The Unjust Pay System in the Marijuana Industry
As an observer of the marijuana community, a question pops up all too often that has everyone wondering, where is all the money at? We have hard-working employees, males, and females, who work long hours, which are not afraid to get their hands dirty. So, where is the profit with all the planting? As COVID brings marijuana sales to a record high while dispensaries remain open as an essential business, why do farm workers remain at the bottom of the pay scale?
The real reason the grower and the owner can’t see eye to eye. A worker goes on to a farm, helps them turn their harvest to an abundant green yield, and in the end, their pay comes late, scarce, and more work is expelled without a full payout up to that point. Bonuses are promised but never seen. What once was a decent paying job, the worker finds themselves waiting for their pay, unmotivated to work, and easily replaceable with the next willing participant. Where did this mom and pops, family valued, hippie ‘ love and peace,’ grow community, one might think they are stepping into, go? It went to corporate America.
Yes, the men with ties and suits are to blame. Even if the owner thinks they are the big shoot, spending outside of their means on music equipment, big cars, and overextended vacations, here’s the catch- that money isn’t there. Corporate America is making the so-called billions in the billion-dollar industry. So much of the profit goes into taxes that the once hippie-dippie landowner is now hanging with rappers, sporting an image they can’t afford. While white market owners can’t value their pounds half of what the black market can, none of this money dwindles to the grower. The lead grower is being worked to the bone, and his profits directly reflect the owner’s value in people. As the quality withers, prices and pay drop slowly, the farmworkers starve while the owner keeps his appearance.
Marijuana was legalized in California in November 2016. Growers didn’t have great expectations for this. It was expected to take away thousands of pot dealers’ jobs by bringing the marijuana industry into businesses. What did this mean to the grower? What many Americans might have assumed would keep thousands of pot growers outside of jail, growers had to face a new reality, now they had to follow the rules, regulations, and worse of all, pay taxes or be subjected to raids and fines. As growers race to get permits, many growers end up taking the easier way out and remaining black market.
So how does this affect the ones growing the weed? White/ Black, “whatever” market, growing weed isn’t like working at Carl’s JR, but the pay of a lead farmer isn’t far off from the income of being hired off the street at a Carl’s JR. The skills of the marijuana grower are being undermined in an industry that is holding onto nickel and dime compared to pre-legalization, where the industry was about helping the little guys out, not using them. Farmers with years of skill are treated like basic laborers, and even the white market players are getting away with not paying their employees what their worth is.
So how to fix this problem? Illuminate the greed and go back to the root. Project owners should appreciate the person growing their weed. We’re not talking about a robot. The farmhand is a human being growing medicinal plants to help people heal. The handling of marijuana influences its outcome, and if we grow weed like we farm our meat, we will all end up glutenous.
Staffing companies pocket 20-30 percent of the worker’s pay in exchange for legal paperwork, including paychecks, benefits, and HR work. The farms might have their employees covered, but those employees don’t see the benefits. Their pay becomes minimal, and they are once again replaceable. To solve this, farm owners can’t just be suits and jackets. They have to have humility and care for their workers. Their workers, in return, will care about the outcome of their product. And how do we get the owner to care for their worker? By lowering taxes so that they are not stretched so thin, they too are just looking for the next dollar to keep the farm afloat. Let them keep their facade image, which may never change, but do it so that they can pay their farmer and put food on the table for their families. Then, add a structured pay scale for positions on farms. As the government recognizes this industry, its positions should be recognized and compensated adequately. Like any business, starting laborer shouldn’t be paid the same as long-term workers, transparency about weight and numbers should be available, bonuses shouldn’t just be a dream, and lead farmers should be paid for their skills and knowledge, not the equivalent of a fast-food worker with no experience. Last of all permanent employment shouldn’t be waved in front of staff like a golden ticket, without any winner.