Small-scale outdoor growing is firing up Legalization 2.0

Former outlaws of the cannabis industry are stoking the next reefer revolution to show consumers what the business of bud could have been – and could still be.

Mark Spear might be a thorn in the side of the Canadian weed industry. Or he may be a heel. He certainly stands out when it comes to gently pissing off the ones writing the rules on the Green Mile of corporate weed on Bay Street.

In an industry hyper-obsessed with compliance and brain-numbing pontifications on the merits of brand-building, it’s hard to see where guys like Spear fit.

It’s late summer as we wander through his personal field of cannabis in the Ottawa Valley. He plucks yellowing leaves off a plant to point out differences in phenotype and shape. Then he sticks his head (and mine) deep into a plant to show off its smell. “This is my sanctuary,” Spear says, as the soft smell of young cannabis plants hangs in the air.

Across the country, there are thousands more like Mark Spear – old-school cannabis folks who know how to grow weed better than anyone, and who want to see cannabis grown in the ground under the Canadian sun. They’re the former outlaws of the cannabis industry who were supposed to benefit the most from legalization.

In virtually every other push for legalization, it’s farmers like Spear who have made up the core of the industry, and who have been able to set up sustainable businesses, free from responsibility to shareholders and c-suite execs.

But in Canada, the Harper-era privatization of medical cannabis has led to a deeply corporatized recreational weed market. And for folks like Spear, it’s all a bit disappointing.

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