By Geoffrey Taylor, MA, Hemp Contributor, Valley Ag Voice
It’s been a long road back into working full-time in the cannabis industry, but I’m grateful to pursue my passion for the plant in a position that pays well but unfortunately is over two hours from my home in Bakersfield.
While this opportunity to make a better living and follow my heart into an industry I’ve known all too well for many years is a welcome one, it does not exist within the city limits of Bakersfield, Delano or other larger Kern County cities and it does not exist within the boundaries of Kern County. Isolated pockets of legal cannabis activity exist in hamlets like Arvin and California City, but they’re simply not large enough or concentrated enough to make an economic splash. With limited commercial and industrial real estate, the number of employers is limited.
It doesn’t have to be this way. With common sense commercial cannabis ordinances to protect schools, neighborhoods and other sensitive use areas, our city and county have the opportunity to create a wave of economic activity associated with commercial cannabis, and the service providers who serve the industry, that can make a substantial difference in the lives of families across our region.
I’ve often made the argument that our region’s agricultural heritage lends to our ability to produce some of the finest cannabis in the world. From cultivation to distribution, manufacturing to processing and every other facet of the industry, Bakersfield and Kern County can experience immense economic growth simply by allowing for recreational and medical commercial cannabis activity within their boundaries while also collecting new tax dollars generated by the industry. A report on the cannabis industry from the University of California, Santa Barbara estimates that over 211,000 direct jobs have been created in the cannabis industry nationwide up to 2020.
Let’s use Santa Barbara County as an example of tax revenue generation and employment numbers. The County of Santa Barbara generated $2.4 million in additional tax revenue from cannabis in Quarter Two of the 2020-2021 fiscal year according to the Lompoc Record. According to the Lompoc Record, over $600,000 of cannabis tax revenue helped keep the Santa Barbara County Library System maintaining hours and providing services through the pandemic. In addition to this, the University of California Santa Barbara reports that over 6,000 new direct and indirect jobs have been created as a result of commercial cannabis activity in Santa Barbara County through 2020.
Another economic stimulus is the need for service companies to provide an array of services for cannabis businesses. For example, the facility where I work in Adelanto, a small city in the high desert of San Bernardino County, has recently experienced problems with our electrical and diesel generator systems along with our air conditioning throughout the building. We utilized local service providers to resolve our issues and put our corporate dollars back into the community where we operate.
Another indicator to consider is the average salary in California’s cannabis industry. According to ZipRecruiter, the average reported salary of cannabis industry workers is around $63,106 in the state of California. According to 2020 Census data, the average household income in the City of Bakersfield is $60,058, implying that the average statewide cannabis salary can easily provide for the average Kern County family with a person working in the cannabis industry.
The last major consideration is philanthropy in the cannabis industry. One of my recent articles highlighted an Arvin cannabis business who held a benefit for the City of Arvin Parks and Recreation Department to improve the city’s baseball and softball fields. In Santa Barbara County, Carp Growers Association, a group of Carpinteria Valley cannabis businesses, has provided grants and scholarships to a wide variety of organizations from food pantries to local high school sports teams, including a 2019 donation to the Carpinteria Unified School District from $189,000. This type of corporate philanthropy is often built into the ESG initiatives of many upstart cannabis operations as a component of their corporate models.
All I’m really getting at here is that it’s time to end the archaic bans, bring regulated commercial cannabis activity to our own backyard and watch our economy not only further diversify but also experience growth from a wave of development and hiring surrounding the industry. Let’s look to the future and take the commonsense approach to cannabis–it’s not going anywhere and our region is missing out on the taxation and economic growth that comes with it. Now is the time for a change.