No More Rogues in our Corn Fields: Legal Weed Comes to Canada

Soybean harvest is in full bore for me now. It’s been a strange harvest season, early rains delayed everything, and then the best harvest days I’ve had have been overcast and cold. I’m due for some late fall 70 degree weather. Those days are always about the most beautiful you can imagine, but have been sorely lacking this year.

Over the years, my combine radio has crackled with information to keep me entertained as I go round and round. The topic earlier this week dominated Canadian airwaves. After an eternity of being illegal, now Canadians can consume cannabis legally. Wall to wall media coverage has been like we just beat the Soviet Union at hockey. It has gotten so old.

Rewind to several of my cornfields over the years. At about this time of year, I’d be driving my combine thru my cornfields and then suddenly come upon long expanses where rows of corn had been taken out and marijuana grown. By the time I got to it, everything was swept clean. I felt violated, but that’s not unusual among many farmers in SW Ontario. It had become a very common thing.

Of course there is a huge variance of opinion on the legalization of marijuana in Canada. We now are lined up with Uruguay as the only countries with legalized marijuana. The United States must have some different jurisdiction when it comes to drugs, as at least two states, Colorado and Washington have a thriving legal cannabis business.

Rewind again to last year, when I entered one of my cornfields in late August to check on the condition of the crop. As I entered the field, I noticed quite a bit of giant ragweed had started growing in the field. On closer inspection, it wasn’t Giant Ragweed, but Mary Jane growing perfectly in the rows camouflaged by the 11-foot corn stalks.

The police told me they could never keep up with it. In fact, there was about $16000 work of weed taken out of my field that day, but I was told, there is a lot more out there never to be found out. Of course it was also a lesson in economics. This marijuana economy was illegal, so the people that planted it were on the black market. It is the hope of the federal government that they will eliminate those $16000 economies for the hucksters and keep it for themselves. Vice can be profitable.

I have always been on the periphery of this economy. Marijuana was everywhere when I was at the University of Guelph in the 1970s and 1980s. I’ve also traveled the world and it shows up almost everywhere. I am completely uninterested in it, but I totally understand where the government is coming from. We might argue on the government’s intentions, but this market is much bigger than I ever imagined. Today while driving combine I learned that the marijuana market in Canada rivals the money spent on beer. It is no wonder our government wants a piece of that action.

I’ve always been particularly unclear on where the supply of legal cannabis would come from. For instance, many farmers voiced the opinion on the run-up to the legalization of cannabis that maybe we could actually grow marijuana like we grow corn. In fact, there always seemed to be a shining example of that in our cornfields. I always argued that didn’t make much sense to me, because if we grew marijuana like we grow corn it would be cheaper than candy. Needless to say, the government figured that out too.

If you browse the government web site for cannabis products, you’ll find everything known to man, or at least that’s the way it looks to me. If the marijuana market is as big as the beer market there is lots of segmentation to be had to extract even greater profits from the simple plant that grew in my cornfield. I have led a sheltered life.

Whether that is true or not I’ll leave it to your imagination. However, you have to wonder whether marijuana plants will continue to be grown in area cornfields across our greater farm belt in an era where more and more jurisdictions are making it legal. For instance, Michigan just next to Ontario has a referendum legalization of marijuana coming up in November.

I would assume that despite the best efforts from governments those plants would continue to show up in our cornfields. The black market will adjust and keep doing it for cheaper. Isn’t it remarkable how the drive to make things cheaper even turns up in illicit drugs? You might call that a devolution of society, others might call it simple economics. In truth, it’s probably a little bit of both.