US (CA): Larger cannabis farms overtaking smaller ones

The commercial cannabis industry in California is growing rapidly, but data about its production remains sparse. That is because cannabis is still an illicit drug under federal law and not regulated as an agricultural crop, which requires the federal government to collect much more data.

What the available data — however limited — from state agencies show is that the amount of legal cannabis farming and taxes collected from sales of the cannabis produced have continued to increase in recent years, with large farm operations springing up across the state.

The available data hints at two diverging paths in legal cannabis production in California, the authors of the study claim: one where smaller farms, many of which existed before legalization, operate in more remote areas of the state, and another where large-scale farms sprawl over agricultural lands.

Humboldt County, an early adopter of cannabis regulatory programs, has a high concentration of smaller farms, many of which transitioned from operating illicitly, Dillis said. “Before legalization, it was the epicenter of cannabis production,” but increasingly, as more counties partake in commercial cannabis farming, new farms and operations are springing up in other parts of California. Dillis and his colleagues found that while Humboldt may have the highest number of farms, Santa Barbara County, where there are more large-scale farms, has surpassed it in terms of total cultivation area. 

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