Ray and Patti Lanier are veterans of the cannabis trade. The two met in 2009 at Oak University Amsterdam in Auckland, the first so-called cannabis college for those who want to learn more about the weed from its history, cultivation and manufacture.
However, the two of them longed for a simpler life to raise their children and are still going on in the industry. They set their sights on a site within a 100-mile radius of the Bay Area, and in 2012, they landed on a small area in Lake County, near the town of Lower Lake.
The entrepreneurial couple grew their plants under the old medical marijuana laws from Proposition 215 and then moved to the new regulated market with the 2016 passing of Proposition 64, which allowed adult recreational use within California.
Their farm, Noble Gardens, occupies a small area of their 45-acre property and is promoted as a “luxury sun-grown lawn” surrounded by old-growth woodland. Laniers were among the first to apply for a license within Lake County under Proposition 64, growing them from a 5,000-square-foot lawn of their perch at an elevation of about 2,300 feet.
The farm allows them to produce up to 1,000 pounds of flowers per year.
“We saw our first property and it was very cheap … and we bought it,” said Ray Lanier, who grew up in Atlanta and became an expert in sustainable agriculture and growing items like oyster mushrooms.
Patti Lanier also noted the friendship of the locals and the natural beauty of the area with the mountains that surround the 68 square miles of Lake Claire. Soon the two were sold out in the area known for tourism and agriculture and which has a population of nearly 70,000.
“That’s what sold us in Lake County. She was walking around and meeting people, going to restaurants. Everyone here is a small business. I was blown away,” she said.
The Laniers are just one example of the many who turned this rural county into a unique success story in the California cannabis industry, which is still struggling more than five years after the passage of Proposition 64.
Central complaints are the relatively high taxes of farmers; shortage of dispensaries in many regions; and stubbornness among local governments to implement policies that would allow such businesses to thrive. This resulted in a still thriving black market, as Proposition 64 was intended to end business and force everyone to become legal.
To be sure, the Lake District cannabis industry still faces challenges such as all farmers Across the state, he struggled with wholesale prices down more than 50% due to oversupply and competition from weeds on the black market outside the state.
Some local farmers will quit or may hold back next year to wait for the market to recover. Illegal plants still exist in Lake County, and there was also a shortage of licensed dispensaries—more than three dispensaries around Clear Lake City. However, a new retailer has opened in Lakeport.
But Lake County has also shown the potential of Proposition 64’s promise to turn the long-stigmatized plant into a legal crop that can eventually rival the wine industry in terms of culture, economics, tourism and impact.
This is especially true because Lake County has 226 acres of licensed cannabis cultivation with about 100 workers, according to Superintendent Bruno Sabatier. By contrast, Sonoma County has only about 40 acres licensed to grow cannabis as of last year, despite its population being about seven times larger than Lake County.
“There are a lot of Humboldt people here now,” Richard Derum said of the county, which is the heart of the famous Emerald Triangle and is home to the nation’s most sought-after marijuana.
Derom is a longtime cannabis grower near Lake Loire with a 27,000 square foot canopy. He also acts as a real estate consultant and broker for those looking to enter the industry.
Derom echoed Lanier’s echo. He claims that Lake County has a distinct advantage because land prices are much cheaper than in other areas of Northern California.
Of the buyers, he said, “They realized they could do it cheaper here, better here, and buy land cheaper.”
Derm has worked with small buyers, larger cannabis companies and even foreign investors on deals for the past three years – all of his clients were outside of Lake County.