A Washington state farmer is selling off a ton of marijuana — literally 2,000 pounds worth — to the highest bidder in one of the first large-scale legal pot auctions in modern American history.
On Saturday, Randy Williams of Fireweed Farm in Prosser, Wash., will offer for sale the marijuana he's been growing all summer. Most legal marijuana in Colorado and Washington, the only states with legal recreational marketplaces, is grown indoors under electricity-hogging lights in much smaller batches.
Colorado's marijuana growers this fall harvested their first crops of outdoor-grown cannabis, and now farmers like Williams are bringing their pot to market in Washington. At retail prices, Williams' crop could be worth $6 million. Many of the plants are a dozen-feet tall, grown in the wine region just north of the Columbia River Valley in south-central Washington.
"It's like regular farming — you grow in the spring and summer, harvest in the fall and then you go to Cabo for the winter," joked Greg James, publisher of the industry magazine Marijuana Venture.
James has been helping Williams advertise the sale. Under Washington's marijuana law, only state-certified processors and retailers can buy Williams' crop, and he's not allowed to sell it directly to consumers.
Washington's law separates growers, processors and retailers, while store owners in Colorado often grow most of their own marijuana, which means there's no need to auction it off.
Washington also permits medical marijuana, but that system is far less structured and operates in much more of a regulatory gray area.
Washington's recreational sales only began this summer, and stores have been plagued with marijuana supply shortages. In Seattle, for instance, Cannabis City resorted to flying a flag outside whenever it had high-quality marijuana available for sale.
Washington retailers have been eagerly awaiting the outdoor harvest, which has the potential to drive down prices by significantly increasing supply.
Outdoor-grown marijuana is more susceptible to the agricultural uncertainties faced by traditional farmers, from pests to wind damage, but the harvests can be much larger and cost less because growers don't have to pay for the sunlight.
Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., also legalized recreational marijuana in elections this month, but none of them yet have a functioning marketplace where buyers pay taxes on their purchases.
by Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY, usatoday.com
Washington farmer offers a ton of legal pot for sale