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Op Ed: Vermont Should Embrace the Gifting Economy

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Mark Kelley 2 Oct 2018

As a sustainability engineer, I have become quite adept at building energy modeling, and was approached by a longtime architect client to consult for a cannabis growing space in Massachusetts. The client was a well-funded investment group who has built many of these grow centers as well as dispensaries around the country.  

My role was to tell them what the results of converting their soon-to-be-built grow space to LED lighting. LEDs use far less electricity to produce the same results, and I was able to show that in their large facility, they would save over half a million dollars per year due to reductions in cooling loads, dehumidification, and electricity for light.  

To put it succinctly, Vermont farmers will be mowed down. So much money will attract fast company, requiring oversight to prevent shady dealing, and the more regulation, the harder it will be for the small farmer to participate.  

In their rush to construction, however, the client couldn’t be bothered to make this simple change, which would have required a redo of the engineering design that would have taken about a week. So, the building went forward without LEDs. Energy, environment and even economy were all ignored. The gold rush is on, and devil take the hindmost!

As Vermont eyes its own gold rush, it would be wise to consider this lesson. Many, particularly legislators and aspiring legal farmers, are looking for gold in these hills. But, our homegrown farmers are at a great disadvantage to these well funded consortia (e.g. Phillip Morris) who have big business practices and no concerns but profit.  

Photo by Matteo Paganelli on UnSplash

To put it succinctly, Vermont farmers will be mowed down. So much money will attract fast company, requiring oversight to prevent shady dealing, and the more regulation, the harder it will be for the small farmer to participate.  

Many in the Vermont political scene would like to tax the transactions and get in on the gold rush to the benefit of Vermont coffers. This is seen as an easy way out of budgetary constraints that now trouble our government. But at what cost?  

The corporate model of cannabis production and sales requires huge investments in grow rooms, secure dispensaries, vaults for the cash and securing the products, and dealing with the huge bureaucracy that will be required. And these costs of doing business are reflected in the product cost.

Is there no alternative to opening the cannabis business up for corporate greed and resulting tight regulation? Well, yes, there is the current situation, where we all can grow a few plants. But, of course, you can’t sell it. And that’s fine by me.  

CBD is now enjoying a boom in demand, price and production, and will eventually experience a price drop, but the eventual shake-out should result in reasonable prices for farmers, without the risk of outsiders muscling in on the business because the profits aren’t obscene.

The only improvement might be the right to give some away to a friend, with no requirement for reciprocation – though perhaps the friend would like to give you a present as well. Since no money is involved, big business is not interested. There would still be a need for regulation to prevent cheating, but no need for massive government oversight or the development of a new department.

What about Vermont farmers? Many are already very skilled at growing these plants surreptitiously, and these skills could be expanded to growing CBD hemp or even industrial hemp. CBD is now enjoying a boom in demand, price and production, and will eventually experience a price drop, but the eventual shake-out should result in reasonable prices for farmers, without the risk of outsiders muscling in on the business because the profits aren’t obscene.

I suggest that we continue to develop and improve our home grown system for cannabis production and exchange. Those who currently don’t know a farmer friendly enough to give them a present should, of course, get to know a farmer! It’s the best way to keep Vermont weird and sweet without inviting interference from the mighty gods of industry and government.

 

– Mark Kelley, Rising Mist Farm, Randolph Center, Vermont

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