This is the first in (hopefully) a series of posts by a 20+ year veteran grower of illegal cannabis, medical marijuana, and soon to be outright legal marijuana.
One of the most significant costs the med to large scale grower of marijuana faces is the costso fprocessing the cannabis to a state where it can go on the market. Depending on the region and thus local established norms this can be hourly,or per pound costs. Regardless, the fixed cost usually amounts to $200-$250 per pound of finished product. And there are countless additional costs- providing the space, gloves, alcohol, olive oil and salt for cleanup, often providing at least some snacks and or meals, some or all alcohol, paying a manager, two or three to oversee things, etc, etc. And while the rough deleafing that takes place at harvest/before stuff is hung to dry which is often hourly work, the very real costs between the time the plants are cut and and are ready to go to their market- the costs easily reack into the $350-600 per pound region.
And with medical marijuana and outright legalization the grower increasingly sees their margins shrinking. From well over $3000 a bound when I got into this 20 years ago, rising to a high around $4,000, before dropping to around $2,200 for the absolute finest one can produce. And often dropping to $1800 or worse when the literal tons are harvested by the masses.
So, to finally get to the point of this post. Automatic Trimmer Machines. All the rage these days. For a cost as little as a couple thousand, up to $15K for the high tech machines, a grower can wipe out a huge portion of their labor costs. Even the high end machines can more then pay for themselves in a single season. Or half a season- as the reality is many of us now pull 2 outdoor harvests a year by using greenhouses.
I am relatively small, in my mind, focusing on quality not quantity. Yet I pay, on average, $35K-$50k a year in trim costs. Plus the incidentals of food, alcohol, supplies, electricity, water, space,…. One (or more) of these machines could easily mean I make an extra $25K a year. Probably more. (ok- to be completely honest they change the equation some- I would likely not get the top dollar I can currently command- because no matter how good I am a grower, the machines produce an inferior trim to humans- so my net gain would probably be halved).
Yet I am vehemently opposed to them. For one very simple reason. Since I started growing cannabis commercially 22 years ago, I have had a community that depended on the work I could provide them each year. Some stay at home mons. Some folks in the construction, landscape, and tourism industries who see a drop off in their business around harvest time. Some expatriates who come back to make some real US dollars to help them live where they want to. And many others who while fully employed will gladly work 80++ hour weeks for a month or more so they have some breathing room, or so they can provide for their families through the holidays.
But I’ll admit. I’m increasingly an exception. Capitalism reigns supreme, even in this supposedly alternative industry. And I see this as the downfall of America.
When industries right and left see the bottom line as more important then their feloow citizens. Moving to machinery and/or immigrant labor to replace the very people who helped build your industry. And who are often the end customer for your products.
Selfishesness is not the way forward for our country- it is our demise.