The problem is that if you are a farmer, it sort of sticks with you. You don’t stop being one just because you’re asleep, on holiday, or reading facebook. Anyway I saw a post of a friends facebook page saying how much money would be generated in the economy if we legalised marijuana. So of course I just had to sit down to do the maths, but from the farmer’s point of view.
It’s interesting trying to get any decent economic figures. First I tried to look for how much marijuana the average user uses (by weight). It’s the sort of thing you need to measure the size of your market. Now there are a lot of figures quoted but people tend to quote the proportion of the population who use the stuff or the estimated financial value of stuff seized.
What I did discover was that the average joint apparently contains 0.32gms
Not only that, but apparently the average US user smokes 123 joints per year
So it’s possible to estimate the size of the market, but what about output?
Apparently you can get 500gms per plant growing outdoors
The trouble with articles like that is that they regard individual plants as precious. On an agricultural scale you wouldn’t be worried about yield per plant; you’d be worried about yield per acre.
Looking for a comparison, if I was planting industrial hemp then it’s common to use 10cm spacings between rows. So there you could be looking at about 300 plants be square meter. Obviously growing for marijuana you might sow for a lower crop density. Perhaps aiming at 30 plants a square meter. But here I’m just guessing, because whilst 30 plants per square meter might optimise marijuana output per plant, at 300 plants per square meter you might still get as much marijuana, but also a valuable fibre crop as well.
But let’s stick with 30 plants per square meter.
First, assuming that each plant only produces half the marijuana it does when being cosseted inside, that’s 30 x 250gms which is 7.5kg per square meter. In marketing terms, that’s 23,438 joints.
All in all this is enough to last 190 average consumers the full year.
Now the Home Office produced figures which show that 2.1 million people in the UK use the stuff. Now obviously they won’t all smoke the full 123 joints a year. But if it’s legal others might try it and users might smoke more. So let’s have all 2.1 million people smoking 123 joints. So the estimated market is 258,300,000 joints which needs 11020 square meters to grow on. This is just over a hectare, not quite three acres.
Even if I’m an order of magnitude out, or even two orders of magnitudes out, we’re only talking about somewhere between three and three hundred acres.
Legalise marijuana in the UK and I suspect in 10 years, it’ll just be part of the fibre hemp industry. Growers planting varieties which will produce marijuana and if Tesco and Asda are willing to pay a reasonable price then more will go for processing. As for price, it’s suddenly an agricultural commodity; it’ll be so cheap that in some years farmers will plough it back in because it’s not worth harvesting.
But then we get VAT and excise duty. At the moment three quarters of the price of a bottle of cheap whisky goes to the government. The various consumer taxes on legal marijuana could be the money tree our political parties are looking for.