US (CA): Small North Coast cannabis farms face daunting future

For almost seven years, David Drips has weathered a variety of obstacles to make his Petaluma Hill Farms viable to grow legal cannabis.

There has been licensing red tape from Sonoma County, where he has not received his final permit and can only grow less than a half-acre though he could farm twice that amount.

When he looks over his shoulder, he worries about Big Weed competitors backed by tons of investors’ money so they can play the long game. Meanwhile, he scrapes by with major expenses, such as his annual land lease at $120,000 a year.

There are other costs in the highly regulated pot market that require distribution and product testing, notably the state cultivation tax that was raised last year to $154 per pound of dried flower.

The numbers add up. As a co-owner, Drips has been in debt as much as $750,000, which brought on depression and factored in a divorce.


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