Arizona marijuana growers eye expansion in event Proposition 205 passes

Posted at 6:00 PM, Oct 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-18 14:10:25-04

Those who grow medical-grade marijuana are thriving throughout Arizona. Instead of fields, you'll find rooms full of the plants.

At the Giving Tree Wellness Center in Deer Valley, founder Lilack Powers is growing about 1,000 plants in 10,000 square feet of space. Should Prop 205--the measure that would make marijuana legal for recreational use--pass, Powers estimates having to grow four times that amount.

She is one of many vying for property in Northern Arizona or south of Tucson where the climate is perfect to grow marijuana. Powers hopes to build big greenhouses to grow enough to meet demand in the event recreational marijuana becomes legal.

In states where marijuana is already legal, many farmers have already ditched their tomatoes and corn for cannabis.

Powers says at a recent University of Arizona farming conference, farmers were surprised to hear the profit margin in marijuana.

"You go to the grocery store and buy a pound of tomatoes for $2-3. Right now the market in Arizona is $2,000 a pound [for marijuana]," said Powers.

While she is not a farmer by trade, Powers surrounded herself with bright farmers and college students with agricultural degrees, many of whom grew up on farms.

Her growers came from Illinois, Ohio, Missouri and Florida.

"This is my way to help as many people as I possibly can," said Ben Abourjeily, a grower from Ohio.

Prop 205 is still in the hands of Arizona voters, but farmers from all over the country are looking toward the state as a big untapped market where they can cash in.

"The competition will be stiff," said Powers.

However, not all those in agriculture share the same view. The Arizona Farm Bureau has taken a strong stance against Prop 205. In a statement, a spokesman says medical marijuana is already legal in Arizona and it's too soon to tell the impacts it will have on the community. Officials also cite concerns about safety, including security of the facilities required by law to grow the crop, and youth use of marijuana, should it become legal.

Adam DeGuire, the campaign manager for NO on Prop 205 sent us this statement:

“We’ve learned enough from Colorado and other marijuana-friendly states that the negative impacts of legalized recreational marijuana far outweigh any benefits – most of which are yet to be seen. Whether it’s a sharp rise in youth marijuana use, increases in hospital visits due to accidental ingestions among children, or higher rates of marijuana-related traffic fatalities, the threats to public safety and health are far greater than any paltry financial reward promised by Prop 205. Even more troubling, if this passes in Arizona, it will be voter-protected and nearly impossible to reverse. That’s why we’re focused on stopping the damage before it starts, and defeating Prop 205 this November.”