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Friday, January 23, 2015

California's Marijuana Farmers Average $100K Annually

Posted By on Fri, Jan 23, 2015 at 8:14 AM

click to enlarge This is where the money starts. - WIKIPEDIA
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  • This is where the money starts.
Litigious agribusiness giants, extreme poverty, drought: Farming is tough work. And the reward farmers reap isn't exactly worth such risk. Mean annual wages for farm workers in America is about $30,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In California, it's a bit higher: $16 an hour, and $35,060 a year for farm workers, provided, of course, that the work is there and that the crop comes in and is purchased at a fair price. And in Northern California, it's even higher. The average farm worker in certain parts of Mendocino, Humboldt, and other Northern California counties is netting $41,800 a year, according to a recent survey, with farmer-owners netting over $100,000 a year.

Because, of course, those triple-figure farmers are growing marijuana.

California's pot industry receives no shortage of media coverage, some of it breathless (this is partially our fault). Data on pot farming in California, however, is sadly lacking, for one main reason: Who is going to be honest on a marijuana survey when the federal government considers it criminal activity?

Hezekiah Allen believes his people are telling him the truth. Allen is head of the Emerald Growers Association — and he himself cultivated cannabis in his native Humboldt before heading to Sacramento to fulfill his current role as lobbyist and frontman for the state's legal outdoor growers in the state capital.
click to enlarge Hezekiah Allen - COURTESY
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  • Hezekiah Allen

To effect change and affect state policy, however, lawmakers need to know what they're dealing with. So the growers association sent out surveys (and had them all hand-delivered so as to leave no paper trail, electronic or otherwise). Some 140 farmers so far have returned surveys to their lobbyist group. 

Te results are all over the map. Because, in fairness, what the farmers are doing is all over the map, too. Some are doing it entirely legally — even paying their taxes. Some are cheating a little bit on their plant counts (the limit is 25 in Mendocino County). Others are cheating a lot. Some are distributing just within the state, and others are admitting to shipping pounds out of state to more lucrative markets.

That's one reason why the respondents reported annual income from cannabis farming ranging from $20,000 to $2,000,000.

However, there are useful averages. The average farmer-owner took home $100,000 after expenses on $300,000 in annual revenue. Workers' average income was $41,800 — not a lot in San Francisco, but a fine wage in places like Willits and Laytonville.

"These are solid middle-class jobs," Allen told us recently. "They pay better than most timber jobs."

Make that, "most other farm jobs."



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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Bio:
Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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