To the editor:
What is transpiring in this area about cannabis growing facilities is primed to follow a classic pattern for feverish “gold rush”-type development. Examples abound in wildcat oil and gas wells and mining. The cannabis craze is merely the latest iteration of an old get-rich-quick scheme. It is loaded with risk not always obvious.
It goes like this. A lawyer finds some investors who pool their money and form a company. The lawyer gets a proportional share. They target a location, say an unsophisticated rural town desperate for cash. Entity buys the land, secures permits, and finds a developer to build the facility. Next, they either sell the rights or the facility itself to an outside owner-operator perhaps not identified in the original proposal. Investors take their profits, dissolve the company and disappear.
The new owner, eager to get a fast return while the market is hot and undeveloped, hangs on until a new buyer can be found or until the opportunity taps out due to market forces, glut, incompetence or because of competition from larger, more efficient producers in which case bankruptcy is declared. They disappear.
Bankruptcy is an intrinsic exit strategy in business plans for these schemes. Somebody is going to declare bankruptcy; it is only a question of who and when. Think of it as musical chairs, only the last contestant standing will be the town of Sandisfield, which is stuck with back taxes, legal bills, a big hole in the budget, and a facility that is not easily marketed or repurposed — not to mention the impact on property values and home or building lot sales. And really angry residents.
By this time, the selectboard has been replaced and the new officers who have to deal with the mess can only say, “It is not our fault.”