Marijuana is Replacing Wine As California's Premiere Cash Crop

At $14 billion, the value of the state's marijuana harvest was pegged as seven times more valuable than all of the wine grapes at all of California's storied vineyards — and that was in 2010, before the industry drew international investors, before the state paved the way for big business with workable state regulations, and before voters OK'd a legitimate commercial marijuana industry by legalizing the plant for adults 21 and over.

That $14 billion figure includes the illicit market. The country's legal, over-the-counter marijuana market is worth $7 billion, analysts say — and by going legal, California may triple that figure by itself.

So, do you want to grow Chardonnay, or do you want to grow cannabis? The answer is obvious, and can be seen today in wine country, where rows of vineyards are giving way to greenhouses and plots of marijuana.

Value-conscious wine brand Fetzer got its start on 80 acres in Redwood Valley in Mendocino County, where the company grew wine grapes for 31 years. That property could now do the same for Bay Area upscale marijuana distributor Flow Kana, which purchased the property for $3.5 million, according to the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat.

We've covered Flow Kana and its sustainable ethos in these pages before. The company is headquartered in San Francisco, but has positioned itself as a direct link between small boutique cannabis farmers in the Emerald Triangle, and the kind of conscious urban marijuana consumer who cares about sourcing.

That makes the company different in mission from some of the other firms fueling a real-estate boom in cannabis-producing regions. "They're coming from everywhere," said Tim Blake, a longtime local cannabis grower and founder of the Emerald Cup, a prestigious cannabis competition focused on outdoor cultivation.

The Fetzer property, which includes four homes, a winery, and some outbuildings, was listed at an asking price of $3.5 million. Flow Kana purchased the property for "more than close to the purchase price," real-estate broker Clint Wilson told the Press-Democrat.

There are a few neighbors of the rural property who have voiced concerns over traffic, noise, crime and the smell of fresh weed growing — as is typical for any marijuana business endeavor. But they may be lucky to land Flow Kana as a neighbor, rather than another operation with a different philosophy. As Wilson told the paper, it was "inevitable the property could end up with someone in that industry." And it won't be the last time grapes give way.

TELL US, do you associate California with quality cannabis?

Original story by Chris Roberts appeared on CannabisNow