Skip to comments.Is Cannabis the Cure for Rural Unemployment?
Posted on 07/02/2018 8:04:14 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
For those of us living in cities, the memories of the 2007 economic crash are a distant memory. But for our neighbors in rural counties, the ghosts of the depression are still haunting vacant towns where farming and manufacturing used to thrive. According to the Economic Research Service arm of the USDA, rural and metro employment equalized in the early part of 2008 before bottoming out, but while metro employment has more than recovered, rural employment has yet to achieve parity with its pre-crash levels.
Farmers are suffering especially hard, and many are having to find supplemental work off the farm to make ends meet, and those that cant find work are committing suicide in record numbers. Trumps punishing farm bill is likely to make the situation for the rural poor much worse. At the same time, these towns are suffering from a leveling population growth, to the detriment of all strata of local industry, and depriving these towns of the tax income that fund social services, schools, and infrastructure improvements. But in some rural communities in states with a legal cannabis market, marijuana farming is offering a solution to the vicious cycle. Trinidad, Colorado is one of those small towns.
A report by High Country News gives credit for the towns success to the towns slow-growth strategy within the market. The key to Trinidads success was to give out a handful of permits at a time, and by socking away the influx of new money until supply and demand become predictable over the next five years. In return, theyve been able to pump more dollars into local infrastructure and social programs, making measurable improvements in the quality of life for all residents.
Utah border town De Beque, CO saw an addition of 35 new jobs in local growing facilities. It may not sound like a lot, but in a town of 500, it represents 7% of the towns total population and a significant bite out of county unemployment rate. And its just a tiny fraction of the 18,000 Colorado jobs created by the legal cannabis industry.
But in agriculture-heavy flyover states like Indiana and Ohio, fear of marijuanas social menace haunts the socially conservative state climate. Advocates of industrial hemp, a significantly higher-margin cash crop than corn or soy, have had to fight like hell to produce the entirely drug-free plant, despite the obvious boon to farming communities.
The primary challenge all along has been a handful of leaders and legislators that refuse to acknowledge the difference between marijuana and hemp, said Jamie Campbell Petty, Founder and President of the Indiana Hemp Industries Association, in an email. While many state legislators eventually came around on the topic, it wasnt after a concerted PR campaign and multiple assurances that they werent trying to pave the way for legal marijuana in the state. Even though industrial hemp is profitable for young farmers with little equipment, and even with hemps versatility as food, fuel, and fiber, the IHIA narrowly won their battle, and are hoping to build a successful industrial hemp ecosystem like the one currently thriving in Kentucky.
But the private prison industry has quietly been dominating these economically depressed communities, all but ensuring a long, expensive battle for legalization. Of the new prisons constructed in the last 40 or so years, 70% of them have been built in rural communities. When manufacturers leave, the private prison industry offers work soul-crushing, low-wage work to desperate people trying to keep food on the table.
According to a 2017 study by New Frontier Data, the marijuana industry is on track to overtake the manufacturing in new job creation by 2020. With Trumps administration signing bait-and-switch deals for huge manufacturers like his hollow PR stunt at Carrier in Indianapolis, the cannabis industry is hoping to spare itself from the Sessions DOJ by offering a viable market for low-skill labor. For states like Indiana, Ohio and Illinois, who are each facing major funding issues in their respective states on top of a farming crisis, a legal cannabis market should look like an appealing single-stone solution for a multi-bird problem.
States like Georgia have enacted laws to draw the entertainment industry, offering huge tax credits to movie and TV productions to shoot in the state. But thats not doing much to help the states rural populations and only further depriving rural areas of growth opportunities. The economic potential of a legal marijuana market in Georgia could offer a sustainable source of funding for the 65% of Georgia kids on free or reduced lunch.
Over the next decade, the economic potential of the legal cannabis industry will become too enormous to ignore. Many states without any marijuana laws on the books, medical or otherwise, are now becoming surrounded by states where citizens have legal access, and both marijuana users and cannabis industry investors are funneling money into other states economies instead of their own.
Its still not a panacea. Aside from small-town anxiety about marijuana, theres a potential unseen side effect of a wide-open marijuana production floodgate in these economically depressed communities: overwhelmed local services. From schools to hospitals, all rural boom towns run the risk of increased violent crime when a population grows too fast for law enforcement and social services to keep pace, especially after decades of sluggish growth.
However, if lead by a coalition of farmers, and meted out judiciously by state legislators in favor of independent, local producers, it seems that a happy medium is possible. But first, many of these heavily conservative states will have to work around decades of Reefer Madness-style marijuana mythology and the small minds that tend to stick around these rural towns clinging to old ways, old power, and dusty dreams.
State legislators in the pocket of the private prison industry will likely have to be replaced by state legislators in the pocket of the recreational marijuana lobby. This is the reality of conservative state politics and the legislators stuck between corporate interests, obvious economic benefits, and an ultra-conservative rural voting base. The next decade will tell whether these cash-and talent-strapped rural economies will turn to the cannabis industry to patch the leaks or maybe, whether they can afford not to.
Everybody growing dope would cause the bottom to fall out of the price. Not much employment in that.
It would put the cartels out of business, however.
Legalizing pot isn’t about freedom or feeding the economy. It’s about tax revenue. The government makes more off cigarettes than the manufacturer and the retailer. Same with gasoline. I expect the same with weed.
“Utah border town of De Beque, CO”? Someone didn’t look at a map.
Just plain no
what the H is wrong with people and their nutty ideas....
not all of us are going to get stoned like some freepers....
if this is a business model, then the model is to INCREASE BUSINESS and trick more people into "trying" this drug....
what is the matter with people?
Well, they do work for High Times.
Weed causes unemployment. For every person employed hawking weed I bet ten drop out of productivity. Unless you want more couch potatoes, dont legalize weed.
Some business increase share by increasing brand and quality. Not that I smoke dope. I can see where the market would focus on clean quality products vs Mexican crime attached back allies. JMHO.
Wait, getting stoned is the solution to everything as long as the government gets a cut? So the government has become the drug pusher, oblivious to the ramifications of such a policy? That was always the policy, now it is in plain view, no longer will the state try to hide it. For the love of money is the root to all evil. I Timothy.
The writer is high. It is a Class 1 drug for a reason. People are purposely or ignorantly misleading the issue.
It hasnt worked yet in spite of all the profits staying in private hands rather than being gorges on by government.
If it’s going to be pricey and taxed, the illegal market will continue to thrive and since it’s legal they’ll be less likely to be caught.
he Town of De Beque is a Statutory Town in Mesa County, Colorado, United States. 30 miles = border town.
Take a trip and never leave the farm.
Not surprised about Trinidad, Colorado- always was cutting edge, one of the first places and soon after the most popular place to go for a sex change. The people there have never been afraid to get involved in something new and they welcomed that for their economy for many years.
My aunt was a nurse in a hospital about 2 hours away and she began to hear rumors of what was going on in Trinidad after the first surgery. At first people in Trinidad and Dr. Biber tried to keep it a secret what they were doing there. Word traveled fast in the medical community though so my aunt was talking about it long before it became common knowledge. I was a sheltered ranch kid and was shocked when she was telling us about it.
That doesn't have anything really to do with this, but the sex change thing is all I can think of to this day when I hear anything about Trinidad.
Oh don’t you know that pot IS THE cure for everything. It’s the cure for drug addiction. It’s the cure for cartels. It’s the cure for border crime. It’s the cure for cancer. It saves trees. It does everything. There is NOTHING wrong with pot.
“Weed causes unemployment.”
Colorado is tied for 5th lowest unemployment rate in the nation¹, and had the second highest gdp growth in 2017, behind Washington state.²
And I think Colorado is always rated as the healthiest state in the union.
Pretty sure they’re talking about Cannabis Ruderalis. AKA Hemp. Good crop for multiple reasons.
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