Is California Ushering in an Era of Factory Farmed Pot?

The Oakland city council's landmark decision

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The Oakland City Council will vote today on a proposal to set up four marijuana factory farms in the Bay Area. If approved, the measure would allow the first such farms in modern U.S. history. Since California legalized the growing of marijuana for medical usage, a small but highly profitable industry of pot growers has sprung up in the state. It was probably inevitable that pot farms would eventually become big business, but should Oakland approve the factory farms? And what happens if they do?

  • How Would-Be Factory Farmer Wooed Oakland  The L.A. Times' John Hoeffel reports, "One Bay Area businessman has already made it clear that he intends to apply for a cultivation permit. Jeff Wilcox, who owned a successful construction firm and has already incorporated as AgraMed, hopes to convert his empty industrial buildings near Interstate 880 into an enormous production facility. He plans to manufacture growing equipment, bake marijuana edibles in a 10,000-square-foot kitchen and use two football fields of space to grow about 58 pounds of marijuana every day, many times the amount now sold in Oakland. What caught the City Council's attention was Wilcox's projection that he could hire 371 employees and pay at least $1.5 million a year in taxes. Oakland faces severe budget deficits and has already let go of 80 police officers."
  • Rise of The 'Wal-Marting of Weed'  The Associated Press reports, "After weathering the fear of federal prosecution and competition from drug cartels, California's medical marijuana growers see a new threat to their tenuous existence: the 'Wal-Marting' of weed. ... The move, and fledgling efforts in other California cities to sanction cannabis cultivation for the first time, has some marijuana advocates worried that regulations intended to bring order to the outlaw industry and new revenues to cash-strapped local governments could drive small 'mom and pop' growers out of business. They complain that industrial-scale gardens would harm the environment, reduce quality and leave consumers with fewer strains from which to choose."
  • A Familiar and Inevitable Pattern of Business  Outside the Beltway's James Joyner says of the small farmers' protects, "While amusing because of the reputation of this particular crop and its enthusiasts, it is always thus. Despite the conception in the popular culture that government regulation springs from consumer pressure over the screaming protests of industry, the fact of the matter is that it almost always is demanded by big players in the industry in an effort to thwart competition."
  • Why Cities Will Embrace Pot Factory Farms  The Guardian's Ewan MacAskill writes, "The cash-strapped council is keen to approve the plan in order to generate cash through permit fees and taxes. The plan was agreed in principle at a council meeting last week. ... Oakland, like other cities throughout California, is suffering severe debt problems in spite of budget cuts and redundancies. It voted last year to tax marijuana dispensaries, which is estimated to bring in about $1.5m (£980,0000) this year. Tax from the four marijuana factories is estimated to be much more."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.