Milwaukee lost 1,800 residents last year marking the 4th straight year of population decline. This makes us an anomaly among medium to large cities. Our farming industry is in trouble. Dairy farms are dying, huge conglomerates are buying up every other form of farming in our state and can Milwaukee really even call itself the “Brew City” anymore? The beer barons are gone along with their philanthropy. Lynn Bradly Pettit’s free gift of a stadium is torn down and a Chinese sweatshop, you know, the one notorious for human rights violations and having suicide nets around their Chinese location, is the most exciting job talks around town. Our once thriving beer industry has been bought and sold to these large multinational corporations too many times to keep straight. I don’t even know where my dollar lands if I buy a “Milwaukee” beer. Beer itself is on the decline. Alcohol is quickly being replaced by a much safer yet much more taboo alternative. Cannabis.
We are becoming an island again. Behind the curve. Nearly every state touching us has some form of legal cannabis. The dispensary being built in South Beloit, IL, right across our border with Illinois, is about to receive a huge amount of Wisconsin money. The high taxes associated with cannabis in Illinois that our citizens will be paying will stay in Illinois and benefit Illinois. The bootlegging market with people from Wisconsin making the trip to Illinois is going to explode. Keeping cannabis illegal in Wisconsin will not keep cannabis out of Wisconsin. It will only ensure that our state will be behind the curve in an industry we could excel in.
Coming from the CBD cannabis market myself (www.goodvibesoil.com) as owner of a farming operation, brand, storefront, e-commerce marketplace and supply chain, I have to be an expert in grey areas. THC is still a schedule 1 narcotic according to our federal government but the 2018 farm bill has allowed a grey area for CBD. I can tell you from experience that these grey areas are hard to navigate. It was nearly impossible to find good banking. I have to drive an hour to make our cash deposits. Credit card processing was another terrible hassle that I constantly have to revisit as online processors are notorious for getting shutdown with zero notice. The only easy part has been working with the state of Wisconsin for permitting. These grey areas are troublesome but they can also lift up our state. I will explain later.
State Senator Patrik Testin has done great work with working across the aisle to get the Farm Freedom Act passed to open up a hemp market in Wisconsin. This has opened up a thriving new marketplace but a highly unregulated marketplace. Don’t get me wrong, Wisconsin is doing a great job with inspections and permitting but that is only a fraction of the market. States where cannabis has been legal are the real winners. 10,000 acre superfarms are established with low prices and reliable products. There is nothing stopping them from doing business in Wisconsin. After the 2nd harvest year, we are already seeing glut and the decline in biomass price that comes with it. There is too much CBD in the marketplace and the $500k investment for a processing facility is raising the price of the final products made in Wisconsin.
We have a chance to fix this with Cannabis but the window is limited. Let’s not lie to each other anymore. Cannabis is here to stay. The majority of the population is in favor of it. Believe it or not, I am not too much of a fan. It gives me anxiety and I have enough of that as a business owner. It is far safer than alcohol with a far less association to violence and vehicular homicides. Eventually (soon) it will be federally legal. Why is that important? Because when Cannabis is federally legal, the grey areas disappear. The banks will be open for business and individual state regulations could be obsolete.
Working within the confines of these grey areas we can make whatever rules we want for our state. Our farmers are dying off and this could reinvigorate the entire farming industry. Because cannabis is still federally illegal, there would be nothing stopping our state from legalizing cannabis but only allowing in-state produced products. We could keep the mega-farms that are dominating every new market at bay and possibly incubate a new megafarm in our state. It would be great to have another Miller Brewing like flagship in our state (or two) and all the benefits we have seen in years past from being the “Brew City”. This would also help out our local processors, printing industry, advertising industry, mechanical contractors, builders and many others.
Livable wages are always a hot button that never seems to have a viable solution with bipartisan support. With the grey areas that exist, legislation could be written to have a higher minimum wage for cannabis jobs in our state. The higher product price would be irrelevant because there would be no alternative for cheaply produced out of state products. Bootleggers or making the trip to Illinois yourself would be the only other option. We could mandate that all working positions must include insurance taking much of the burden off of our state taxpayers. Tax revenue too will be great for our state. A whole new tax to benefit our schools, roads, whatever. I think it would be poetic justice to use the taxes to help nonviolent drug offenders that have been incarcerated get vocational training.
We could also regulate THC levels. There are super strands of cannabis with upwards of 40% THC that will make that joint you smoked in high school seem like child’s play. You will hear people’s thoughts on this stuff. We have an opportunity to keep this market our own and make it safe. Really, with the grey areas that currently exist, there are an endless amount of things we could do to help our local economy that would have bipartisan support.
We have the farmland to do this. We have rich soil with optimal nitrogen levels. We are known for our blue collar work ethic. We have a great summer climate for a growing season. We are currently seen as a place that will race to the bottom on wages and give corporate handouts to get low paying factory jobs in our state and we have the opportunity to bring in a new, local industry with high paying jobs.
At the end of the day, cannabis will be legal. Drunk driving deaths will go down. There will be less violent crime. The cannabis black market will wither and die. Let’s not stay behind the curve. Let’s get this done on our terms.