Jobs from GEDs to PhDs: A new trickle down economy

There is more growing out of cannabis gardens than just plants.

Startups, young entrepreneurs, scientists, tech companies… jobs in the cannabis world are blooming as fast as the industry’s economic impact.

The cannabis industry is being touted as the fastest growing industry in the world by economists and data research companies.

Legal sales of cannabis nationwide are expected to grow from $14 billion to an estimated $22 billion by 2020; pouring money into the economy from revenues generated by cannabis-related companies, taxes and licensing fees, tourism, job creation and the impact on real estate prices.

In California, new state rules to regulate medical cannabis will help to more accurately track the economic impact of what was a $2.7 billion industry in 2015.

With high net worth investors already lining up to take advantage of California’s new regulated market, Nevada County can avert corporate takeover and create a niche market in the cannabis industry that reflects the quality of life of the area and protects the area’s small-town feel.

Handcrafted, natural, organic and local – that’s part of the fabric of this community. The character of Nevada County is fertile soil for many cottage industries, and that resolve already permeates through everything from our clothing stores and wine tasting rooms to the bakeries, breweries and restaurants that offer locally made, locally farmed and organic goods.

Cal Growers believes the cannabis industry here can and should reflect that level of sophistication, while differentiating itself from cannabis grown and goods produced in other areas of the state.

Cal Growers Nevada County believes the area is already situated to offer premium-grade medicine that embodies the area’s do-it-yourself culture, as well as the healthy and organic lifestyle people enjoy here, all while infusing the local economy with diverse jobs for potential employees, whether they have GEDs or PhDs.

To serve an artisan, premium-grade cannabis industry many businesses would emerge: scientific testing laboratories with their lab coated technicians, commercial kitchens, print and packaging businesses, engineers offering soil and water consulting.

Our unique microclimate lends itself to the production of CBD-rich cannabis products, which could earn cannabis cultivated in the area its own appellation of origin and open the door to researchers, doctors and academia to come to the area to study the area’s premium crop.

“How we would like to see the industry develop here is not only with the product-focused jobs of cultivation and processing, but also in the ‘picks and shovels’ of support industries such as medical research and cannabis technology,” said Jonathan Collier, chair of Cal Growers Nevada County.

There are no clear numbers of how many cannabis cultivation gardens exist in the county, but estimates range between 2,000 and 5,000 grows. Each of them is a potential job growth opportunity and licensed business that could employ several full-time staff as well as four to 20 seasonal workers.. That’s anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 jobs in the grow industry alone, Collier added.

“Then we start talking about accountants, marketers, graphic designers, engineers and contractors,” Collier said. “Jobs would continue to bleed out into the economy: grow stores, soil stores, hardware stores, and equipment rental stores. The next tier is disposable income that gets spent locally on restaurants, retailers, and entertainment.”

Another hot topic in the cannabis industry in addition to job growth is technology.

Magazines such as Wired, Forbes and Fortune 500 have all featured stories detailing the opportunities emerging at the crossroads of cannabis and technology. As a multi-billion dollar industry it needs all the technical support system that any other industry would need: apps, software, point of sale systems, databases, and analytics. This could be an exciting opportunity to attract tech companies to the local area.

Having complementary industries in the area that can attract and recruit young programming and computer engineers, for example, can benefit other non-cannabis-related companies that may have difficulty attracting talent to a small rural area such as Nevada County.

“That spreading of wealth is going to have an impact that will be hard for people to comprehend,” said Jonathan Valdman, founder of Forever Flowering Greenhouses, a company headquartered in Nevada County that offers sustainably based greenhouses and light deprivation supplies. “The possibilities are endless.”

Valdman’s Forever Flowering aim to reduce the carbon footprint of cultivation of any plant, including cannabis, with specific features that help passively remove humidity and heat in order to naturally cool the structures. He already employs a half dozen people in addition to contractors.

“By moving to a legal regulated industry we are creating more job opportunities than any other potential industry on the planet,” Valdman said.

Valdman’s love for regenerative agricultural practices and permaculture has earned him the trust of his customers and several spreads in trade magazines. His latest venture combines the spirit of entrepreneurship that is so endemic in the area with his love of sustainable agricultural practices.

The Cannabis Conservancy, which Valdman and four others co-founders created, is a third-party certification agency that will help farmers label their products as responsible, compliant, clean and sustainable with regards to their cultivation practices.

“We are encouraging people to be sustainable but we are also rewarding them with a certification which adds value to their product,” he said. “They are going to be recognized and rewarded financially for their product.”

The California headquarters is in Nevada County, the agency is expected to create at least 12 jobs in the next 12 months.

Using a rigorous auditing process that considers everything from water use to energy use, The Cannabis Conservancy has the potential to certify premium crops in and help develop an identity for the local cannabis industry that is synonymous with organic and clean and safe.

“We are addressing many of the community concerns regarding impact,” Valdman said. “The final product will be a clean and trustable product. And people will know that it’s something they can trust to consume.”

Valdman said one of the benefits of regulation is that it encourages farmers to rethink the way they do business and become very specific in what they do.

“Regulation allows you to be part of society in a way that creates respect within the industry, and one thing the certification is doing is cultivating integrity and professionalism,” he said.

Valdman has been working with licensed distribution companies that will be tasked with testing and quality controls as well as getting the product from farms to dispensaries — all of which require manpower and specialized staff.

He is just one of several entrepreneurs who have fueled job creation in the area with cannabis-related endeavors.

Triminator, a local company that manufactures trimming machines for cannabis flowers. Triminiator machines cut on the cost of manicuring the final product, allowing growers to cut back on the “trimmigrants” they may employ seasonally.

“When you are looking at a multi-billion dollar industry it needs a support system, and it births a lot of businesses that help to support it,” Collier said.

Conversation between community leaders and elected officials can result in specific and clear economic development plans that include the cannabis sector and help solve many of the concerns that until now have shaped the opinion of those who support a ban on cultivation.

According to a report titled “The State of the Legal Marijuana Market,” co-published by data and market research companies ArcView Group and New Frontier, many of the negative outcomes threatened by prohibitionists have not come true in places where regulated markets currently operate.

“Crime is down, falling prices have made the legal market increasingly competitive against the black market, regulatory compliance is high as businesses dare not risk losing their valuable licenses, and product quality and diversity has increased,” according to the report.

“The success of these markets has provided the first clear evidence that legalization is a viable alternative to prohibition, a fact-based counterpoint to the argument that it is in society’s best interests to sustain the prohibition of cannabis,” the report said.

With the help of the community, Cal Growers would like to build a vision for Nevada County where the current industry matures into licensed, professional businesses, attracting new support industries that create jobs and fill empty tech centers.

We believe community, education and diplomacy can help create a vibrant economic future for our area while maintaining the rural, small-town feel that everyone would like to preserve.