In 2015, a local cannabis advocate conservatively estimates that some 300 farmers across the Four Corners harvested at least 500 pounds of marijuana.
A handful of those farmers gathered this week to compare their crops after receiving free marijuana seeds this year. One farmer reported low germination rates, two indicated their plants were stolen, and one said he produced a pound of marijuana from one seed.
Over the past year, Lu Nettleton of Colorado Plateau Growers Inc. gave away about 50,000 cannabis seeds to area farmers. His dream is to establish a regional co-op for cannabis growers, so they can help supply global demand for pharmaceutical marijuana.
“Pain relief,” Nettleson said. “That’s the primary thing that people seem to be looking for.”
By gifting seeds to farmers, Nettleton said his seed could be naturally acclimated to the Colorado plateau environment. By utilizing the area’s weather and soil conditions, Nettleton said the region could produce some of the best cannabis on the planet.
“I’ve been a farmer my whole life, and marijuana is one of the most responsive plants that you could put your hands on,” he said.
But Nettleton was quick to point to Montezuma County’s 2014 ban on cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, testing or retail operations in unincorporated areas.
“We’re not criminals,” said Nettleton.
After collecting harvest data from growers, Nettleton said he intends to approach county officials and request that the ban be lifted.
“We will make a presentation to the county commissioners before next spring,” Nettleton vowed.
In Montezuma County, Nettleton argued that oil and gas tax incomes were forecast to run dry within two decades, and county planners should consider other long-term revenue streams. He reiterated that the estimated 500 pounds of marijuana harvested from his seed stock this year wasn’t taxed.
“Marijuana is the solution,” Nettleton said, “and the time is now.”
In March, the nonprofit Colorado Plateau Growers Inc. unveiled results from its first seed trial. Conservative estimates revealed that area farmers could generate $500,000 million in sales per acre if allowed to harvest medical marijuana. Broader estimates show sales of nearly $2.5 million per acre.
With germination rates at 95 percent, seeds were planted 10 feet apart in rows 10 feet wide with added organic compost. Drip irrigated for four hours every third day using 2.5 gallon per hour emitters, the plants also received fish emulsion fertilizer once a month.
Plants were harvested after 110 to 130 days, and varied in height from 6 to 10 feet. Each plant produced an average of about 1.5 pounds of cured marijuana.