Living the Dream: Jodi Haines

Jodi Haines
CEO
Alter Farms
Grants Pass, OR

Sadly, my prediction of an early fall came true. In my 17 seasons of cultivating outdoors, I can honestly say this September was one of the worst I can remember for outdoor cannabis. The rains came at the beginning of the month instead of the usual scatterings around the third weekend. It was rainy and humid many of the days; muggy and cloudy one day then hot and sunny the next. And let’s not forget the frosts. It was the perfect conditions for mold to proliferate — and did it ever. We were prepared for the worst and have the drying space to accommodate for these scenarios, but I can only assume many growers, especially new ones, were not.

The last few years have been some of the driest in all my years of growing. For any farmer who has been growing outdoor for only a couple of years, this year was a real slap in the face, one for the history books. Sadly, the rumors of devastation and loss are widespread — a big reminder of the risks farmers take every time they grow a crop, particularly in our industry.

Forced to harvest early, we found ourselves in need of seasonal hires weeks ahead of schedule, another challenge. In Oregon, every employee who is working within the licensed marijuana system needs a marijuana handler permit. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is currently six to eight weeks behind on issuing these worker permits, so the waiting period to get a new seasonal employee licensed is ridiculous.

Every server or bartender in Oregon needs a liquor license to serve alcohol. I can’t imagine hiring a bartender for my restaurant and telling them, “Oh, you can start in eight weeks when your liquor license goes through.” This license is literally done in the moment, and workers are given a temporary permit until they pay.

The rampant expansion of hemp farming has driven many workers to the hemp fields where they don’t need a $100 marijuana worker permit and there is no surveillance. This situation is another reminder of how much different operating a licensed marijuana farm is from any other business. I had many applicants move on to work in hemp fields as the wait was too long and not guaranteed before my need for them was over.

Another problem with farms needing to harvest early to save their fields from mold, is that if they run out of room and need to pop up a quick drying shelter or need to quickly add an extra cargo, it is completely out of the question. Any changes to the licensed premises need to be approved by the OLCC before you can begin. So, at eight weeks just for a worker permit, a compliant, temporary fix like that is impossible, essentially forcing some farmers to leave it in the field to rot.

Over-regulation in Oregon has created a situation where even the most well-funded and organized operators are struggling to keep their heads above water and keep payroll checks clearing. When we legalize nationally, the big players and their paid lobbyists won’t tolerate these types of restrictions.

But through all of the overly burdensome regulations that threaten our livelihood, we will persevere and keep pushing onward, driven by the goal of one day seeing the plant receive the freedom it deserves.

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