California wine vineyards switching to cannabis

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Cannabis is helping to reinvigorate a dying agricultural industry in the state

California has long been associated with wine, often producing some of the country’s blue ribbon winners. However, the once-thriving industry had begun to see declines, threatened by international competition, a lack of viable fields and several bouts of bad weather. The result was an agricultural industry that had been declining, taking revenue out of government coffers. That industry is now seeing new life thanks to marijuana.

This fall, harvesters aren’t walking the fields pulling grapes. They are, instead, pulling marijuana flowers for the growing cannabis business. From Monterey to Santa Barbara, a number of farms have cropped up over the past eight to twelve months, especially in Santa Barbara County. The county is responsible for more licensed marijuana cultivators than anywhere else in the state.

Not only is marijuana cultivation helping to reinvigorate the agriculture industry; it’s also helping to clean up another. Emerald Triangle, which describes the three counties in the northernmost corner of the state, was once a haven for illegal marijuana. The Central Coast production isn’t yet as widespread as what is seen in Emerald Triangle, but it’s getting there.

John De Friel owns Raw Garden Farm, a 17-acre farm and seed lab on the Central Coast. He explains, “We’re nearly right in between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the two big consumer hubs. We really didn’t foresee how advantageous that would turn out to be.”

California legalized recreational marijuana only about a year and a half ago. Since then, however, the industry has exploded. This is, slowly, helping to eradicate illegal marijuana farms and helping to control prices. The regulated marijuana market in the state is already worth $4 billion a year and will only grow as adoption and legalization continue.