Canada legalized marijuana last month, and the year leading up to the fateful Oct. 17 date has been rife with speculation, especially on what market opportunities there are for farmers.
But it seems that farmers are not likely to be the ones managing the crops. Though there’s unquestionably interest in growing cannabis, the market is dominated by large companies and corporate greenhouses.
General Manager of the Ontario Greenhouse Growers, Joe Sbrocchi, told Farmers Forum that it’s “pretty widely known that there’s a whole group of vegetable growers that are turning over their acreage to cannabis,” though almost none are abandoning vegetables entirely.
In Kingsville, over a dozen greenhouses have applied to be rezoned, so that they can grow pot alongside their fruits and vegetables. But Mayor Nelson Santos cautioned that most of those greenhouses might not receive licences at all.
Retrofitting a greenhouse not optimized for cannabis production is at best an expensive proposition. Sbrocchi pegged it at $800,000 an acre; not exactly chump change, considering building the greenhouse might’ve been $1 million an acre.
Leamington-area greenhouse grower Jay Colasanti said that although he knows several operations which have switched over to growing pot, invariably they’ve partnered with companies which hold the actual licence.
That’s because the standards for growing pot, whether recreational or medicinal, require extensive and expensive security measures to be taken in an indoor facility. Chatham-Kent area farmer and former commercial banker Jay Cunningham summarized it like this: “Whatever you think it will (cost), multiply it by three.” He added that banks have been cautious about investing directly into the market, meaning that prospective growers looking for starting capital have to look elsewhere. This has often meant large companies buying the majority of a greenhouse, providing the licence and capital for upgrades, where the greenhouse owner provides the space and the skill set.