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Nevada County legal cannabis continues to experience growing pains

Nevada County legal cannabis farmer Daniel Fink shows off a cannabis bud during the 2021 harvest.
Photo: File photo by Elias Funez

For the first time ever, the Nevada County Department of Agriculture prepared and presented a Cannabis Supplemental Report and has estimated that the legally produced commercial cannabis crop is valued at $12.4 million, roughly half the intake of the county’s traditional ag products.

The 2021 Nevada County Crop and Livestock Report valued those traditional agricultural products at $21.2 million, though the legal cannabis market numbers are tallied separately from those due to the illegality of the crop on the federal level.

“Nevada County’s unique microclimates and topography provide world-renowned growing conditions for prized cannabis genetics, especially long-season sativa strains,” the report states.



In 2020, there were 57 cannabis cultivation permits authorized with a total canopy size of 9.13 acres and an estimated value of $11,992,300.

In 2021, cannabis permits tallied 112, while overall canopy size came in at 18.74 acres.



While these numbers nearly doubled from 2020 to 2021, the overall valuation of the crop stayed relatively the same at $12,401,600.

“Obviously, the cannabis was somewhat surprising,” Nevada County Agricultural Commissioner and Sealer of Weights and Measures Chris de Nijs said.

“Initially the number of permits double but yet the value was pretty small or incremental. I think cannabis is kind of at a crossroads. Other counties have hundreds of acres of cannabis,” de Nijs said, citing counties like Santa Barbara and Monterey with over 200 acres of legal cannabis.

“Our cannabis industry locally is definitely struggling and they’re still working out how to fill that niche to survive,” de Nijs said, mentioning depressed cannabis values over the next few years.

De Nijs said cannabis growers are limited within the current ordinance, which allows the largest canopy size of 10,000 square feet after the appropriate setbacks.

“It’s a board policy decision,” de Nijs said. “We’re taking some comments on the proposed revisions to the cannabis ordinance.”

“It is important to keep the cannabis industry on our radar because it could be struggling soon,” de Nijs said.

According to legal cannabis farmer Daniel Fink, the industry is currently struggling and has been, since he feels policy making decisions have failed following the passing of Proposition 64 in 2016.

“The wholesale market price of cannabis in the regulated market is less than a quarter of what it was just three years ago,” Fink said. “Thanks to the last minute elimination of a provision disallowing ‘stacking’ of 1 acre permits early in the roll out of Prop 64, many companies quickly scaled to hundreds of acres taking on investment capital to corner the market.”

Fink is one of the 112 permitted Nevada County cannabis farmers that make up the 18.7 acres of legal farms and runs Down Om Farms on the San Juan Ridge.

“Prop 64 was sold to the people of Northern California as a way for small craft farmers to step into the light and become productive, successful, and contributing members of society in a meaningful way. As many of us that live here in Gold Country for years are aware, some growers have always been good contributing members to society.

“Those here in Nevada County that have made the efforts to become legal, pay their taxes, and get permitted need more help than ever. Us small farmers of the area need to be able to scale our business as the market changes. Just like any other small agriculture producer, we need to have vertical integration for simple processes like distributing our own crops to dispensaries and making traditional tincture and topical medicines on farm. If we are unable to utilize the same tools that other small farmers use, we will be significantly challenged as small businesses which will further impact the economic downturn locally and nationally.

“This has been the most challenging and strenuous year for cannabis farmers and businesses of all types. These challenging times are not predicted to end any time soon. Due to California’s high barriers to entry and poor regulatory decisions there is over supply in the recreational California cannabis market like never seen before,” Fink said.

Down Om Farm on the San Juan Ridge is currently one of Nevada County’s 112 legal cannabis farms.
Photo: Courtesy Daniel Fink

To contact Managing Editor Elias Funez email, efunez@theunion.com.

 

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