I'M STARTING to think no one likes me. Not uncommon, but still...
I've spoken to at least five people, posted on six sites, and sent 10 emails. My only question: How much does it cost to grow six indoor cannabis plants, from seed or clone, to completion?
That's an important question, because the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) states that, under the law, a grower may be reimbursed for the normal and customary costs of doing business, but can't charge for labor, time, or any other expense that isn't a direct "hard cost" related to the grow. But a medical marijuana grower is not required to provide documentation to a patient or caregiver for the costs incurred, so reimbursement rates vary wildly—from free to $250-plus an ounce.
I tried to get some solid numbers at last month's International Cannabis Business Conference, speaking with other attendees. Everyone was friendly until that question came up, and then they cast their eyes downward. "Well, it's hard to say, really...." It must be very hard to say, because no one I spoke with was willing to add anything more.
I turned to the web, where any question can be answered, albeit with varying degrees of accuracy. I posted to weed-related sites (some familiar, some new) with my question, mentioning I'm a cannabis columnist and will withhold names, if requested. Every site shows how many views each post receives. My posts started climbing into double digits, and still—not a single answer. I reached out to a marijuana-themed radio-show host, who explained his focus is on politics and stats, but that he will try to find someone for me, and then... silence.
I was just about to title this week's column "Are the Illuminati the Only Ones Growing Pot in Oregon?" when three brave souls responded. All asked to remain anonymous. I'm presenting the data from only one person due to space constraints.
He says he has been growing cannabis for more than 11 years, and he's presently growing 24 plants a crop. He writes:
"I spend $1,575 on six plants, from seed/clone to harvest, including nutrients, soil, electricity, water, CO2, amendments, and materials (i.e., [planting] pots and stakes). This breaks down to $63 (four ounces per plant) or $87 (three ounces per plant) per ounce, depending on the yield, for six total plants on a 60-day flower cycle, started from seed or clone, using soil/media mix and hand watering.
"I grow organic, veganic, probiotic medicinal cannabis," he continues, "which is more expensive than conventional or outdoor grown. This does not include rent, transportation, testing, strain sourcing, insurance, initial cost of equipment (i.e., lights, air conditioning, ballasts, trays, hoods, fans), or any form of labor. I work 60 hours a week."
Other factors? Maybe some of the plants get an infestation or die in the final weeks. Can the grower charge for the expenses incurred for an unsuccessful crop? It's a gray area of the OMMP that's wide open to interpretation, and yet another reason that growers, patients, and caregivers need to speak to all outcomes before entering any agreement. Cannabis shouldn't foster agitation and anxiety, but paying two times the amount you were quoted can do just that.