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Pot: A Marijuana Glut in Washington?

The Associated Press is floating a story around about an oversupply of cannabis from the legal producers. The story goes on to predict dire consequences like crashed wholesale prices and possible bankruptcies and business take-overs.

Washington residents are still trying to understand what this crop is and how it works. This ignorance shows up in several communities (likewise in Colorado) as bans, moratoriums on permitting, and ridiculously severe limits on local businesses. Almost always this ignorance and fear is justified by NIMBYs by predicting traffic problems, security issues, the smell, offensive lighting schemes, and nasty-looking fencing. In other words, the arguments one might use to keep an industrial facility out of a neighborhood. In this meme, marijuana growing is the result of a factory-like facility, not plants gown in dirt.

Other communities (and me) see it as an agricultural crop which should be treated like any other plant grown for profit. In some parts of the state, the “Right to Farm” is taken very seriously, as everyone in the community understands the growing/harvest/process cycle and what it means to the livelihoods in the community. Many agricultural products are smelly when ripe (hops, mint, onions, dairy, etc) and the intense operations required to process the harvests can be noisy, busy, and brightly lit 24 hours a day until the harvest is out the door to market, generally a few days or a week or three.

Some people might interpret the yield from the recent marijuana harvest as a “glut” when they look at the tonnage of product appearing in September and October. This is no different than apples, peaches, and cherries (to name a few) that “glut” the market every year in Washington. It’s how farming works.

Farmers have many ways of dealing with this natural phenomena that involves storage facilities, networks of brokers, transportation, and ubiquitous retail outlets. Not to mention the Co-ops, Growers Associations, and contracts with mega-stores that all go into smoothing out the supply/demand mismatch. That’s successful farming.

It’s impossible to gauge the results of Washington’s first legal cannabis crop because there are no proven measures of what “success”, “enough”, “not enough”, or “too much” really is. This problem became apparent while the regulations were being developed: since it was illegal, no measurements were taken as to supply, demand, or anything else.

The regulations were consequently developed using money as a proxy for measurable numbers that did not exist, leading to some very suspect conclusions as to what the market should be and look like. These very, very suspicious assumptions were then baked into the regs, and we won’t know for maybe another year how close or far off they are.

Therefore it’s impossible to claim there’s a glut or a shortage of marijuana in Washington, and ridiculous to predict the consequences when nothing is known yet.

Cannabis is a farm product, not output from a factory, and should permitted and treated like any other valuable crop like broccolini….

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