To many residents of Middle America, the idea of growing marijuana as a legitimate livelihood seems like the stuff of TV shows. For an increasing number of entrepreneurial farmers in states that have relaxed laws, however, marijuana has turned into a profitable venture that provides economic advancement and a decent form of employment. Legalized production and possession of marijuana has allowed many individuals to create new revenue for themselves, in positions from growing to processing to distributing the newly profitable crop.
The Wall Street Journal recently profiled the work of Colorado marijuana farmer Elliot Klug. Klug is more than a farmer and describes himself as the chief executive of a venture that employs more than 70 growers. Their practices differ widely from the techniques of traditional farmers and include such curious practices as blaring The Grateful Dead while working at growing and harvesting their special crop. Klug and his company only sell their produce to Colorado residents who have received medical permission to consume the drug. That being said, his operations still exist outside the realm of traditional legality.
Klug and his associates had been producing marijuana for non-medical users before the state of Colorado legalized use by medical patients. Even with Colorado’s legalization of marijuana for medical use, the federal government maintains that sale and possession of the drug is illegal. As Klug says, “We are still the bad guys, but we pay taxes.” While Klug is correct that his chosen career path remains safely outside the mainstream, it is clearly gaining traction. States are quickly increasing the circumstances under which possession and use of marijuana are acceptable. Numerous states have passed laws permitting the use of marijuana for use by individuals with various chronic medical conditions. A smaller but growing number of states has enacted laws that permit the use of marijuana for purely recreational purposes.
These strides in the law are gaining momentum and suggest that we may fast be approaching a time when growers like Mr. Klug may be able to operate as legitimate businesses. Before that can happen, though, the federal government is going to have to change its policy on marijuana. While most actual law enforcement officials are governed by more lenient state laws, some federal officials have the power to make life extremely difficult for individuals involved in the harvest of marijuana. As long as the federal government continues to criminalize marijuana possession and consumption, businesses dealing in it will not be able to operate as legitimate enterprises. Despite current policy, momentum seems to be on the side of increased legalization, and marijuana farming may soon be an acceptable livelihood.