Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Hempiricist Hits the Road, Days 3 & 4: Medford, OR

The gorgeous Applegate Valley as seen from Wooldridge Creek Vineyard and Winery.
 It has been a very busy couple of days here in Southern Oregon's Applegate Valley.

Yesterday I met up with archaeologist Chelsea Rose of Southern Oregon University, who owns land where a pot grower and breeder, Timothy Williams, supposedly came up with the famous "Trainwreck" strain back in the 1980s. She hasn't been able to pin that down yet, but she does have a fascinating collection of old grow sites (pictures below) on her property that I was able to check out today; on a hike together we even found another grow site that she hadn't seen before.

I'll have more about my visit to Chelsea's property and my time in the Applegate Valley in a later post. After meeting with Chelsea on Friday morning, I spent some time at the Southern Oregon Historical Society (picture below), where I pulled dozens of old newspaper and magazine reports on cannabis growing from the 1970s through the present. These will help bulk up my source base on Oregon, which checks off a major goal of this research trip.

I also hung out at a local dispensary, Pharm to Table, where I talked with the manager, a chill Russian dude named Vlad, the friendly and outgoing business part-owner Jason, and another Jason who works in a lab that tests all kinds of Oregon-grown cannabis for pesticides and other contaminants. More to come on those conversations as well (possibly).

That's all I can spit out for now - hopefully I'll have more time to blog when I get back to Denver, some 1,300 miles from now. I'll leave you with these photos from the last two days of my trip.

Pharm to Table dispensary in Medford.

The menu at Pharm to Table.

This old hoop house were used by growers on archaeologist Chelsea Rose's property before the days of legal medical cannabis.

Today, Chelsea and her husband Tyler use this shed as a water station, but historically it was used to hang, dry and cure cannabis.

Views of the Applegate Valley from a gravel road near Chelsea's property.

Many pot grows in the Applegate Valley are marked by modified, extra-tall fences

Richard Davis of the Applegate River Lodge is an eccentric cannabis grower and user who has been featured on chef Gordon Ramsey's show "Hotel Hell" and "The Daily Show."

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Hempiricist Hits the Road, Day 2: Reno - Oakland - Medford, OR

Oaksterdam University was established in 2007 by Richard Lee, one of the most influential leaders of the  medical cannabis movement in the Bay Area.
Beginning around 5 AM in Reno, Day 2 of my research trip took me over the Sierra Nevada Mountains and across California's Central Valley to Oakland, where I sat in on a class on cannabis cultivation at Oaksterdam University, the nation's first cannabis-growing college.

My visit was extremely productive, but I'll have more on that in a later post. The biggest news is that Oaksterdam is working on establishing its first satellite campus in Jamaica - yes, the land of Bob Marley and the ganja-toking Rastafarians is turning to Babylon itself for help as they develop their brand new legal cannabis industry. Turns out the Jamaican government thinks so highly of the cannabis curriculum at Oaksterdam that it wants the university to help educate Jamaican growers
 on modern, environmentally sustainable practices such as greenhouses and organic pest treatments.

After a lunch and iced mocha downtown, I jumped back on the road and drove all the way up Interstate 5 to Medford, Oregon, where I am still somehow awake. That is about to change, but I'll still leave you with pictures:

Hands-on learning is a big part of the curriculum at Oaksterdam. These cannabis plants are growing in the corner of thelecture room at Oaksterdam. The specially modified containers can be zipped up to cloak the plants in total darkness, a necessary step in drug production.

Some of the literature available at Oaksterdam. Note the postcard for the local cannabis workers' union at top left.
Oakland's Fox Theater opened in 1928. Oaksterdam is across the street.

Yes, there is actually a town called Weed, and yes, it's in Northern California. But it wasn't named for pot; it was founded in 1897 by lumber mill operator Abner Weed, who found the area's high winds useful for drying out timber.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Hempiricist Hits the Road, Day 1: Fort Collins, CO to Reno, NV

The Hempiricist has made it to Utah.

Writing a book - especially writing one's first book - can be overwhelming at times. Thus, it is always encouraging when one can call on and receive much-needed support from his or her friends, acquaintances, and colleagues.

Over the last month or so I have been fortunate to receive that support from many people I know. Thanks to those many generous individuals, this morning I was able to embark on a six-day road trip across the American West to do research for my book, Grass Roots: An Environmental History of Cannabis in the American West. To all who gave - thank you. Your support means more than I can say or write, but I am certainly indebted to each of you and will do my best to write a book that is well-researched, accessibly written, and most importantly - doesn't suck.

It might be more than a little ironic that I began a cannabis research trip at 4:20 AM, but that's the time I left Fort Collins, Colorado this morning. I'm writing this post from a coffee shop in Salt Lake City, taking some time to rest and have lunch. My final destination today is Reno, Nevada.

Thanks to some last-minute research and correspondence, in a few minutes I will hopefully be talking to Aron Swan, General Manager of Silver State Relief, the first medical cannabis dispensary to open in Nevada.

Sixty-five percent of Nevada voters approved medical cannabis in 2000; Swan's dispensary opened last Friday. I haven't read much on Nevada's cannabis history; I'm hoping Swan can tell me why it took the state legislature fifteen years to enact the will of its voters.

As a parting gift, enjoy these photos of some impressive landscapes in Wyoming and Utah.

Rest area east of Laramie, WY.

Rock formations near Green River, WY.

South-facing view of Echo Reservoir off I-80 in eastern Utah.

View of Iron Mountain and the skiable foothills west of Snyderville, Utah.

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Day at the Annual Cannabis Business Summit, Part II

 As I mentioned in Part I of this post, on June 29 I spent a day at the National Cannabis Industry Association's (NCIA) annual Business Summit and Expo at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver. I spent about 9 hours at the expo attending workshops, chatting with attendees and panelists, and trying to find the pulse of modern cannabis agriculture. Part II picks up at lunch and moves on to a workshop presented by "Greening Corporate Cannabis," an organization working to make the industry more environmentally sustainable.


Say what you want about it - the National Cannabis Industry Association doesn't skimp on lunch.

This is no quaint observation; amped by coffee, my already-blazing metabolism had burned through my breakfast during the three-hour midmorning seminar on how to put a greenhouse together. I required sustenance.

I found it in the Colorado Convention Center's ample buffet of succotash, barbecued beef brisket, homestyle mac and cheese, salad, and (non-medicated) brownies and other baked goods.

Lunch was in the convention center's atrium, and after generously filling a plate I wandered the room looking for a place to sit. The tables were filled with cliques of lawyers, consultants, industry buddies - walking around with my plate, I suddenly felt like I was a way nerdier version of myself back in high school.

I sat down at a half-empty table next to a lawyer who was just finishing lunch. After a few ravenous forkfuls of succotash, I napkined up and introduced myself. I told him I was working on a book about the environmental history of cannabis. The words barely reached his ears before he responded.

"We've got to get that under control," Sean T. McAllister said, referring to the negative environmental effects of modern pot growing. "That is just horrible."

McAllister's Denver-based firm handles an array of cases for the Colorado marijuana industry, and he has experience litigating pesticide standards, writing local medical marijuana initiatives, and suing municipal governments who have attempted to restrict patients' access to medical marijuana. Sean also used to be an environmental lawyer, which explains his immediate sensitivity to my topic.

One of McAllister's team members, a tall, well-dressed woman, walks behind Sean and they chat for a second. "Alright, go team!" Sean concludes, and politely excuses himself from the table - but not before sliding his card over to me.

I return to shoveling brisket and succotash, and notice that a woman I was speaking with during the break in the morning workshop has sought me out. She sits down next to me and briefly meets Sean before he leaves.

Nancy Mercanti is an entrepreneur who runs Herb-Sun-limited, a company that sells freeze-dried chopped herbs. At intermission during the morning workshop, she told me about a new project she's working on - freeze-drying THC into carefully measured dosages for use in edible products.

Edibles can be tricky to dose. While THC itself can't kill you, an overdose can have unpleasant and potentially dangerous side effects such as panic attacks, hallucinations, and erratic thoughts or behavior. To help avoid this, regulators and the industry have determined that 10 milligrams of THC constitutes one dose. But the amount of THC is only one of many variables that influence a cannabis experience - a person's expectations, previous experiences, surroundings, body weight and chemistry, as well as the chemical profile of the plant that produced the drug, are all factors that combine for good or bad trips. Plus, as members of the French Club des Haschischins found out all the way back in the 1840s,  most people don't begin to feel the full effects of edible THC for about 45 minutes.

In other words, Nancy has her work cut out for her. Even if she and others in the edible business come up with a reliable way to precisely measure the amount of psychoactive THC, the retailer and consumer bear a good deal of responsibility for the effects of the product as well. As with any legal vice, regulations are a must, but so are education and individual responsibility.

Nancy asks me about my career goals, and I tell her I'd like to one day teach history at a community college and write. We spend lunch talking about the vicissitudes of higher education and the need for better history education more generally. I check the time and realize it's time to head to the afternoon workshop. Nancy and I are going to the same one - "Greening Corporate Cannabis."

This is the workshop I've been waiting for - the one that tackles the task of turning legal cannabis production into an environmentally sustainable industry. It's 4 hours long. I snag a brownie on my way out of the atrium and head to the workshop.

 GCC advocates for a more eco-friendly cannabis industry.

On the panel for the Greening Corporate Cannabis workshop is David Rice, founder of the Washington Sungrowers Industry Association and the grower who invited me to the summit; Alex Cooley, vice-president of Solstice Grown; Jacob Policzer, co-founder of Greening Corporate Cannabis; Eric Brandstad, general manager of Forever Flowering Greenhouses; and Scott Zeramby, horticulture and energy efficiency consultant at Entity X Cannabis Consultants and co-author of the study "Up In Smoke: The Carbon Footprint of Indoor Cannabis Cultivation" (2011).

Highlights from workshop # 2

Alex Cooley (left) talks about transitioning his Seattle-based cannabis company from inefficient indoor to more sustainable outdoor cultivation.

1) "Pot Porn" magazines helped make cannabis unsustainable

By mid-2015 the study that Zeramby co-authored with University of California scientist Evan Mills is a bit dated, but it still definitively and convincingly outlines the environmental costs of indoor cannabis growth, which produces about a third of the nation's drug cannabis crop. A full two percent of all the energy produced in the United States is being consumed by indoor cannabis growers. Making one joint puts three pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere; producing a pound of weed adds about 4,600 pounds of CO2.

"Cannabis cultivation facilities are the most energy-intensive of any US building type," Zeramby added. "More intense than all of the pharmaceutical industry."

Why? Zeramby notes that many indoor growers rely on "pot porn" magazines such as High Times to tell them how to grow. Sexy and noisy advertisements in the pages of those magazines assure growers that if they just buy the brightest lights, the chillest AC systems, and the strongest fertilizers, they will produce a big, profitable indoor crop. Essentially, Zeramby says, the horticultural strategy advanced by these publications is to "buy a bunch of expensive products and plug them in."

Zeramby is an advocate for energy efficiency labeling on cannabis products, right next to THC content labeling.

"As more states come online ... we are going to see more energy used," Zeramby said. "So we really need to get ahead of this before it bowls us over and before it becomes the thing that doubters and naysayers point to and say, 'look at how much energy you use, you're ruining the world'" - a charge that, as of now, Zeramby admits "is partially true."

Such an energy-intensive strategy isn't just environmentally negligent; it's also counterproductive, because

2) More often than not, indoor growing makes an inferior crop

Direct lighting indoors makes life stressful for cannabis.
That's what Eric Brandstad's talk was all about - how greenhouses are much better equipped to take care of the plants than a warehouse full of lights and AC units.

"When it comes down to the growing, that's where it really matters," Branstad said. "One of the things I like people to undesrtand is the plants. .. I like to look at them as  a lot like people. They're made of water; we're made of a lot of water. We perspire; plants transpire. So when a plant heats up, mother nature put that self-regulating system in there so that they can sweat it out."

The intense overhead lighting in most warehouse and other indoor operations overheats plants - even sun-loving ones like cannabis - which causes excessive transpiration. Overheated plants are stressed, and they not only require more water but are also more vulnerable to insect infestations, which then requires the use of pesticides. Stressed plants also produce an inferior drug product because so much of their energy goes into simply staying alive instead of producing flowers and the all-important resin.

But in a greenhouse, UV rays are dispersed through the panels across the entire crop, reducing the plants' stress level. On hot days, overheating can still occur, but greenhouses can also be designed to have roof vents and removable or retractable walls, features that eliminate the need for AC and reduce the need for other cooling systems such as industrial fans. Thus, cannabis plants grown in greenhouses use less water because they are cooler, and the lack of stress from overheating eliminates the need for pesticides and ultimately allows the plant to produce a high-quality drug product.

Other energy-efficient cooling strategies Brandstad mentioned were potting plants in white or or organic containers instead of black ones and covering the floor of the greenhouse with a white material; both strategies help control surface temperatures, key indicators of plant stress.

Modern greenhouses include retractable side panels for natural cooling.
White floor material helps reduce surface temps and plant stress.
This is the second workshop where cannabis was discussed entirely in the context of agriculture - which was quite reassuring in the midst of all the horrific statistics on indoor cannabis growth. Sean McAllister is apparently not the only one worried about getting this situation "under control." And indoor growers need not be shamed or afraid of the change, because

3) It is possible to convert an indoor operation to an outdoor operation

Just ask Alex Cooley. His company, the Seattle-based cannabis producer/processor Solstice, was the first permanent cannabis production facility in Seattle, and it is in the midst of transitioning from large-scale warehouse grows to more sustainable greenhouse grows.

"I hate to admit it when these guys are around, but I am a warehouse grower," Cooley said. "I run lots and lots and lots of [high-intensity] lights." Cooley's goal  is to transfer all of his company's indoor cultivation out under the sun, whether in greenhouses or completely outdoors.

Cooley explained that when he first began growing cannabis, growing outdoors was simply not what anyone did.

"When I did research about growing cannabis in the city of Seattle, it was growing it under a lamp," he said. "And for me that grew from one light to two lights, to fifty to 100. ... That's the culture I've been a part of being in Seattle, and now [I'm] trying to change that culture and shift that preference."

Cooley broke down the process for shifting the preference - of both growers and consumers - from indoor- to outdoor-grown cannabis into two major hurdles: financing and creating a sustainable facility, and what Cooley refers to as "selling the sun grown," or creating demand for sustainably grown cannabis amongst consumers.

To clear the first hurdle, Cooley advised potential growers to identify and work with financial partners and developers who have a vested interested in building an environmentally sustainable operation. Developers must also be convinced that sun-grown cannabis is more valuable in the long-run than warehouse growing. For example, Cooley said pitching the financial sustainability of his company's new outdoor sites was key in getting his developers on board for a huge shift in investments.

"A warehouse facility, in my opinion, will not be viable in ten years at the longest. At the shortest it won't be viable in five years," Cooley said. "So tell your developer, 'look, all this infrastructure you're putting in a warehouse - 5,000 amps of power and all of this HVAC and doing a change of use like this ... it's not going to work for a tech company in five years when you have to lease to someone else.'"

Cooley notes that consumers are trained to prefer indoor cannabis because of prohibition, which made indoor cannabis into an underground horticultural art and produced a cornucopia of different cannabis strains, each with its unique profile of smells, tastes, and psychoactive effects. In short, indoor cultivation has spoiled consumers into expecting a high-quality product that they assume can only come from the indoor environment.

"I have a negative experience with sungrown, like a lot of people have," he said. "I used to throw a couple plants outside; it did what it did, half the time it got botritis and it rotted out, and I really didn't care. Maybe there was a little bit to smoke [but] it wasn't great, it wasn't like the stuff I was growing in the basement."

But as Brandstad's talk explained, that has changed, and consumers need to know that greenhouses can produce the same quality of cannabis as warehouses. For Cooley, creating a marketing campaign that educates consumers about sun-grown cannabis is an essential part of "greening" the industry. He cited Harborside Health Center, one of the largest medical cannabis dispensaries in the Bay Area, as one of the leading promoters of such a campaign:

"Today with  really great greenhouse-grown [cannabis] you can't tell the difference," Cooley said. "It is that quality. So, [it's about] moving away from that and just having an honest discussion ... that allows the consumer to see a side-by-side comparison and say 'wow, this really is quality cannabis.'"

Overall, my day at the NCIA's annual summit left me confident that, although most cannabis isn't currently being grown sustainably, a combination of market forces and the will of a significant number of environmentally conscious folks within the industry is pushing it in that direction. It seems that one day in the not-so-distant future, the domestic cannabis industry in the United States will be fully reliant on the more efficient, more profitable, and more environmentally sustainable practice of greenhouse growing.

Then, instead of talking about when people used to grow shaggy outdoor plants in the '60s and '70s, old-timers in the industry will reminisce about the silly days when "ganjapreneurs" thought it necessary to affix thousands of lights to the ceilings of re-purposed warehouses in order to productively and profitably grow a plant that - just like any other - is perfectly happy in the sunshine and the breeze.

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Day at the Annual Cannabis Business Summit, Part I

To get a sense of how legal cannabis farmers are thinking about and growing their crop, I recently spent a day at the National Cannabis Industry Association's (NCIA) second annual Summit and Expo at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. Since it was a pretty long day, I'm doing my readers a favor and breaking it up into two posts - one before lunch and one after.

NCIA calls itself "the voice of the cannabis industry."
I had heard about the expo from David Rice, cannabis farmer and founder of the Washington Sungrowers Industry Association (WSIA). Rice's organization, like similar ones in Oregon and California, seeks to unite and be the voice of growers lobbying for an environmentally sustainable industry and for regulation that treats cannabis as a crop instead of purely as a drug. Two weeks earlier, over a spotty cell phone connection from the rolling hills of Northern California, Rice told me he was part of a panel for one of the expo's workshops and invited me to attend.

When I inquired about a press pass, an NCIA rep practically hurled one at me across cyberspace. On day one, June 29, I arrived at the convention center a few minutes after registration opened at 8:30 a.m. The registration line was already long. As I shuffled to the end, a woman filing in behind me asked if she was in the right line, and I confirmed. Her employer, a Nevada investment firm, sent her to scout out the industry for potential business opportunities. Based on the seventy or so people already in line - a generally well-dressed amalgam of growers, aspiring growers, lawyers, consultants, and reps from lighting, construction, and who knows how many other companies - I figured she would leave with plenty of options.

The registration line for the NCIA expo on June 29, 2015 in Denver. 

After picking up my registration materials, I was directed to the end of a second line to get my name badge electronically tethered to the sessions I'd registered for. Not being familiar with this process, I hadn't registered for any, but it turned out that the press pass allowed me to attend all of the workshops. Nice, I thought - though I already knew where I would spend my time. There were two workshops on the schedule for day one that seemed to directly address growing practices: one in the morning on greenhouse system design, and Rice and co.'s four-hour afternoon panel on directing the cannabis industry toward environmental sustainability.

About eighty people attended the first workshop on greenhouse systems, filling out the eight long rows of tables and chairs that faced the panel's stage in a dimly lit conference room. They came from all over the country - Hawaii, Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania were all represented - and a man sitting next to me in the front row came all the way from Australia. The title of the three-hour workshop - "Complete Cultivation System Design Process" - sounded about as thrilling as pencil lead; fortunately, the panelists had many interesting things to say and the audience didn't seem to lose interest. Panelists included three reps from a greenhouse company - the company's founder, a thermal environment specialist, and a water systems specialist - a  lawyer, and a greenhouse construction consultant.

Some highlights from workshop #1

Zev Ilovitz, founder of Evirotech Greenhouses, said greenhouses can be 30-50% more efficient than growing indoors.

 1) Legally growing pot for money is not as easy as it sounds

"Compliance  should inform every single decision you make," advised Charles Smith, an attorney from New York who has plenty of experience with grower-clients. "This is by no means a get-rich-quick scheme. The idea that there are marijuana millionaires popping up all the time is just a farce, and has been promoted, I think irresponsibly, by the media."

After a Google search turned up this, this, this, and this, it's pretty hard to argue with Smith's last point. The hype and media attention gleaned by a handful of successful cannabis entrepreneurs obscures the reality: the cannabis industry is hyper-competitive, hyper-regulated, and comes with a 40 percent chance of failure - about 10 percent higher than new businesses in other industries.

2) Greenhouses require an insane amount of startup money - but are worth it in the long run

If you want to build your own cannabis greenhouse, you're gonna need about $4 to $5 million. That's because unlike warehouse growing, where the grower rents or buys an existing structure on  previously developed land, a modern, large-scale greenhouse operation is literally built from the ground up: growers need to find an empty piece of land with the right water and electric hookups, and then either build their own greenhouse or have one built on top of it.

However, because it is more energy efficient, the greenhouse is guaranteed to be more financially sustainable than a warehouse grow, which is cheaper to start up but comes with electric bills that can soar to tens of thousands of dollars per month.

3) Greenhouses appear to be the solution to environmentally degrading cannabis growth

The efficiency of greenhouses is going to force cannabis out of basements and warehouses, possibly for good. "As people move to greenhouses, the industry will have to move to that to compete," said Zev Ilovitz, founder of Envirotech Greenhouse Solutions and a former cannabis farmer himself. "I don't see what the future is for indoor cultivation."

Greenhouses do require supplemental lighting to keep the plants on the 12-hour light cycle during the flowering phase. However, Kurt Parbst, Envirotech's thermal environment expert, said that the amount of necessary supplemental lighting depends on climate - dry, sunny climates such as Colorado's require far less lighting than say, Seattle's or Albany's. This suggests that if the industry does move to greenhouse grows, growers in some states may have a slight advantage over others. Indoor growers all have access to the same lighting technology, so this is currently not the case.

Energy isn't the only area where greenhouses are superbly efficient. Eric Labatte is a Canadian water systems guru based in Ontario, an area with the highest density of vegetable greenhouses in North America. He explained in mind-numbing detail the workings of a high-tech, closed-circuit irrigation system that amounted to damn near 0 percent runoff.

I thought of all the water wasted by growers who illegally divert streams in Northern California, and realized that not only is it important for growers to adopt these new systems, but it's also imperative that politicians create subsidies and other incentives to shunt the industry in that direction. If the industry keeps flourishing the way it is now, the future of the parched western American landscape may depend on it.

...and that was lunch. I'll have more from my day at the NCIA expo soon.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Greenhouses will solve Denver's pot-related energy woes

The Denver Post's Cannabist section reports that cannabis growing facilities, most of which are indoor, are responsible for 45 percent of an annual 1.2-percent increase in the city's electricity use since 2012:
Denver's indoor cannabis grows are using too much electricity.
"Colorado’s marijuana sector, in particular, is growing rapidly, relying on electricity to run lights that stimulate plant growth, as well as air-conditioning and dehumidifiers. The lights emit heat, raising demand for air conditioning, which requires more electricity."
 And how do Denver officials plan on solving this problem?
"Southwest Energy Efficiency Project director Howard Geller said new adjustable light-emitting diode (LED) lights have emerged that don’t put out heat. Companies installing these wouldn’t require so much air-cooling and could cut electricity use, Geller said."
Oh, of course! That's a brilliant solution! I was going to suggest moving away from lights entirely and using the sun, but it's not like Colorado gets 300 DAYS OF FREE SUNSHINE each year or anything. And don't even try to tell me that greenhouses are like, 75 percent more efficient than indoor facilities, because that's certainly impossible.

Mr. Geller's proposed solution of unplugging inefficient lights just to plug in less inefficient lights may indeed help warehouse growers cut costs, but as the director of a regional energy efficiency program he should be pushing to have this crop grown under the sun. A simple Google search using the  words "cannabis greenhouses efficient" will turn up all the evidence any official needs to start guiding the industry in that direction.

Cannabis growing in a greenhouse with supplementary lighting.
And if recent trends continue, the industry won't need much of a push; just last week at the National Cannabis Industry Association's annual expo in downtown Denver, there were multiple workshops and talks pushing greenhouses and environmentally sustainable cultivation as the next big move for the industry.

It's not just about high energy bills. Plants that receive intense heat and direct light from inefficient lighting are more stressed out and are more vulnerable to insect infestations, which ups the need for pesticides, another costly input for cannabis farmers. This is what greenhouse engineer Eric Brandstad, of Forever Flowering Greenhouses, calls "growing against the grain," or growing methods that run counter to the plant's needs. Greenhouses, by contrast, diffuse the direct rays of the sun across an entire crop, encouraging healthy photosynthesis.

Many NCIA members support sustainable cannabis growth.
"When plants are grown healthy, not against the grain, they actually will resist pests," said Brandstad, speaking as part of a panel on environmentally sustainable cannabis cultivation at the NCIA expo on June 29.

So far, the only downside to greenhouse grows is the high startup cost, as purchasing and prepping land for a highly efficient greenhouse is more expensive than renting or buying an old warehouse.

Most greenhouse growers also use supplementary lighting to keep their plants on the 12-hour light cycle required to induce faster flowering; here is where Geller's suggestion of using more efficient lights would be most useful. In addition, according to greenhouse expert Zev Ilnocki of Envirotech Solutions, Colorado's sunny climate minimizes the need for supplementary lighting, so growers in the Centennial State stand to save more on those costs than growers in cloudier regions such as the Pacific Northwest.

Colorado already has several greenhouse grows in operation, and if the current pulse of the industry is any indication, there will be many more to follow. The reason is simple: greenhouses are better for the plants, better for the growers, and better for the environment.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Highlights from Oregon's Cannabis past

Today cannabis is officially legal in Oregon. Before today, the only Oregonians who could legally use cannabis were those registered with the state's medical cannabis system, which was approved in 1998; they could possess up to six plants and 24 ounces of dried cannabis. Now, possession and growth of the herb are legal, but there is not yet a legal way to buy it.

The full legalization initiative, Measure 91, was approved by 56 percent of Oregonians in the midterm elections on November 4, 2014; similar measures made cannabis legal in Alaska and Washington, D.C. The Oregon state legislature has spent months developing regulations for the new industry, and just yesterday sent a bill to Governor Kate Brown's desk that does the following:
  • Limits the size of existing medical cannabis grows beyond cities to 96 plants and grows in urban neighborhoods to 24 plants. New growers in both locations will only be allowed to grow half as many. Under the medical cannabis system, growers could only grow enough cannabis to supply four patients, which amounted to 24 plants, 72 seedlings, and six pounds of the dried product.

  • Allows city and county governments in eastern Oregon, where Measure 91 received the least support, to shut out the cannabis industry altogether. In the rest of the state, voters have to approve any attempts to ban the industry.

  • Bans edible packaging that is deemed attractive to children

  • Establishes mandatory standard testing procedures for pesticides, molds, and mildews

  • Restricts industry employment to residents who have lived in Oregon for at least two years, but allows out-of-state investors.

  • Tracks the product of retail growers from seed to sale and requires growers to file reports on their inventory
As Oregonians shake off the shackles of prohibition and take a toke or two in celebration, here's a look back at some interesting moments in Oregon's cannabis history:

1876 - The drug importer Craddock & Co. places an ad for "Cannabis indica" in Hillsboro, Oregon's Washington Independent. The Philadelphia-based firm calls the herb "the Great East India Remedy" and claims it is "warranted to cure Consumption, Bronchitis and Asthma." Price per bottle: $2.50.

1895 - In a public call for supplies, the board of trustees for the Oregon state insane asylum requests "1 pound granulated cannabis indica" under "Drug Supplies."

1915 - Hashish in Portland

Although it wasn't too popular, drug cannabis was imported from Great Britain (which imported it from India) and sold in drugstores throughout the United States in the late nineteenth century. On March 3, 1915, The Morning Oregonian ran a story about four drug stores in Portland's business district that were found to be selling "hashish" to youths between the ages of 11 and 18.

On May 22, the Oregonian ran a news brief that discussed an "ordinance prohibiting the sale of hashish, an opiate said to have found its way to the Portland market." Though the newspaper incorrectly identified cannabis as an opiate, it at least gave the proper official name, "cannabis indica."

1920 - A Mrs. Dolores "Fernands" - likely a misspelling of "Fernandes" or "Fernandez" - is arrested in Portland after plucking "a large fruit box"'s worth of cannabis from a plant that apparently sprung up near Union Station. She then sold a small quantity of it to a "Maxinieno Mendez" for $1.35. The police told The Morning Oregonian that the weed gives the smoker "a laughing jag."

1966 - This happened:

1973 - Oregon becomes the first state to decriminalize cannabis, reducing the penalty for possession of up to one ounce to a $100 fine.

1998 - 54 percent of Oregon voters approve medical cannabis via Ballot Measure 67.

Oregon readers may know of more events that should be included here; if you are one of those readers, please let me know in the comments what else I should add!