Like many of us, I’ve become glued to data lately, regularly checking the Monterey County Health Department’s Covid-19 reporting and the state of California’s reporting to watch trends and see how we’re doing and if we’re meeting reopening targets. It changes at least daily, and it feels like our lives could change in an instant based on what’s reported.
Then there are other kinds of data, like the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner’s annual crop report, which details the year in the county’s ag industry through numbers. In times like this, releasing a report on June 23 that covers 2019 feels strangely anachronistic, but it’s actually right on time. Every day, per California Food and Agricultural Code Sections 2272 and 2279, the ag commissioner’s team gathers reports from all the players in Monterey County’s biggest industry, and by mid-year, put out this document.
Last year, production value of Monterey County’s crops reached more than $4.4 billion—that’s gross value, before subtracting costs like planting, irrigation and harvesting. Like all years, there was a jockeying between strawberries and lettuce for the top spot. (Lettuce came in first, strawberries second, valued at $840 million and $733 million, respectively.) As Asaf Shalev reports, the big surprise came in the number-five spot, above celery, wine grapes and spinach: cannabis.
It’s been an amazing ride for cannabis, from illegal substance to allowed for medical use to legal for recreational use—to being deemed an essential industry during shelter-in-place.
Until this year, cannabis didn’t even rate for a crop report, and it’s still something of an outcast, being relegated to a supplemental report because it remains classified federally as a Schedule 1 drug.
Just yesterday, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors allocated $250,000 from cannabis tax revenue to the Food Bank for Monterey County. Cannabis is literally helping pay for necessities for people in need. I remember not so long ago (OK, 2016) sitting in the Board of Supervisors chambers for a discussion on whether to legalize cannabis grows, and the fears that some agribusiness voices expressed. Those days seem long over.
Cannabis still has a ways to go as an industry as far as being fully accepted into the fold, with that federal dismissal affecting not just its placement on the crop report, but ability to bank in federally insured institutions. But the crop report marks progress, and something to celebrate.
-Sara Rubin, editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
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