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Industrialization and geographic trends in the regulated cannabis industry of California

Authors: Christopher Dillis*,
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Environment
Keywords: Marijuana, Agriculture, Industrialization
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


California represents one of the largest emerging regulated cannabis economies worldwide. However, there have been only sparse data on statewide geographic shifts of cultivation centers, the characteristics of new farms, and the effects regulations are having on the location and nature of farming. We used enrollment data from the California State Water Resources Control Board to assess the growth of the state’s cannabis industry and paired this data with grower surveys to understand the implications of industrialization and perceptions of current trends among cannabis growing communities. We compared the top 11 cannabis producing counties by average farm size, growth rate, zoning classifications, and prevalence of onsite residence and used these characteristics to classify and map industrialization, identifying distinct regional differences. We also used logistic regression models to understand the placement of farms in these regions among parcels zoned for cannabis cultivation. The geographic legacy of cannabis cultivation in the North Coast has resulted in regulated farms situated in remote and steep terrain, relative to industrialized farms emerging in the Central Coast. However, our results also demonstrated that the siting of farms in the North Coast has trended away from these more rugged areas in the last two years. Given the increasing likelihood of eventual federal legalization and interstate trade, the development of the California cannabis industry will play a large role in national and worldwide markets. In turn, where and how the industry develops in California will have major implications for the communities and natural resources that share these spaces.

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