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    as reported n the LA Times

    The largely empty greenhouses where flowers once were grown are fetching multimillion-dollar prices, and Allen, 76, is raking in commissions bigger than many people’s annual salary. A couple of weeks ago, he closed on a $2.6-million deal that netted him $78,000.

    “It’s kinda fun, actually,” said Allen, who works for Keller Williams. “A year ago, I didn’t even know what it looked like. I thought they were Christmas trees.”

    Monterey County’s land rush was touched off by efforts to ban the crop from the canyons and forests of the Big Sur area and sequester it inside existing greenhouses, where it can more easily be monitored, and perhaps most importantly, taxed.

    And cannabis will be taxed steeply if voters on Tuesday approve a $15-per-square-foot charge — rising to $25 in six years — that would bring in tens of millions of dollars to public coffers and make the crop as legitimate as the lettuce, berries and vegetables grown here by the biggest agricultural corporations in the state.

    The Marijuana Business Tax, known as Measure Y, is backed by county chapters of both major political parties and the county deputy sheriff’s association. It has attracted more than $90,000 in support from major cannabis cultivators, according to public records — enough to fund a local TV commercial during the recent World Series. There has been little organized opposition.

    Separate measures are on local ballots in five small, impoverished cities strung along U.S. 101, which cuts the valley lengthwise and connects it with Bay Area and Southern California markets.
    That geographical position is crucial to cannabis growers who serve the Bay Area and Southern California markets, and will become even more important if voters statewide approve a ballot initiative to allow marijuana to be sold for profit to recreational users.

    “California in general, and the Salinas Valley in particular, is perfectly positioned to do with cannabis what it has done with many other fruits and vegetables, which is claim 50% or more of the national market,” said Steve DeAngelo, CEO of Harborside Health Center in Oakland, and one of the founding fathers of the state’s medical cannabis industry.

    The greenhouses of Salinas Valley offer a Goldilocks “just right” climate for marijuana, capturing the daily maritime breezes through ceiling vents to moderate the heat from the the valley’s long, sunny growing season. Cannabis growers say they can turn over four or five crops per year with very little energy cost. Studies suggest that greenhouse cultivation is half as expensive as cultivation under the artificial light and climate controls that will be required in the marijuana warehouses planned for the desert communities of Adelanto and Desert Hot Springs.

    When DeAngelo started poking around idle and underused greenhouses nearly two years ago, prices were relatively low. The floral industry had been devastated by a 1991 trade agreement that removed import duties on cut flowers from South American nations — in part to offer Andean farmers an alternative crop to coca and marijuana.

    Greenhouse prices have since doubled, DeAngelo said. Market watchers say it is no longer uncommon to see greenhouse properties fetch upwards of $200,000-$300,000 per acre — at least four times the going price of prime agricultural land in the county.

    “Almost every greenhouse property south of Salinas is being prepared for, or being used for cannabis,” Allen said.

    Before cannabis interest emerged, “some of these properties were sitting on the market two, three years,” said Kyle Brown, a commercial and agricultural appraiser with Stephen Brown Associates in Salinas. Those that did sell, generally went for well below their asking prices. Now, sellers get that price and more, he said.

    DeAngelo’s FLRish Inc. formed a limited liability corporation that paid $3.4 million for 47 acres filled with several dozen greenhouses, where a horticulture company once cultivated and shaped landscaping shrubs into topiaries.

    Within months, two more greenhouse complexes nearby sold for $2 million to $3 million apiece, according to property records.

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