Does Kentucky’s economy get a boost from illegally growing marijuana?
Kentucky has a long history of farming dating back to the cultivation of tobacco, so would it really surprise you to hear that Kentucky may serve as the home to the largest cannabis-growing operation in the country? Is it possible that Kentucky’s economy is generated more from illegal sales of cannabis than the Commonwealth’s top two cash crops? Here’s what experts have to say.
For starters, it is nearly impossible to detect just how much marijuana is grown in Kentucky. Kentucky laws do not permit the cultivation, processing, or retail of cannabis, despite Gov. Andy Beshear’s attempts to legalize the recreational use of the plant in the state.
However, according to reports published annually by the Drug Enforcement Agency that record how many grow sites are found and eradicated each year, Kentucky routinely ranks near the top in terms of the number of grow sites eradicated and plants destroyed.
Kentucky actually has a long history of illegal marijuana growth, likely due to Kentucky’s perfect soil for farming, dating back to the 1970s. The industry has likely declined in the past 50 years, however, due to heightened attention from law enforcement.
The stakes of illegally growing are much higher today than they were 40-50 years ago. Back then, a grower may face prison time. Today, a farmer could have their entire operation seized by the federal government. Despite the increased penalties for violating the federal prohibition on growing cannabis, marijuana is still growing all around Kentucky, mostly on land that nobody owns.
Is Kentucky the home to the largest cannabis-growing operation in the country? It’s hard to tell due to farmers operating underground in order to avoid penalties from the federal government. Cannabis may very well top the nearly $3 billion produced from corn and soybeans, but a record of profits earned is currently unavailable.
What we do know is that Kentucky’s position and perfect soil for farming would produce some of the greatest cannabis our country has ever tried if the federal government would back off.