Wed, Nov 05, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Ordinary people making dope Canada's top crop

THE GUARDIAN , LOS ANGELES

Investors who rely for advice on Forbes, the highly regarded American business magazine, will be tipped off this month about the industry that is now outpacing many others in North America: marijuana growing.

The magazine's cover story focuses on "the unstoppable economics of a booming business" and claims marijuana is now Canada's most valuable agricultural product, ahead of wheat, cattle and timber.

In the Canadian province of British Columbia, Forbes suggests, the industry is generating US$7 billion annually, with signs of growth because of the changing legal climate. "Canadian dope, boosted by custom nutrients, high-intensity metal halide lights and 20 years of breeding, is five times as potent as what Americans smoked in the 1970s," it reports.

As a result, Canadian-grown marijuana is selling for as much as US$6,000 a kilogram wholesale. By the time that kilo has come down to Los Angeles, it would be sold at around US$13,200, says Forbes.

What makes the industry so powerful, suggests Forbes, is that the growers are "not a small coterie of drug lords who could be decimated with a few well-targeted prosecutions, but an army of ordinary folks."

Small growers look to bring in US$1,980 a kilo, with net profit margins ranging from 55 percent to 90 percent, reports the magazine, something that places marijuana alongside some of the dotcom enterprises in terms of return as a percentage of investment.

Marijuana is also a growth industry in terms of jobs, with people earning US$15 an hour for trimming the dried flowers and consultants earning US$40 an hour to help inexperienced growers get started.

The relaxation of the laws surrounding marijuana in Canada has led to increased confidence in the industry.

Canada, which has legalized cannabis for medical use, has authorized a company to grow marijuana for this purpose.

In the US, law enforcement against marijuana growers remains much stricter.

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