Victoria will become the first Australian state to allow legal cultivation of medicinal marijuana. People diagnosed with severe epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, or chronic pain associated with cancer, AIDS, or HIV will be available to access non-smokable products by 2017. This means the state will need a reliable source of weed, which it's currently planning to grow locally.
We contacted a spokesperson for Jaala Pulford, the Victorian Minister for Agriculture, as well as a guy we'll call Rick, who grows bush weed illegally. Based on their combined expertise, we assembled something of a guide to becoming a legitimate grower.
It will boil down to economics
Growing marijuana may seem more glamorous than say, growing turnips, but Rick says it's essentially the same thing. "It's the same as growing lettuce," he says. "But with bud you'll have knee high grows and shoulder high grows all at the same time, that way you constantly have some product ready to move."
The Victorian Government wants the marijuana industry to become completely privatized following trials. As they've stated, "the Government will amend the law to allow the production in Victoria of cannabis under license from the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources."
You will need to have your shit locked down
The Minister for Agriculture's office has already distributed a fact sheet listing the requirements for potential applicants. These requirements are modeled on existing licensing arrangements for the cultivation of opium poppies in Tasmania.
They include some pretty straightforward requirements, such as a criminal history check and having a suitable property for growing. As you might expect, there is also a need for security procedures including a plan to deal with theft. As Rick can attest, "People always try and steal your stuff. If you do it legit you're going to need to have it locked down in a building or people will be constantly raiding it."
The fact sheet also states that cultivators will only be able to sell to licensed manufacturers who will also need to hold a license.
You will only grow approved strains
From Purple Haze to Afghan Kush, stoners will know there are plenty of options, even though there are two main types of cannabis plant: Indica and Sativa.
"Indica grows quicker, but it's generally not as good," explains Rick. "Sativa is more common, it knocks your head off, but it's slower to grow. When Sativa takes, say, 12 weeks to grow, Indica takes eight weeks, but isn't as good. Now, just guess which will win out."
The seeds to kick-start plantations in Victoria are reportedly coming from the United States, according to the Agriculture Minister's spokesperson, but negotiations are ongoing. For the seeds to be legally imported, customs approval will need to be granted by the Commonwealth Government.
The Victorian Government have stated they'll study plant varieties and their composition to determine which plants will produce safe and consistent cannabinoids for a local industry.
It could be extremely profitable
The Agriculture Minister's office say it's too early to comment on tax rates or potential profit margins. But if it's anything to go by, the legal marijuana business in the United States in 2014 was worth $2.7 billion, according to researchers from The ArcView Group.
For a local perspective, the Tasmanian opium poppy industry, which produces around 40 percent of the world's opiates, has an estimated net value of $70-90 million, according to the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association.
But it won't be smokeable
Unlike Rick's outdoor operation, the purpose for legal marijuana cultivation will be to produce medicine. So with that in mind Rick says that the smoking quality is mostly irrelevant as the product is being turned into oils, tinctures, capsules, and vaporizable liquids.
To make oil Rick says that all you need is the plant matter and a bucket and some sort of solvent. But don't let that make you think you can just mash up a bunch of weed and sell the product. The Agricultural Minister has stated that manufacturers will need to demonstrate quality control methods and safety standards. Nobody wants consumer affairs intervening over your shitty juicing methods.
Getting your license will take years
It may be some time before you can obtain a weed cultivation license as the Government will be overseeing cultivation trials, which Minister Pulford has told the ABC could take four years to complete.
"The Government is currently exploring options to enable suitable private entities to begin research and development activities in preparation for supplying medicinal cannabis products," she said.
So before you start recalibrating your life to produce medicinal marijuana, maybe listen to this advice from a seasoned grower: "You're not doing this to get a bunch of people high. It's not some glamorized drug network; you're helping sick kids. Don't go into it thinking you'll be making a bunch of money, because realistically it will be more profitable to do it illegally."
And to counteract Rick's point, we should probably just leave on a quote from the Victorian Government: "Growing and supplying medicinal cannabis without a license will continue to be a serious criminal offense."
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