Mapping the Extent of Cannabis Farms
In order to make informed land use policies for cannabis agriculture, it is important to first know the extent of farms and the general reasoning behind their placement. Van Butsic, a CRC researcher, is studying the where and why of cannabis farms in the Northern Coast of California. He says, “The goal is to understand how much cannabis is out there, how this has changed over time, and if these farms are located in particularly sensitive areas.”
In this project, Butsic uses geographic information systems, or GIS, to figure out where cannabis farms are located, how big they are, and detect patterns. He explains, “Along with a large group of undergraduates and graduate student researchers, we use high resolution satellite imagery to visually identify cannabis grows, both outdoor grows and greenhouses. We then model the placement of cannabis farms on the landscape to better understand what factors influence the location of cannabis farms.” In the paper by Butsic et al. in 2017, our researchers found that environmental factors are not as strong a determinant of farm placement as farmer network effects. “We concluded that social relationships between cannabis farmers and other people they interact with are important in determining the placement of farms, and thus are relevant next areas of research.”
Butsic finds it important to note that the total extent of cannabis farms on the North Coast is very small relative to other agricultural enterprises. He says, “Even really big cannabis farms on the north coast are less than 10 acres, which is small relative to other farms. The vast majority of the farms are less than 1 acre in size. So, the total amount of land used for cannabis farming is quite small.” Still, this ongoing mapping project continues to be relevant for the creation of land use policies. Butsic explains, “Local municipalities can set their own zoning for cannabis. To do that well, you need to know the patterns of cannabis farming today.”
By Leah Jones | August 12, 2019.