As more and more states approve the legalization of cannabis for medical and/or recreational use, savvy entrepreneurs are launching businesses to capture a piece of the new “green rush.” If you’re seeking to break into this dynamic, fast-growing industry, you should start by understanding the fundamentals of how cannabis is brought to market. Below are the three primary ways that legal cannabis is cultivated.
Whether it’s grown in a tiny closet or a sprawling warehouse, any cannabis grown inside is considered indoor cannabis. Unlike other growing methods, the system is not dependent on the weather.
For those who are medical cannabis users and are focused on precision and consistency of potency and effects, indoor grown cannabis can be the optimal choice. Cannabis grown for medical purposes must be standardized to deliver consistent effects to those depending on it for ailments ranging from seizures to pain management.
Indoor warehouses are able to control lighting, temperature, humidity, and CO2 production, which creates a more standardized, mass-market product. Indoor cannabis is generally known to be more cosmetically attractive and consistent, much the same way that apples at large-chain supermarkets are relatively large, shiny, and uniform.
Outdoor, or “sungrown” cultivation is a staple of historic cannabis culture. Like nearly all crops, cannabis has traditionally been grown outdoors. The Emerald Triangle in Northern California, which is comprised of three counties: Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity, represents the heartland of American cannabis culture. Prior to legalization, this region was estimated to produce 60 percent of the nation’s outdoor cannabis supply.
Why Northern California? In the 1960s, thousands of citizens disillusioned with the government migrated to Northern California, seeking a lifestyle where they could provide for themselves outside of the traditional workforce and societal norms. Essentially, they created a back-to-the-land homestead movement, building small communities among the valleys and mountain regions in Northern California and farming their own produce and cannabis.
The region’s rich soil, unique microclimate, and clean air produced ideal cultivation conditions for the plant. Selling the small batches of cannabis they grew provided enough income to sustain their simple lifestyle. These boutique farmers were individuals, couples, and families who essentially launched what evolved into the nation’s cannabis trade.
Because sungrown plants are grown outdoors and thus are subject to the elements, harvests have more variety and less consistency than indoor flower. Rather than artificial light, sungrown plants utilize the sun’s photosynthesis and their harvest is dependent on the length of days and nights. Sungrown harvests are akin to wine harvests, which happen in the fall after warm summer days that help plants mature into robust, larger plants.
Greenhouse and Light Dep
Somewhere in the middle of the spectrum is light dep or greenhouse grown cannabis.
Light dep enables cultivation to extend earlier and later in a season because the cultivator can control when the plants move from a vegetative state to a flowering state by controlling the amount of light they receive.
There are many varieties of greenhouses, with the more elaborate versions providing automated climate control by opening a vent or raising its side walls if the temperature rises too high. A greenhouse also provides the ability to cultivate year round.
Light dep and greenhouse-grown flower harness the power of the sun while providing protection from the elements. The light dep technique provides the full-spectrum of light to the plant and has a much smaller footprint than indoor cultivation because it still utilizes the sun instead of lights, thereby reducing energy usage. At the same time, creating a more controlled environment results in greater consistency and protection from the elements while still resembling a natural ecosystem.
What kind of flower is best for you?
All three cultivation techniques have their own followings. Indoor flower has traditionally been popular in cities where outdoor cultivation wasn’t an option and therefore most of the cannabis that consumers could obtain was grown inside. Indoor flower has also been popular among many long-time cannabis smokers because of the emphasis on physical flower appearance.
For medical patients, indoor flower can provide the consistency in dosage and effect if purchasing from a company with an emphasis on medical usage and strict cultivation, testing and dosage practices with their products.
Sungrown flower is often preferred by consumers who seek out organic products and desire artisanal or craft products. Indoor flower is harder to grow organically because if pests get into the controlled warehouse space, they quickly reproduce without a natural environment to regulate them. Many small outdoor cultivators are considered to be craft farmers and their overall lifestyle aligns with a broader philosophical decision to cultivate organically. Consumers who like to shop local and support small businesses typically align with sungrown flower grown by experienced boutique cultivators who have likely been farmers for decades.