Jeremy Moberg runs Cannasol Farms in remote Okanogan, Washington. He’s a leader in the movement to educate the marijuana industry (and the general public) about the benefits of outdoor cannabis. Indoor marijuana grows are energy gobblers with huge carbon footprints – not good.
Cannasol, as you might have guessed, uses energy from the Sun. “Twelve double row hoop houses, boasting 60+ beautiful plants each.” Saves on electric bills. Makes for better product.
Before I-502 passed, opportunities for journalists to talk to major growers on the record were few and far between. Pot farmers were only known by a tiny group of brokers or middlemen. My how times have changed! Jeremy was happy to talk to me. After all – Cannasol is licensed by the State of Washington to produce and process marijuana. And they are damn proud of their products.
What does sustainable cannabis mean?
The electrical consumption and carbon footprint of growing cannabis indoors is astonishingly high. In 2011 Dr. Evan Mills published research in the Journal of Energy Policy that put it at 1% of the nations power or enough power for 2-3 million homes. In Washington it is likely higher due to the fact that a majority of the cannabis is grown indoors. Using Dr. Mills numbers, 5 million sq. ft. of canopy grown indoors would equal 3.8% of the states power – negating more than half of the nearly 7% of solar and wind energy produced in the state in 2013.
Energy consumption is only one problem with growing weed indoors. Each light contains about 30 mg of Mercury. The Okanogan Cannabis Association estimated that 47,000 bulbs would be used a year to grow two million sq. ft. of pot indoors a year.
Also, water waste full of nitrates and phosphates must be dealt with. Traditional basement grows that dumped nitrate and phosphate rich water down the drains and bulbs in the garbage must be replaced by legal, regulated operations that have a responsibility to take care of their pollution. Outdoor grows that were polluting our National Forest and diverting stream water will be replaced by farms that act like farms, with a responsibility to grow products that are good for the environment and good for you. The good news is that buying legal sungrown cannabis will actually improve the environment and may lower your electric bill.
Is sungrown cannabis lower ‘quality’ than indoor grown?
This is laughable. The idea that indoor grown pot is better comes from low quality outdoor pot grown deep in the woods and usually camouflaged from police helicopters and thieves. Sungrown is now cultivated out in the bright sun, not hidden under trees. And as a grower using the sunlight as energy I never feel limited. I have heard much conversation about getting the right strain for a particular area, which usually means shorter flowering times and indica dominant strains. Indoor growers tend toward shorter flowering times as well, which has left the market with indica dominant strains- a good fit for medical patients, who usually prefer the sedative effects of these strains. However, the rec market is trending the other way with professionals seeking sativa dominant strains for their uplifting and creative effects. These strains are more difficult to grow, requiring longer flower times and special care to create quality flower.
Providing a variety of strains that the market wants takes creative manipulation of the natural light to grow a plant that evolved in a different environment. At Cannasol we grow over 100 strains from many different lineages that require unique techniques to induce and maintain flowering. This is where cannabis cultivation is headed – toward more advanced manipulation of the sun to grow strains from all parts of the world
What else should people know about sustainable, sungrown cannabis?
Marijuana grown indoors is different than when it is grown under the sun. The biggest difference is that the primary nutrient for plant growth is light and indoors this is supplied artificially. And predictably, the light from the blazing lamps does not match the natural sun spectrum that the plants evolved under. Cannabinoid production is a defense mechanism against exposure to the intense sun (sunblock if you will), and creates more cannabinoids when grown in full intense natural sunlight.
There is a wide misconception that indoor pot is higher THC and generally more potent. Government and independent studies that have shown no difference in potency between indoor and outdoor. Preliminary results from data generated from the legal I-502 testing show marijuana grown under natural sunlight has a higher THC than indoor pot overall. Beyond THC, terpene profiles are improved with full natural sunlight resulting in full flavor and full effect.