The current “green rush” has brought with it an intense focus on large-scale cannabis cultivation. Across the United States and around the globe, we routinely hear stories of companies building bigger and bigger cannabis farms. In Arizona, Colorado, California, and Oregon, cannabis is being cultivated in greenhouses greater than 250,000 sq. ft. that are designed for yielding more than 50,000 pounds of flower. While large-scale Canadian producers are building greenhouses within the countless square feet and building similar-sized facilities in Europe, Australia, and elsewhere.
In america, cultivation licenses tend to be thought of as by far the most valuable in the highly competitive application processes that many states use to determine who may be able to cultivate and dispense in their states. This value is partly derived from the simple fact many populous states initially only grant a restricted quantity of cultivation operating plan. As an example, Pennsylvania, with nearly 13 million people, only granted 13 licenses; Florida, with a population over 20 million, granted 7; while Ohio, with over 11 million people, granted 12; and New York City, having a population of nearly 20 million people, granted only 5 before recently expanding to 10. For context, Colorado has roughly 1,400 licensed cultivators for any population of just 5.5 million people. Competition for these particular limited permits is fierce, and people companies lucky enough to win one see sky-high values mounted on these licenses even before they become operational. In Florida, a coveted cultivation/dispensary license sold for $40 million prior to the company had seen any money in revenue. Similarly, a pre-revenue New York City license sold for $26 million.
Indeed, in states with limited cultivation licenses, those companies that hold them can easily see large returns on their own investments inside the near term. With artificially limited competition as a result of restricted license classes, cultivators in many states are able to control pricing and sell their product in large volume. Most of these cultivators grow their product in state-of-the-art indoor warehouses with clean-room environments that resemble pharmaceutical production facilities greater than traditional commercial agriculture.
But is it trend sustainable? Or are these businesses setting themselves up for too long-term failure? As mentioned in my previous column “Are Canada’s Cannabis Companies Overextended?”, we’re already visiting a khhhfj towards large-scale greenhouse and outdoor production, which can be driving prices down in states that do not have strict limits on the variety of licenses they grant. For instance, the normal wholesale price of cannabis in Colorado has dropped from nearly $3,500 per pound at the beginning of legalization in 2013 to roughly $1,012 a pound on April 1, in accordance with the Colorado Department of Revenue. In Oregon, where the state ramped up licensing after early product shortages, wholesale marijuana trim (after harvest, the cannabis is trimmed of its leaves; those leftover leaves are called the “trim” and could be used to produce cannabis products) has become selling for as little as $50 per pound, which is reportedly driving some cultivators within the state away from business.