Growing Big in Oregon
Does the overall quality and potency of the flower decrease as the size and yield of the plant increases? In other words, do small plants produce better buds? Apparently, there’s an old wives’ tale insisting this is the case, but my own stance has always been that larger plants are superior simply because that’s how they grow naturally. But it’s tough to confirm this indoors, so I’ve been on the lookout for a proper greenhouse with which to prove my point. I wanted to conclusively answer two questions: How large can a potted cannabis plant become, and does potency increase or decrease with plant size and yield?
In Oregon, a medical marijuana patient can grow up to six plants—but there’s no restriction on just how large they can be. So, last spring, using only one medical marijuana card, I decided to grow six plants as huge as I possibly could in a 28' x 48' greenhouse located in the high desert of Central Oregon. For this project, I chose four of my most potent strains: the Tahoe OG from Cali Connection, the White Russian from Serious Seeds, Jack the Ripper from TGA Seeds and my clone-only Headband cut. They’d already been growing indoors for about six weeks and were in 15-gallon pots at the time they were brought to the greenhouse.
On the Grid
In order to support the weight of what I hoped would be massive plants, I had to first construct multiple tiers of “screen of green” (ScrOG) netting. I used bamboo stakes and zip ties to construct an overhead grid system strong enough to do the job without damaging the frame of the greenhouse. This turned out to be the most important step, without which the plants would have been completely unmanageable—by the end, they would have simply toppled over without added support from the ScrOG.
For newcomers, “screen of green” is a growing technique that uses netting to spread out the canopy of the plants and then provides support to their branches once they’ve started packing on bud weight. When a plant feels the stress of a branch in danger of breaking, it will slow down that branch’s bud production as a matter of self-preservation. If the branch is given extra support, the plant is free to continue loading it with buds until the grow cycle is finished, provided that all other conditions are favorable.
After my netting was up, the already large plants had to be transplanted from their 15-gallon pots into 150-gallon Smart Pots. The position and spacing of the plants was a huge consideration at this point, because once they were transplanted into those giant pots, there was no way we’d be able to move or reposition them again. We had to give them plenty of room to grow, but also reserve enough space to easily maneuver around them. Each plant was allotted a 12' x 12' space, which by the end allowed just enough room to move around on ladders between them.
Each branch is trained into its own square of screen.
Getting the heavy soil and root mass out of one pot and into the other without it falling apart was a nerve-racking experience, to say the least. You just have to hope that the stalk is strong enough and the roots healthy enough to hold all the soil together. Too much moisture and it’ll be too heavy; yet the drier the soil is, the more likely it is to crumble apart. Transplanting your plants is a delicate procedure that requires precise timing. Once the process was complete, large bamboo stakes were used to secure the plants in place while we waited for them to reach the first layer of ScrOG netting.
The following month was pretty slow going, as the plants were acclimating to their new surroundings and their roots were spreading through the giant 150-gallon pots. Then, around the Fourth of July, they suddenly began to explode in size. Each plant’s branches would grow up to 3 or 4 inches in a single day. This marked the beginning of a very intense training and pruning regimen.
The cannabis plant is very sensitive to its surroundings and will send extra growth hormones to the highest branches in its canopy. It does this because the most elevated branches have the best chance of catching pollen, thus fulfilling the goal of the plant’s reproductive cycle. This explains the Christmas-tree look of most untrained plants, where there is one large bud at the top and several smaller buds of decreasing size below it. If you train all of the branches in the canopy to be level with one another, the plant won’t choose any favorites and the buds will grow larger and more uniformly.
As the plants got taller, the netting was used to spread out their branches and distribute them evenly, each to its own space. The openings in my ScrOG netting were 6" x 6" squares; in a 12' x 12' area, there are 576 of these spaces. My goal was to fill each one with its own branch, which would ultimately become a massive cola. We achieved that result and then some. I wanted to show that the ScrOG technique is equally beneficial outdoors and that growing your plants like this can make it much easier to control issues like mold, powdery mildew and pests without compromising yields.
Despite all the training and bending, the plants continued growing for about eight weeks, until they were somewhere from 14 to 15 feet tall. The three layers of ScrOG netting that we’d installed previously weren’t enough to contain them; we had to add a fourth layer while we still had the chance, in anticipation of the giant buds to come. All of the growth below the first layer of netting was removed, and all of the smaller underside branches that didn’t receive light were taken off as well. We also pruned the plants until all that remained were about 600 soon-to-be colas of varying sizes, depending on the strain.
Airflow through the undergrowth prevents mold.
I decided to hand-water the plants, as opposed to using a drip-feed system, because it gives you more up-close and personal time with them and can help you better understand their feeding habits, ultimately keeping them happier. When growing outdoors, one of the biggest challenges is keeping plants healthy the entire season, especially if they’re in pots and not in the ground. At harvest time, these plants were nearly eight months old, and the only way to keep them healthy that long is to keep both the soil and their roots happy. But the more you automate the feeding process, the less attention is paid to the soil.
The plants also had different needs and were fed accordingly to achieve maximum potential. Organic nutrients were added twice a week, as well as a generous scoop of beneficial mycorrhizal fungi to keep the roots happy. Watering by hand turned out to be a lot of work, but I think it was worth it.
Once the buds started forming, the only things left to do were to water and inspect the plants daily for bugs and powdery mildew. Store-bought nutrients are not formulated or tested for plants this size, so once a week we foliar-fed them with a medium-strength seaweed-extract solution to supplement all the nutrients they were using to achieve such rapid growth. This kept the plants nice and green up until the last three weeks, when we began the flush.
I figured that plants this size could use an extra-long flush, since they’d been building up nutrients for the last six months. We ran 100 gallons of pH-adjusted (5.8) water through each pot every other day for the first week and then continued to feed them straight water for the remainder. Over the last few weeks, the buds grew noticeably larger and frostier every day. Finally, a week before Halloween, the plants were ready to begin harvest.
From above, no screen is visible due to the heavy colas.
Reaping the Results
The first to be harvested was the White Russian. It boasted some of the biggest buds in the entire greenhouse: Most were the size of my forearm, while the lower ones looked like pinecones. The scent was a sweet, woody citrus with a clean lemon undertone. However, buds that big can actually be dangerous to the plant, since they’re so much more susceptible to bud rot. We got really lucky, as we lost only about an ounce to the dreaded botrytis. This is one case where a dry climate can be advantageous.
Next to come down were the three Tahoe OGs. They definitely had the frostiest buds in the room—not huge ones like the White Russian, since most were the size of golf balls, but they were densely packed and there seemed to be a million of them. (Luckily, it’s an easy strain to trim or we would’ve been at it for weeks.) I prefer the Tahoe to many of the other OG varieties because it has a much milder scent and flavor that to me is just so much more satisfying. This was the bud I was most excited to smoke.
The Headband was next up. When we brought the plants outside, this was the smallest one, but it didn’t take long to catch up to the others, and by harvest time it was actually the largest. The buds were very impressive: They grew like giant spears about the width of a soda can. Headband is one of those strains you either love or hate, as it reeks of dead fish, road kill and petrol—one of those smells that, if you encountered it in nature, you would never consider a good thing. I happen to love it, but apparently the neighbors didn’t. Also, the cold nights in late October caused the leaves to take on deep purple and pink hues. It was something I’d never experienced with the Headband grown indoors, so I was really excited.
The last plant to come down was Jack the Ripper. The odor on this one was nearly overpowering: The slightest agitation of the plant would fill the entire greenhouse with the smell of sweet, limey shoe polish. The JTR was always the slowest grower and the last to start budding, although once the budding did begin, it nearly caught up with the rest. At just over six pounds, it turned out to be the smallest-yielding plant. But Jack the Ripper has never been known for heavy yields; its flavor and medicinal quality are what make it so desirable.
Let It Dry
Drying such an enormous amount of bud—as well as figuring out how to process the trim in a secure way—took some planning. I rented a big moving truck for a couple of weeks and hung up some eight-tier mesh drying racks with a dehumidifier. Then I decided to set up my closed-loop extractor and vacuum oven in there as well. This allowed me to process the trim onsite while I waited for the buds to finish being trimmed and dried.
By the time everything was wrapped up, it was clear that the project had been a huge success. My question about whether or not this training method would yield well has certainly been answered. The White Russian, Headband and three Tahoe OGs were nearly identical in yield, at around eight pounds per plant (not counting the small lower buds that were reserved for making oil). These numbers could be increased dramatically with the right strains: As I mentioned earlier, I chose my most potent strains, not my best-yielding ones.
I was very pleased with the finished product: The bud’s overall quality and appearance were indistinguishable from some of my finest indoor. All that was left was to turn some samples over to the lab for analysis.
All of the samples passed inspection for mold, mildew and pesticides, which I attribute largely to the style in which I trained and pruned the plants. Many of the farmers who grow their plants in the conventional round, bushy style are often plagued with powdery mildew and bud rot due to the poor ventilation created by all that thick foliage. It’s definitely better to redirect those side branches up to the canopy, where they’ll be level with the rest.
We also had the samples tested for potency, and the results were conclusive: Each sample came back consistent with the best results from the same strain grown indoors. And one sample really stood out: The THC content of the Tahoe OG came back at a staggering 28.9% THC. This, combined with the other results, absolutely proves to me that a plant’s potency isn’t affected by its size. I encourage everyone to grow your plants as large as you possibly can, because in this case, bigger is indeed better!
Each plant grows into a massive bush when roots are given room to spread out.
The Difference Between Indoor and Outdoor Strains
The marijuana plant naturally grows in the wild, where it was once discovered many hundreds of years ago before people even fully understood the crop’s capabilities.
Fast-forward to the 21st century, and there are now new technologies that do not even require cannabis to be grown outside, meaning you can grow cannabis indoors. Although outdoor marijuana grows are centuries old, the practice of cultivating marijuana inside began not even a century ago. Indoor-grown cannabis became more popular around the time of prohibition when individuals could no longer flaunt the tall green plants they had growing in their backyards.
The time arose when adaptation was necessary, and out of this evolved the indoor grow. It was a more discreet option that, once perfected, maybe could even yield almost as much as the green grown outside. In addition to indoor and outdoor cannabis growing methods, in recent decades, the greenhouse option has also appeared as a halfway alternative that offers some of the good qualities of both the all-natural and artificial methods of cultivating cannabis.
Keep reading to discover the differences between indoor, greenhouse, and outdoor cannabis strains and what exactly makes each growing method so unique and individualized…
A centuries-old practice for growing marijuana, outdoor cultivation is an intuitive way to plant seeds and watch them flourish. However, it comes at one high price: you have to reside in the perfect climate for your crops to thrive. In reality, very few individuals who cultivate cannabis actually live in a location where their plants could survive well outdoors.
This is particularly true when considering where some of the most famous marijuana strains arise from; the Netherlands. This Dutch environment is in many ways almost inhospitable for the often warmth-loving cannabis crop. In California and Oregon, there is a region that is often termed “The Emerald Triangle”. This spot reaches extensively throughout Humboldt county, a region of California where the summer weather is usually sunny and dry, much like the Mediterranean, which is ideal for cultivating many different strains of marijuana.
By planting seeds outdoors, crops can photosynthesize utilizing purely the sunlight, a source of nourishment that is unmatched by any attempts in recreation, even by the greatest indoor light technologies currently being released. On some occasions, the presence of growth through natural sunlight is said to actually improve the flavor profile of the marijuana itself because terpene development is stimulated.
By far, the biggest drawback about outdoor cultivation is the fact that the crops are openly exposed to a massive slew of pests, diseases, and animals. Additionally, some environmental factors have to be controlled; specifically, there needs to be a source of water nearby that can hydrate the extremely thirsty weeds.
Outdoor Cultivation – The Pros:
- Inexpensive compared to other growing environments, for nature takes care of most of the process.
- More low maintenance than some of the other growing environments.
- Usually higher yields from outdoor grown crops, as well as a more pungent, potent flavor profile.
- Pests are typically more of a problem because the plants are exposed to all the outdoor factors.
- Need for ideal weather conditions.
Best Outdoor Strains to Grow
If your environment does permit, there are a handful of strains that seem to grow exceptionally well in an outside setting. Therefore, they may be ones to consider if you are planning on outdoor growing:
Indoor growing is a relatively new practice of cannabis cultivation that only became popular during the time of prohibition. This method is a discreet way of producing quality marijuana that can thrive and produce sizable yields, even in the most inhospitable conditions. For this reason, indoor cultivation has become the go-to for many, especially those in regions where the climate is far from ideal.
Some regions that commonly turn towards indoor growing techniques include the Netherlands, Scandinavian countries where it is cold, England, New England, and parts of Canada, just to name a few.
Additionally, although it is risky to run illegal cannabis operations, there is an aspect of secrecy that can be achieved when your crops are all in a well-protected, secluded area. With indoor grows, it is possible, and actually necessary, to control and closely monitor every part of the fabricated conditions. These variables should all be designed to mimic the ideal outdoor environment that the specific strain would normally be in. Conditions such as humidity, heat, temperature, ventilation, and light are all regulated to promote the growth of healthy, thriving crops.
Indoor cultivation means the grower has full control over variables such as temperature and humidity.
Furthermore, some pests, animals, and diseases that can sometimes affect outdoor grown crops, cannot reach indoor crops. Specifically, this relates to larger animals like deers, which are notorious for munching on the leaves of these plants. The female plants are also better protected from any fly-over cross-pollination from neighboring male plants. So, indoor cultivators can worry less about picking out the males from the bunch, especially when sprouting feminized seedlings.
Of course, these factors are all positive, but growing indoors does come at a cost. Beginning an indoor operation is a serious initial financial investment. All the proper equipment needs to be purchased, which can become expensive fast. This investment simply might not be a viable option for those who plan on growing weed for personal use and other non-commercial purposes.
Indoor Cultivation – The Pros:
- Easy to control the environment, climate conditions, and other natural forces, which means the crops will not just die off suddenly.
- Easier to protect from cross-pollination from a male marijuana crop.
- Indoor-grown plants are safer from pests, especially bugs and animals found outside, and like to eat cannabis plants.
- High cost to grow cannabis because it requires a lot of specialized equipment, especially for those who do not intend to cultivate for commercial purposes.
- Yields are typically smaller than outdoor-grown strains.
Best Indoor Strains to Grow
Certain strains tend to grow better indoors, many of which were specifically bred, designed and developed for the inside. It is important to note that, when cultivating indoors, knowing the height of your strain type is crucial because certain marijuana species can grow massively tall and may not fit in an enclosed space with not enough overhead room.
For this reason, unless you are properly equipped, choosing a shorter indica-dominant or hybrid strain is more rational and less risky once the crops are at full height. Choosing feminized seeds also helps with the process because fewer resources will be wasted, including time and energy. Here are some brilliant strains to grow indoors:
Cheese (feminized), Amnesia Haze, White Widow, Girl Scout Cookies, Northern Lights (automatic), ACDC, Jack Herer, Maple Leaf Indica, and American Dream, just to name a few.
Greenhouse Cultivation – A Bright Alternative
Although greenhouse cultivation is not a widely popular option, it serves as a happy medium between indoor and outdoor cultivation. Growing cannabis plants in a greenhouse particularly benefits those who do not reside in a location with a cannabis growing climate yet also do not have the resources or indoor space for cultivating inside.
Greenhouses are like massive glass boxes that allow sunlight to shine through while maintaining a specific temperature inside, in addition to the humidity level, etc.
Greenhouse-grown crops can thrive all year round, but electricity costs are cut back significantly because very little supplemental lighting becomes necessary, except only maybe during the dark times of year in certain regions.
The greenhouse also acts as a protective bubble-like barrier that keeps pests, molds, mildews, and diseases out and far away from the vulnerable marijuana plants. Although these glass structures generally maintain a fair balance with heat, temperature, etcThere is a slightly larger shift in climate at times, so it is also essential to choose the right strain to grow in a greenhouse.
Strains like Tahoe OG and Northern Lights seem to be strong and capable of withstanding even sudden changes in the environment.
Produce a successful harvest f…
The Difference Between Indoor and Outdoor Weed
If you’ve always wanted to grow cannabis but are unsure of the differences between growing indoors and outdoors, then we’re here to help. In a nutshell, with indoor grows, you can cultivate cannabis plants in a controlled environment. Therefore, you can adjust each variable in the grow room to create the optimal growing environment. The most important of these variables include temperature, humidity, lighting, and soil pH.
Conversely, outdoor growers who are fortunate enough to live in a warm, sunny, Mediterranean-type climate can largely let Mother Nature take care of their crop.
Of course, outdoor growing comes with a different set of problems than indoor-grown cannabis. Outdoor growers need to pay particular attention to the weather and watch out for pests and animals looking to feast on their cannabis plants. Security is another issue, and additional fencing is an added cost and burden to keep out would-be thieves.
For those growing strains outdoors, security should be a considered factor.
There are drawbacks to indoor-grown cannabis, too. Replicating the ideal growing conditions in an indoor grow room can get very costly. The basic expenses include increased energy costs due to heating and lighting and the outlay for high-quality soil and nutrient-rich fertilizers. Furthermore, advanced growers with larger indoor setups typically spend more on specialized equipment, i.e., ventilation systems, hygrometers (to measure humidity levels), pH readers, CO2 rigs, etc.
An alternative to both indoor and outdoor cannabis cultivation is growing marijuana in a greenhouse. In a sense, it is almost a fusion of both growing environments. With a greenhouse, you get protection from inclement weather and lots of control, which is similar to a large indoor grow room. Also, growing cannabis plants in a greenhouse is a great option for those who don’t have the space indoors.
Read on to find out more.
Greenhouse vs. Indoor
We just discussed the question, “what does indoors mean?”, in relation to growing cannabis. We’ve mentioned how important it is for indoor growers to monitor temperature and humidity levels. The same is true for those growing cannabis in a greenhouse.
You can also add ventilation to that list, as a sizable crop can have a pungent odor. Plus, having a good ventilation system in place helps improve airflow and prevents excess humidity.
Some growers begin germinating their cannabis plants indoors before transplanting them to a greenhouse when they start to grow and stretch during the vegetative stage. Naturally, the larger growing area of a greenhouse allows growers to cultivate a bigger crop and make significant savings on energy costs.
Typically, cannabis cultivators who live in the Northern Hemisphere start the germination process in April. By mid-May, the cannabis plants have reached the stage where they are large enough to move to a greenhouse for the rest of the growing process.
Tips and tricks from the team…
If the cannabis plants are planted in individual pots, and the weather is suitable, you can move the plants outdoors for a few hours to absorb the sunlight.
If you’re growing autoflowering strains, then the cannabis plants will automatically transition to the flowering stage as they mature without adjusting the lighting schedule. However, indoor growers will need to change to a 12/12 (12 hours of light/12 hours of darkness) lighting schedule for standard photoperiod strains.
After the summer solstice, those growing their cannabis plants in a greenhouse will notice that they naturally transition to the flowering stage as the days become shorter.
Finally, you might be wondering about greenhouse vs. indoor quality; is the bud just as good, or even better? Well, cannabis cultivators say that greenhouse-grown buds are more potent than indoor-grown cannabis or outdoor buds.
Greenhouse vs. Outdoor
We addressed the question, “What does outdoor mean?” when we discussed the differences between indoor and outdoor-grown cannabis. Now, we’ll discuss some of the differences between outdoor cultivated cannabis and marijuana plants grown in a greenhouse.
Let’s start with the basics. With outdoor growing, cannabis plants are exposed to factors like inclement weather, animals, and pests. In contrast, plants grown in a greenhouse are sheltered from extremes of weather, hungry pests, and animals.
Like a large indoor grow room, a greenhouse is a much more controlled environment for your cannabis plants. As mentioned, in a greenhouse, you can manipulate the growing variables like light, heat, humidity, etc. However, you can’t alter these variables with plants grown outdoors, as they are controlled by the climate.
A greenhouse is often considered the best of both indoor and outdoor growing; however, it can be costly.
Naturally, outdoor plants can potentially be harmed by baking hot summer days. In a greenhouse, you can monitor the temperature using a thermometer. Furthermore, you can control the temperature by installing a ventilation system with large fans to help keep the cannabis plants cool and improve airflow.
One advantage greenhouse growing has over outdoor-grown cannabis is you can use light deprivation techniques to force plants into flowering earlier. By simply using blackout covers, you can control the amount of light your cannabis plants are exposed to.
Another advantage of greenhouse growing over outdoor cultivated cannabis is you’re not limited to one harvest per year. Those growing outdoor plants know that you’re limited to a single growing season outside. However, with a greenhouse, you can use artificial lighting to extend your growing season.
We mentioned security is an issue for outdoor growers. A greenhouse is a great way to address this issue, as it is a far more discreet and secure way to grow cannabis than having your plants out in the open.
Greenhouse Options for Cannabis Growers
Of course, growing cannabis plants in a greenhouse has some drawbacks. You need to have sufficient outdoor space to set one up, not to mention the additional cost of the greenhouse itself.
The good news is that there are lots of different types of greenhouses available. They come in various sizes and are made from different materials, so you can choose one that best suits your needs and your budget.
The lowest cost ones use a flexible transparent plastic mesh sheet that fits over a small plastic/metal pole frame. These can cost as little as €20 but can only fit a single plant inside. Some greenhouses are designed to be leaned against an outside wall of the house. The heat from the house helps keep the greenhouse warm. Greenhouses are also available for people that live in an apartment and have a small balcony.
Polycarbonate greenhouses use toughened ‘unbreakable’ transparent plastic panels instead of glass; these are useful if you are worried about safety or have small children. Whatever your budget and space, somewhere, there is a greenhouse for you.
Final Thoughts on the Different Type of Strains
Suppose you are new to the world of cannabis cultivation and want a greater understanding of the fundamental differences between indoor, greenhouse, and outdoor-grown marijuana strains. In that case, this article can serve as a guide. Presenting the pros and cons of each option allows you to make the most informed decision for your needs.
We hope you not only found this article to be entertaining but also educational and informative. It is important to remember that the consumption of cannabis is the user’s sole responsibility, and discretion should always be taken.
‘It’s Gonna Be A Bloodbath’: Epic Marijuana Oversupply Is Flooding California, Jeopardizing Legalization
If you want to get into the cannabis industry in California—where more than $5 billion worth of legal, adult-use cannabis is on pace to be sold this year, according to tax figures—and you want to do it quickly, don’t bother with selling adult-use cannabis. Instead, you want to grow it.
Most cities in the state still don’t allow retail adult-use sales. Many of those that do cap the number of dispensaries allowed within city limits. And almost everyone running a retail storefront says that high taxes and an abundance of cheap, illicit-market weed is killing them. It’s not a good way to make money!
The quickest way to get into the cannabis business, then, is to get a cultivation permit and start growing massive amounts of cannabis. That’s what big companies in the Salinas Valley and Santa Barbara County did.
And what they’ve done, according to interviews with industry experts, is grow entirely too much cannabis. Exact figures are not known, but according to one rough estimate, California’s legal cultivators grow more than three times as much cannabis as is sold in legal dispensaries.
Whatever the exact figure, the common belief is that it’s so much cannabis that the market is flooded, prices are crashing, and legal growers—in the red this year—may finally be forced out of business.
“It’s gonna be a bloodbath,” said one industry insider, who works in wholesale sales and distribution, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to speak freely.
Flood of Flowers: A crash in the price of wholesale flower is likely to hit this harvest season and . [+] squeeze many smaller growers out of business.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
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Exactly how much cannabis is grown within the state of California is still a state secret, known only to state regulators and select elected officials. But using available data, you can hit at some estimates.
According to the most recent public estimate—published in 2017—the state’s appetite for cannabis is about 2.3 million pounds. That includes medical and adult-use consumption.
That’s roughly consistent with the amount of cannabis on which the state Department of Tax and Fee Administration reported collecting cultivation taxes between July 2020 and July 2021, according to the most recent data available.
But in mid-2021, the state may be producing up to three times as much cannabis as the state can consume, according to Natalynne DeLapp, executive director of the Humboldt County Growers Alliance.
That estimate comes from tallying up the total acreage of permitted grows registered with the state Department of Cannabis Control. When the total acreage of indoor grows, outdoor grows, and mixed-use grows is tallied up, the permitted, legal cultivation capacity in the state tops 6 million pounds.
Long Beach, CA – MAR 06 : Outdoor marijuana cannabis flowering plants, June 7, 2019 in Long Beach . [+] California. (Photo by Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images)
“And that’s real back of the napkin math,” said DeLapp, who advocates for small farmers up in the forested hills and mountains, the state’s traditional “cannabis basket.”
And they can’t compete with massive greenhouses producing lower-quality but higher-margin cannabis in valleys in Salinas and Santa Barbara.
So the reward for the more than 2,500 Humboldt County farmers who pursued state licenses in 2016, even before adult-use cannabis was legalized? With the price of an outdoor pound of cannabis dipping under $1,000, and last year’s harvest returned, unsold, “They’re selling their farms and selling their businesses,” she said.
But on top of threatening small businesses still trying to grab a foothold in an emerging industry, this surfeit of cannabis also threatens the integrity of marijuana legalization itself.
According to other industry insiders, despite too much cannabis already in California, higher quality cannabis grown in Oregon—where production costs are cheaper—is supposedly crossing state lines and appearing in California dispensaries. If true, that would violate all kinds of laws: state, federal, you name it.
But if that’s true, and if there’s too much weed grown in the state—where is the California cannabis going?
No one but state regulators and law-enforcement (and whomever is moving the stuff) can say for certain, but the conventional wisdom is that it’s either being sold off-books within state lines for half the price of heavily taxed legal cannabis—or it’s appearing in New York, Florida, and other states where California cannabis fetches a premium.
“The legal market is still one-quarter what the illicit cannabis market is,” said Mark Ponticelli, the founder and owner of the People’s Remedy, a dispensary in Modesto, California, in the state’s agricultural Central Valley—where the illicit, underground market cannabis is both cheaper and better.
“The black market is still coming here,” he said, noting that the greenhouse-grown cannabis produced in the massive farms that are killing the small growers just isn’t as good. It’s not cured right. The nutrient mixes are wrong. It’s grown at scale, and it’s just not as good as the traditional growers’ product.
On the illicit market, “You can get pounds in the streets, $2500 to $3000, all day,” he said. “And it’s fire, fire weed. And then you can sell it over in Florida for $4,000, $5,000 on the streets.”
Too much cannabis. The wrong cannabis. Cannabis that’s too expensive. And cannabis that’s not profitable.
There’s no one factor that led to this particular situation. There are loosened regulations after legalization that allowed for massive grows. There are environmental quality regulations that favor big producers. And there’s also the natural cycles of the market, which may seesaw between too much and too little before settling into some groove resembling equilibrium.
But that’s not where California is right now. And after an imbalance, comes an inevitable correction. And with the state busy with COVID-19 and a recall election, it appears the market will be left to itself to figure out what to do with all this extra weed—and whether the people who grew it can stay in business.