Our friends have just returned from California with this T-shirt after a season of clipping weed. Those famous 5m Cali trees all need trimming and the figures are staggering.
So are the effects of legalisation.
The harvest is a two to three month stint at the same remote farm with no option but to get on with the clip, and more critically, get on with the rest of the clipping crew (and their music). Up to 500kg’s per farm, not including the trim, and up to 30 people in isolation for 10 weeks getting paid between $200-$500 per kg of clean bud processed, depending on seniority and experience.
Some farms offer free food, others free smoke but for the most part you’re on your own and if you decide to leave your contract early, you can expect half pay. Oh, and sexploitation is alive and well as some farms offer double pay if the chicks clip topless….
One county alone has over 110,000 registered farms (yes, you read that right) and each county always has the same number of illegal operations. At this time of year the trimming industry booms with over 1 million trimmers being employed in this legal, and sometimes not so legal business.
Sounds like the promised land to some of you? Sounds like heaven to most who roll up their sleeves and pick up their sharpest scissors, until they walk into the trimming shed and see 500kg’s hanging from the rafters ready to process in the next dozen weeks. Imagine 200 grams of just finger hash!
One year since legalisation in California and the market is saturating. Big producers are also buying harvests for 30% less for concentrates with no expert trimming required, just sugar leaves removed. Those kinds of unskilled jobs are paying between $15-25 hourly. Market prices are constantly dropping. Last year was $1600/kg wholesale, now it’s $800.
New rules and regulations are also crippling the small operators. Machines are starting to take over, dispensaries are making all the real money with their mark ups and taxes, and it looks like only the big players could actually survive.
To cap it all off, weed is still illegal at federal level, so cross state transportation is still a felony. All that weed has to stay in state.
Most of the old time ‘mom & pop’ small scale Craft farmer families are struggling with this brave new world. ‘Free the weed’ has created a glut that is putting most of them out of business, and some want to Illegalise weed again.
After only one year, the barcode boys a have a jackboot in the door…..
Cut to South Africa at the end of 2018 and the Department of Health has issued an initial 35 ‘hemp research’ licenses to whoever has land, a phone number, a GPS co-ordinate and have signed up with the fledgling Cannabis Development Council of South Africa (CDCSA). We’re not sure what the relationship is between the CDCSA and the Dept of Health as hemp gatekeepers, but it’s interesting to note, these hemp trials aren’t with the Department of Agriculture.
So much for fuel and fibre perhaps.
Looks like everyone must be on the CBD bonanza. It is also curious to see people falling over themselves to obtain a license to grow weed that ultimately remains the property of the Dept. of Health. Sounds a bit dodge to us, putting all that time and effort into a government agency, not to mention feeds, pesticides, salaries, equipment and diesel for months on end, only to hand it over for ‘research’. As usual, “the large print will giveth, and the small print will taketh away”.
CBD hemp ‘for research’ would, all of a sudden, have little to do with industrial hemp production. It means growing the plants wide apart and running into the same production challenges as ‘regular’ weed. Labour will be required to trim and process the ‘hemp’ flowers. This is nothing but good news for South Africa’s unemployed weed lovers. Lots of trimming opportunities on the horizon, but who will pay for the labour? (and will they pay double for topless trimmers?) and what will happen to all that harvest at the Dept of Health? Nobody can trade in the stuff, so what exactly is the motivation for all the licenses. Since the mid 1990’s government agencies have supposedly been giving research permits to grow cannabis, but not one came to any fruition.
We suppose they could always fall back on the caveat – ‘more research needs to be done’.
The same goes for a co-operative that has started in North West province. They are handing out grow licenses for medical weed, but the harvest remains their property. What do they intend doing with the medical THC harvest? Give it away? And how can someone be paid for their medical weed. Surely that’s dealing?
We watch with interest because this is another vital form of social activism as individuals and companies take the law to the limit with their principled noncompliance. Test legal cases will provide direction for everyone as we move forward.
We expect more and more of these enterprises and associations to crop up, and so they should – but it all seems to be premature. Anyway, that’s the agriculture side of things. What about the horticulture side of things? The SA ‘Craft’ cannabis industry is set to explode if given a green light. This is the marketplace that has the greatest potential to uplift South Africa’s citizens. Cannabis Kazinomics.
By September 2020, the government has to have rewritten the 1992 Act pertaining to Cannabis Sativa, but what will they rewrite the law into? Will the new laws make it possible for a free trade laissez faire, or will the industry be controlled by a group of ganja gatekeepers who will grow big, kill the price and put everyone else out of business (or behind bars for ‘dealing’.)
The answer is anyone’s guess, and it’s different to California in a subtle way. We haven’t had over 20 years of medical use before full legalisation, but we do have the inalienable right to grow for personal use. However, if we all don’t pay attention, make no mistake, legalisation will be just that for a select few (Canada is a good example). And the others – the overwhelming majority? Well, the rules, regulations and price drops might just put them out of business (or behind bars for ‘dealing’)
This is where our Fields Of Green For ALL (FGA) ‘Desired Outcomes’ discussion document comes in handy. We know government has multiple copies and we know it is being read by many interested parties and associations. In 40 pages, it really is ‘power to the people’ and you are invited to read it if you haven’t already. There is an easy online reply form to submit your suggestions, comments and proposals. What do you want your legalisation to look like?
As for the short term, if you heard the Judge correctly, you should be well on the way to your brand new ‘private’ legal weed harvest by Easter. The cops have been really quiet since the September ConCourt judgement. The Join The Queue arrest helpline has been almost dead. The smart money is on the cops just waiting patiently for everyone to have masses of weed before they start hassling us all again. However, the onus is now on the cops to prove we are all dealers and not growing for private use, and a warrant must be issued to enter your property. There are still sporadic possession arrests going on around the country – mostly cops preying on the unaware and ignorant, but they are being thrown out by magistrates countrywide.
By September 2020 you should have all done your homework and formed private associations, clubs and co-ops where everyone protects each other in a not for profit closed loop system. For now, the bottom line still remains – growing weed for financial gain, whether there is THC present or not, is a criminal offence, whether you’re an association, cooperative, dispensary or back yard grow.
The mark of a successful Dagga boer in the coming months won’t be the condition of your harvest, it’ll be your ability to survive a forensic audit. If you’re making money from your weed, get extremely creative with the proceeds….
FGA will continue to be the eyes and ears of civil society during the legislation process and we will continue to chant our mantra “nothing about us without us” both at home and in Europe at the highest level of drug policy. It’s up to all of us, South Africa’s Cannabis community, to achieve the legalisation we all want.
As a result of their not-so-very-slow-extinction, California’s Craft farmers and small scale nurserymen are forming groups, associations and enterprises to retain a market share of their favourite herb’s liberation. Just as those remote clipping crews have to get on together, we all have to get on together moving forward.
We are all going to have to learn how to take a movement and turn it into an industry.
If it all goes wrong though, and the barcoded suits take over, maybe we could just Illegalise it again…..
We hope you have the 2019 you’re wishing for.