Sunday, October 06, 2019

Hemp and Tobacco (and Taxis)

The Atlantic has an article using a history of the tobacco program to talk about hemp.

The history is accurate enough.  The professor points out that tobacco quotas were initially based on past tobacco production, so they tended to provide existing tobacco farmers with a guaranteed annual income (disregarding weather and similar hazards) for years.  That stabilized the regional economies.  When the program was ended there was immediate upheaval and consolidation of farms. By locking out new farmers (she doesn't note the limited provision for new farmers in the program, though the amount of quota available each year was small) it meant black and white sharecroppers lost a chance for upward mobility.

Her argument thus becomes:
"Instead of charging would-be cannabis growers for the privilege of growing, states should award licenses to a larger number of applicants from communities that have been hit hard by the War on Drugs. Much as small-scale tobacco farms anchored entire communities across the Southeast, cannabis cultivation on a human scale, rather than a corporate one, can build wealth within communities of color where opportunities to amass property have been denied—frequently at the hands of the government.
 The argument seems good, but as I've argued in other posts, the growing of hemp in the new world of legal pot (and industrial hemp) is subject to many hazards, even for experienced farmers trying to add a new crop to their operation.  If the argument was that people who had been growing illegal pot should be given licenses to grow it legally, I'd have fewer concerns.  But asking people from the inner city to grow hemp would be stupid. You'd have to have a new hemp producer program to offer financing, help gain access to land, and provide mentoring. ( I don't know the failure rate for new farmers of conventional crops, but I suspect itt's high.) That's not happening.

In the absence of such a program what would likely happen?  As in programs reserving government contracts for minority and female owned companies--you use a figurehead with the right attributes, while the real money goes to the men behind the curtain.

No comments: