I didn’t really know how to approach this one. There’s going to be stigma about marijuana for a long time to come even though it’s now legal in California. It’s just another crop that the vines have to compete with for space, labour, and water. As I was finding out in my recent trip to the West Coast of the US, it’s a fight that the wine guys are pretty nervous about!
No Moral Issue
I’m all for the legalisation of pot. I have this theory, rightly or wrongly, that everyone has some kind of vice. Mine’s wine. Some people smoke ciggies. Other people smoke pot. The hypocracy of someone who works in the wine industry saying it should remain banned would be pretty staggering given you’re pedaling a drug yourself for a living. So when it was made legal in California, I don’t think it was objected to on any moral basis.
The huge problem is that it’s now just another commercial crop that winegrowers need to compete with. And the competition is all about the most precious resources any farmer these days can imagine; workers and water.
The Californian wine industry relies quite heavily on Mexican labour for the temporary spike periods of harvest time and spring pruning, when the wineries are at their busiest. There are a limited number of these guys and girls kicking around, so competition between wineries is fierce to pay a good wage and be a good place to work. And now the marijuana industry has kicked open the saloon doors and is offering to pay up to ten times the wage the wine-o’s can pay. That’s not good at all, and that’s even before we’ve spoken about this ridiculous wall thingy that would just make it so much worse!
Also the water situation around the world is getting drastic. The wine industry has to take a large slug of responsibility for that, especially the big brand, bulk wine making techniques of the past 20 years. Now though, most areas are on meters and pay huge premiums for their water. Again this marijuana plant, not far at all from the vineyard sites, is not a good neighbour. The plants drink like they’re a Geordie lass at a free bar. It is crippling the amount of this precious resource available, and will send prices skyrocketing.
Think It Through
So come on America, have a think. Legalise it by all means, but it’s not enough to plant it and sit back and hum along to the Allman Brothers. You need to legislate to protect the other agricultural industries around, primarily the fabulous, but currently slightly nervous, Californian wine industry.