marijuana smokers showed some of the same temporary minor memory and coordination problems as the smokers themselves, according to a study out of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Some exposed nonsmokers even tested positive for the drug.
Those are considered extreme conditions. The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that a contact high is highly unlikely, since very little THC is exhaled into the air.
The more serious concern is whether secondhand pot smoke poses the same deadly risks as exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke. That’s where the science isn’t settled, though research largely points to no.
As Tashkin’s studies above show, even firsthand marijuana smoke doesn’t seem to pose an increased risk of lung cancer or chronic pulmonary obstruction disease as cigarette smoke.
However, a 2014 study on rats by cardiovascular researcher Matthew Springer at UC San Francisco found secondhand marijuana smoke restricts blood vessels much like tobacco smoke. That can increase chances of a heart attack, particularly for people who have other risk conditions.
California law says medical marijuana patients can’t smoke in areas where tobacco is banned or within 1,000 feet of school or youth centers. The proposed recreational use initiative bans consumption in public or around children.
To be safe, experts recommend making sure there’s good ventilation if you’re around marijuana smokers. Or suggest other methods of consumption, such as vaporizing, edibles or tinctures.
DEA Spends Millions in Tax Dollars to Rid the Nation of Marijuana
A significant portion is being spent in legal states.
MerryJane- By: Mike Adams 10/7/16
Although marijuana is now legal for medicinal and recreational purposes in well over half the nation, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continues to spend millions of dollars scouring the nation searching for cannabis plants to destroy. In some cases, as it was pointed out on Friday in a report from the Washington Post, Uncle Sam’s leading drug agency is spending significant amounts of our money and coming up empty handed.
Federal documents obtained by journalist Drew Arkins shows the DEA’s Marijuana Eradication Program provided agents in New Hampshire with $20,000 last year to rid the state of illegal marijuana plants. That money paid for law enforcement to take down only a single outdoor grow operation – costing the U.S. taxpayer over $740 per plant.
In Utah, where a member of the local marijuana eradication team told a Senate panel last year that illegal marijuana grow sites were creating stoned rabbits, the DEA spent $73,000 for the state’s weed pulling expedition, which resulted in the discovery of not a single pot plant. That’s a hell of a lot of money to spend a year just to come up with nothing.
The DEA’s marijuana eradication program, which currently has an annual budget of $14 million, is something that federal lawmakers have been trying to defund for the past couple of years. Congressional forces have introduced measures aimed at castrating the program by reallocating those funds to programs designed to reduce domestic violence and other agendas they believe would "play a far more useful role in promoting the safety and economic prosperity of the American people.”
But marijuana is being legalized all over the country. So far, 25 states and the District of Columbia have made it legal for medicinal purposes, while four states have ended prohibition altogether. This November, voters in a number of states will decide on whether to they want legal weed – potentially putting the nation in the position of having more legal states than not.
Right now, the DEA is giving California, where medical marijuana has been legal for 20 years, more than $5.3 million to uproot pot plants. That’s the most money being spent in any state for eradication efforts. Kentucky ranks next with almost $2 million.
California is set to legalize a recreational cannabis industry later this year, which one would think would bring the budget down to zero. But then again weed is also legal in Washington, and it is still one of the top five states for marijuana eradication – receiving $950,000 in 2015. Even Oregon, another legal state, got its hands on $200,000.
Colorado, which launched a recreational pot market in 2014, received absolutely no money last year to eradicate pot plants. Neither did Alaska. So it remains unclear exactly what criteria the DEA uses to determine how it will allocate its “weed pulling” budget.
“I think the DEA’s marijuana eradication program is a huge waste of federal taxpayer dollars,” Congressman Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California, told KGW in 2015. “We have states like Oregon, Washington and Colorado that have legalized marijuana, and then you’ve got the federal government trying to eradicate it. That doesn’t make any sense.”
Trove Of Cannabis Plants Found In Ancient Tomb In China
NPR- By: Merrit Kennedy 10/6/16
Researchers have unearthed 13 cannabis plants in an ancient tomb in northern China, suggesting that prehistoric central Eurasians had ritualistic or medicinal uses for the mind-altering plant.
In a recent paper published in Economic Botany, the scientists say that the "extraordinary cache" of 13 "nearly whole" female cannabis plants were arranged diagonally like a shroud over the body of a dead man. The man was about 35 years old, appeared to be Caucasian and might have been a shaman, they say.
In the tomb, the body was placed on a wooden bed with a "pillow made of common reeds," surrounded by earthenware pots. The plants measured between 19 and 35 inches, and carbon dating indicated that the cemetery is 2,800 to 2,400 years old.
"This is the first time ever that archaeologists have recovered complete cannabis plants, as well as the first incidence of their use as a 'shroud' or covering in a human burial," National Geographic quotes the study's lead author, Hongen Jiang, as saying.
This isn't the first time cannabis has been found at sites in Siberia and northwestern China, according to the researchers. The origins of those previous plants were not clear — they might have been transported from other areas. However, the researchers say that the way the plants were placed on this corpse means they were fresh at the time — suggesting that the marijuana was likely locally grown.
The tomb lies in northwest China's Turpan Basin, which was "an important stop on the Silk Road," according to the magazine.
It was found among 240 other tombs in the cemetery believed to belong to the Subeixi culture. As the study describes, the Subeixi people "led a pastoral life with only a small amount of cereal cultivation, but eventually developed a more balanced semi-pastoral and semi-agricultural society."
And the researchers say there's growing evidence that the Subeixi, along with other groups living in the area, used cannabis for ritualistic or medicinal purposes. Ten years ago, for example, scientists discovered "a large supply of processed female Cannabis flowers" in a nearby Yanghai cemetery. The plants were likely selected because of their "psychoactivity, possibly to facilitate communication between the human and spirit worlds and/or for its medicinal value." They say it could have also been placed "as an appetite stimulant."
Cannabis seeds were also recently discovered in a Siberian tomb of a woman who likely died of breast cancer and may have used cannabis to "cope with the symptoms of her illnesses," the researchers say.
And while the plant can be made into cloth or used for its "nutritious, oil-rich seeds," Jiang tells National Geographic that "no hemp textiles have been found in Turpan burials, and the seeds of the plants in the Jiayi burial are too small to serve as a practical food source."
The researchers conclude: "Apparently, medicinal and possibly spiritual or at least ritualistic Cannabis use was a widespread custom among Central Eurasian peoples during the first millennium before the Christian era."
Former NFL Players Dump Painkillers for Cannabis
Researchers observe former NFL players reap the benefits of cannabis oil instead of opioids.
MerryJane- By: Ben Adams 10/8/16
A growing and passionate army of NFL and former NFL players are starting to speak out about the efficacy of marijuana as an alternative to potentially deadly league approved painkillers. 30 former NFL players are currently participating in a study on cannabis oil as an opioid alternative.
The 30 former players in California were selected last summer for the eight-week study. Players in the study started out with cannabis oil doses the size of a rice grain and worked their way up, increasing the dosage about every four days.
Funded by Constance Therapeutics and the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition, the study has researchers are looking at whole plant cannabis oil as an alternative. The cannabis oil was manufactured in the Bay area.
Kyle Turley's prognosis is grim- he was told to be ready for more or less a lifetime of pain. “I need a new right hip, I need two right knees. I have got a plate and ten screws in my right ankle. I am bone-on-bone in every joint,“ Turley told CBS. “I have tried nearly every one of Big Pharma’s medications to deal with nearly every injury and ailment that you could possibly think of and none of them have reached the mark that cannabis has reached with me.” NFL stars like Turley could benefit from the outcome of the study.
With help from studies like this, cannabis could help take out drugs frequently abused in the NFL such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, fentanyl and more.
Former NFL quarterback Jake Plummer slammed the NFL's stance on marijuana, and highlighted allegations of the NFL denying the link between playing football professionally and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. An astonishingly high amount of ex-NFL players suffer from chronic traumatic encephaly. According to PBS, 96 percent of NFL players suffer from brain trauma, and many have argued that the NFL's CTE program should include marijuana.
Former Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Eugene Monroe has had enough. After retiring last July, he could no longer keep silent. "The last 18 years have been full of traumatic injuries to both my head and my body,” Monroe said in a statement. "I'm not complaining, just stating a fact. Has the damage to my brain already been done? Do I have CTE? I hope I don't, but over 90% of the brains of former NFL players that have been examined showed signs of the disease. I am terrified."
Researchers are still in the process of conducting the study, but we'll keep you posted on any development.
A cannabis candymaker seeks to reassure worried parents as it prepares for California's post-legalization boom
Los Angeles Times- By: Robin Abcarian 10/7/16
The smell inside the production rooms of Kiva Confections, one of California’s premier manufacturers of edible cannabis, is, in a word, intoxicating.
You won’t just catch whiffs of the powdery hash that goes into Kiva’s high-quality chocolate bars. You’ll also inhale the scent of dried blueberries and the heavenly aroma of espresso beans, which are slowly being covered with cannabis-infused chocolate as they tumble in big metal machines that look like open cement mixers.
Right now, co-owners Kristi Knoblich and Scott Palmer, who founded the company six years ago when they were 24 years old, are making medicine for patients whose conditions are improved by cannabis — people with cancer pain or nausea from chemotherapy, people with neuropathy or anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.
But if California voters approve Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, next month, Kiva products will be available to anyone 21 and older. Based on what happened in Colorado after voters in that state approved recreational marijuana in 2012, Knoblich said, the couple anticipates a big — possibly huge — growth in sales.
This worries Proposition 64 opponents, who fear that potent edibles, readily available, could fall into the hands of children. They hope that raising these kinds of fears will nudge voters to reject the measure. Given the polling, I think that is going to be an uphill battle.
Proposition 64 includes safeguards aimed at keeping kids safe: Marijuana products and labels cannot be designed to appeal to children, nor be “easily confused” with commercially sold candy. They must be in childproof packages. Items must be scored into standardized serving sizes, and each serving can contain no more than 10 mgs of THC, the primary active ingredient in marijuana. Products must also carry serious warnings urging caution.
Will this be enough to prevent accidental intoxication by children?
“There have been maybe a couple of hundred cases in Colorado, called into the Denver Poison Control Center,” said Larry Bedard, a retired Marin County emergency room doctor, former president of the American College of Emergency Physicians and strong advocate of legalization.
“At the same time, there’s like 2,500 calls for kids getting into detergent under the kitchen sink,” he said. “I have seen kids in the ICU from aspirin overdoses. I have seen someone die of Tylenol overdose.... If you are a responsible parent, you don’t have Tylenol or aspirin sitting at the bedside. Same thing with edibles. Like other toxic drugs, they need to be kept under lock and key.”
So yes, accidents will happen if Proposition 64 passes, just as they do now.
Is that a good argument against making properly labeled, properly tested cannabis available to consenting adults?
Not in my book.
Knoblich and Palmer have deliberately created labels and packages that will not attract the attention of children.
“We do our best to make these not child-friendly,” Knoblich said. “There are no animals or cartoon characters on our packages. We try to keep them professional and sophisticated-looking.”
But it’s important to keep products safe for adults, too. This is where Kiva Confections shines.
The company’s success is based on a deceptively simple promise: Kiva products taste pleasant, not skunky, and the company says its edibles contain exactly the amount of active ingredient that each label says. One square of Kiva’s signature dark chocolate bar, for instance, contains 15 mg of THC. One chocolate-covered blueberry has 5 mg of THC, considered a “starter dose” for an inexperienced user. (The blueberries are screened for size and the chocolate coating is adjusted accordingly.)
“Our business foundation is predictability and a repeatable experience,” said Knoblich, who gave me a tour of the plant Wednesday. “It is all about precision.”
Kiva has a rigorous testing program. The hash that is added to chocolate is tested for potency and impurities such as fungus and pesticides. The chocolate is also tested after it is infused; samples of finished products are tested as well.
As it turns out, not every edible manufacturer is as diligent.
In 2014, a group of researchers assessed 75 edible cannabis products from dispensaries in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. They discovered that only 17% were accurately labeled, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. Twenty-five percent were under-labeled, meaning they contained more THC than the label stated, and a whopping 60% were over-labeled. Some products contained negligible amounts of THC.
“That’s a disaster waiting to happen,” said Bedard, who helped persuade the California Medical Assn. to endorse Proposition 64. The initiative, he pointed out, includes a requirement for potency testing. “At least you will know if the label says one thing, that’s what it will contain.”
Knoblich would not disclose sales figures, but Kiva products can be found in 900 dispensaries around the state.
The company has a fleet of 17 Priuses and two minivans and is already desperate for more space, one year after taking over this 13,000-square-foot warehouse in an industrial neighborhood west of the 880 Freeway. One industry publication reported in 2015 that Kiva Confections generates more than $10 million a year in revenue.
I know many creaky Baby Boomers who have given up martinis and rediscovered the joys of cannabis through products such as Kiva’s low-dose chocolate-covered blueberries.
“Marijuana is so much safer and less harmful than alcohol,” Bedard said. “As an emergency physician, if there was a magic shot I could give you to convert you from an alcoholic to a stoner, I would give it every day.”
Being a 'trimmigrant' is one of the hardest jobs in the marijuana black market
Business Insider- 10/5/16
The Emerald Triangle is a remote area of Northern California that has long been considered the "world's best-known ganja-growing region." It produces over half of the marijuana consumed in the US.
Nearly every green, leafy bud that leaves the Emerald Triangle has been carefully pruned with a pair of scissors to remove its leaves.
And every summer, tens of thousands of migrant workers, called "trimmigrants," swarm the area to do just that. Students from nearby colleges and visitors from far-off countries work through the harvest, which typically ends in November, earning between $100 and $300 a day for 10 to 15 hours of labor.
While trimming kush might sound like a cushy gig, it's actually one of the hardest jobs in the marijuana black market, according to a recent investigation from Reveal reporterShoshana Walter. She spent months talking to trimmigrants about the abuse they've faced in California's pot country.
The work is tedious, but not difficult to learn. Music often plays in the background. Drug use on the job is not unusual, Walter reports.
An anonymous blogger writing for Reality Sandwich describes the daily grind in these terms: "You wake up, you trim, you break for meals, you trim, you go to sleep." Her meals were provided by her employer.
While some growers provide housing, many other trimmigrants are effectively homeless. They camp in parks and alleyways.
Sorcha O'Higgins, a Buenos Aires-based blogger, says she made $5,000 (after food and alcohol expenses) over five weeks in the trim trade. She has the work-related injuries to prove it.
"After a few weeks your hands are calloused, your lower back crippled, your wrists ache, and all the days merge into a green haze," O'Higgins writes for the Matador Network. She does not plan to return.
There's no way of knowing how many trimmigrants arrive in the Emerald Triangle each year. Because the region supplies much of the black market, the workers are mostly undocumented. One estimate puts the number of trimmigrants at 150,000, with half coming from outside the country.
Why trim the leaves off buds? Well-manicured weed just looks better. It's free of the hairy leaves that cover the part of the plant you smoke, and will likely fetch a higher price at dispensaries or on the black market.
The leaves also have a lower concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. So a medical marijuana patient who buys an eighth of an ounce of untrimmed bud gets less value for their dollar than they would buying trimmed pot.
Female trimmigrants working in the male-dominated growing community can also face danger. Stories of sexual assault, rape, and exploitation run rampant in the Emerald Triangle, though few survivors press charges, according to Reveal.
As California moves to legalize the recreational use of marijuana this November, growers are snapping up land from wine country to Humboldt County in the hope of cashing in.
If the weed business moves above the table, trimmigrants can only hope working conditions will rise with it.
Damian Marley Is Converting a California Prison into a Pot Farm: Exclusive
Billboard - By. Andy Gensler - 10/3/2016
Bob Marley's youngest son, along with business partner Ocean Grown Extracts, has created a poetic metaphor and multi-million dollar business model in one.
Damian Marley has announced that he, in partnership with Ocean Grown Extracts, is converting a former 77,000 square foot California State prison into a cannabis grow space that will cultivate medical marijuana for state dispensaries.
"Many people sacrificed so much for the herb over the years who got locked up," says Marley, 38, noting the poetic justice of turning a prison that once housed non-violent drug offenders into a cannabis cultivation facility. "If this [venture] helps people and it's used for medicinal purposes and inspires people, it's a success."
By that measure, the prison-to-pot farm initiative is already a triumph. With their purchase of the Claremont Custody Center in Coalinga, CA for $4.1 million, Marley and his partners instantly relieved the economically-challenged Central Valley town of its roughly $3.3 million debt. The venture will also generate 100 jobs -- in an economically stagnant region plagued by an ongoing, historic drought and descending oil prices, both of which have damaged the region's traditional farming and oil industries -- and will generate an estimated million dollars in annual tax revenues for Coalinga.
The new business began "in a very organic way," says Dan Dalton, Marley's longtime manager. "Cannabis is something that's around Damian every day with friends, family and with his Rastafarian faith. We've watched people who have sacrificed their lives for it. That injustice has motivated us to be advocates as well as knowing that there are healing properties in cannabis."
Marley today also announced the introduction of Speak Life, a proprietary strain of cannabis he created with Ocean Grown. The strain is based on the company's lauded OG Kush, but altered genetically with the help of a Ph.D trained chemist at who helped cultivate the unique breed.
"The OG has always been my favorite," says Marley, who met with the chemist while making Speak Life. "When they introduced this strain of OG I really loved it and loved its consistency." The bud is a hybrid made of 70 percent indica and 30 percent sativa, and is hand-watered and trimmed.
Marley and his partners are prepared for the "green rush" should California's Proposition 64 -- which would legalize cannabis for adult recreational use -- passes in November, as the polls seem to indicate. And California isn't alone in reconsidering marijuana's legality, either. Voters in seven other states will choose whether to legalize recreational and/or medical marijuana -- Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada could approve the use of recreational pot; Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota will decide on legalizing medical marijuana, which a status the plant has been assigned in 25 states and the District of Columbia.
Marley's Coalinga facility will begin producing oil extracts in sixty days, and by this January will harvest its first crop. But Marley, like America, isn't limiting himself to California. Two weeks ago, in partnership with Colorado-based TruCannabis, he also launched Stoney Hill, a 3,000-square-foot dispensary in downtown Denver, just across from Mile High Stadium, along with a 30,000-square-foot grow space (pictured above), complete with RFID tags for each plant.
What makes Marley's new business ventures unique is that none of it involves licensing deals, which he's been offered in the past. In fact Marley and his team have invested both in TruCannabis and Ocean Grown -- the latter of which is run by Marley's manager Dan Dalton's brother and sister Casey Dalton and Kelly Dalton.
Marley is, of course, cross-promoting his cannabis ventures with his music. Stony Hill, the name of that new Denver dispensary, is also the title of his fourth full-length album, set to be released in January (just in time for that first crop from Coalinga, too) on Republic Records. Speak Life, the name Marley's new strain, also happens to be the name of a track from Stony Hill.
"I didn't know it would happen this way," says Marley, when asked if he'd considered weed's legalization to be possible in his lifetime. "This was definitely something we were working towards for a long time, before I was even born. There was Peter Tosh's 'Legalize It' and songs like that -- this is something our culture has been working towards. I was optimistic that it would one day be legal -- and now it is here."