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Canna~Fangled Abstracts

Why small-scale cannabis growers stay small: five mechanisms that prevent small-scale growers from going large scale.

By November 23, 2012No Comments
2012 Nov;23(6):458-64. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2012.08.001. Epub 2012 Oct 1.

Why small-scale cannabis growers stay small: five mechanisms that prevent small-scale growers from going large scale.



pm1Over the past 15-20 years, domestic cultivation of cannabis has been established in a number of European countries. New techniques have made such cultivation easier; however, the bulk of growers remain small-scale. In this study, we explore the factors that prevent small-scale growers from increasing their production.


The study is based on 1 year of ethnographic fieldwork and qualitative interviews conducted with 45 Norwegian cannabis growers, 10 of whom were growing on a large-scale and 35 on a small-scale.


The study identifies five mechanisms that prevent small-scale indoor growers from going large-scale. First, large-scale operations involve a number of people, large sums of money, a high work-load and a high risk of detection, and thus demand a higher level of organizational skills than for small growing operations. Second, financial assets are needed to start a large ‘grow-site’. Housing rent, electricity, equipment and nutrients are expensive. Third, to be able to sell large quantities of cannabis, growers need access to an illegal distribution network and knowledge of how to act according to black market norms and structures. Fourth, large-scale operations require advanced horticultural skills to maximize yield and quality, which demands greater skills and knowledge than does small-scale cultivation. Fifth, small-scale growers are often embedded in the ‘cannabis culture’, which emphasizes anti-commercialism, anti-violence and ecological and community values. Hence, starting up large-scale production will imply having to renegotiate or abandon these values.


Going from small- to large-scale cannabis production is a demanding task-ideologically, technically, economically and personally. The many obstacles that small-scale growers face and the lack of interest and motivation for going large-scale suggest that the risk of a ‘slippery slope’ from small-scale to large-scale growing is limited. Possible political implications of the findings are discussed.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.