The value of grapes in California wine country ranges from $55,000 to $365,000 per acre. An acre of marijuana plants in the same region is worth more than $1 million.
According to the Sacramento Bee, vineyard owners across California’s award-winning wine country are crunching the numbers to see how cannabis compares to grapes. What many are finding is opportunity in a budding agricultural market.
“As a sustainable farmer, you have to be willing to change with the market, and with crops that are profitable,” said Steve Dutton of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau. For vintners in sunny California, cannabis could be that new market opportunity.
Since California legalized recreational marijuana, the race to convert vineyard space has begun — investment groups, vineyard operators, and cannabis entrepreneurs are considering cannabis for future grows.
What’s more, the rich ecological diversity that helped propel California wine country’s global reputation may also play into perceptions of retail marijuana grown and sold in the same region: areas like rural Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties.
Some even speculate Northern California may become a destination for those who want to sample strains the way some taste wine. Boutique marijuana cultivators are excited to showcase products in these new areas.
For farmers and grape growers, cannabis is no different than any other crop determined by supply and demand; uprooting a field of Merlot to plant marijuana is a financial decision, not an ethical one.
Right now, California lawmakers are considering labeling guidelines to ensure regional differentiation plays a key role in the future California cannabis market, a move that would help protect vineyard owners’ new investments.
With these labeling rules, as well as trade secrets that grow better buds and multiply the harvest season, boutique growers will be able to compete with industrial-scale operations.
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