Sometimes conventional wisdom needs to be investigated
After several years of legal marijuana cultivation and sales, there are still many unknowns and questions. Here are several subjects that regularly come up in the discussions at the Marijuana Venture offices.
What really causes mold and mildew on marijuana? The conventional thinking is that mold and mildew are primarily caused by high humidity levels, a lack of airflow or a combination of the two. But is it possible that it’s none of the above? Or that other factors also play a significant role in the development of mold?
I once had an interesting discussion about the causes of mold with a grower who had years of experience cultivating medical marijuana outdoors. He said that although mold was always an issue in the fall at the lower elevations of Washington’s Okanogan Valley, it rarely occurred higher than 1,500 feet. That year, I saw mature marijuana flowering naturally at an elevation of 3,000 feet. It was subjected to rain and cool nights all the way into November. None of the plants at that elevation had any signs of mold. Flowering did eventually slow down to the point that development basically stopped, mostly because of the cold weather and lack of sunshine. But even at final harvest, around Nov. 10, there were no signs of mold. If rain and higher humidity were to blame, why was there no mold at the higher elevations?
My thoughts turned to the possibility of another culprit: commercial agriculture. Alfalfa, apples, cattle farming and other forms of agriculture are largely absent above 1,500 feet. Maybe mold spores are simply a problem introduced by humans through the commercial farming of crops like alfalfa?
Will the Emerald Triangle be the center of commercial marijuana production in California? British Columbia and California’s Emerald Triangle developed into major marijuana production centers because of prohibition.
B.C. Bud was grown indoors because British Columbia had cheap electricity and relatively lax enforcement laws. The Emerald Triangle, on the other hand, became a hub for cannabis cultivation because it’s fairly remote, with plenty of hills, valleys and ravines to hide marijuana plantations, and, as with B.C., enforcement is relatively lax.
With marijuana legalized for recreational use in California, my guess is that most of the outdoor and greenhouse production will move to the Central Valley and the Fresno/Bakersfield areas. The Central Valley has everything going for it: close proximity to the huge markets in Southern California; great climate; existing agriculture infrastructure; fertile soil; extensive irrigation; and lots of experienced labor.
When marijuana becomes legal, all the reasons for growing it in remote locations will disappear. If the free market works the way it normally does, agriculture will move to where ideal growing conditions, proximity to markets and existing infrastructure meet. In California, that’s the Central Valley, where $43 billion of tomatoes, grapes, almonds, lettuce and various other crops are produced annually.
Is there anything to strains? In the January issue of Marijuana Venture, I talked about a conversation I had with a big licensed commercial grower who labeled his entire crop as Blue Dream. He’d planted about 25 strains that year, and I asked him which strain sold the best. He explained that when he saw Blue Dream was the best seller, he simply labeled everything as such and sold out quickly.
He also noted that of the dozens of retail buyers and potentially hundreds (if not thousands) of consumers who bought his product, no one ever said anything or questioned whether the buds were really Blue Dream.
While some have called into question his integrity or honesty, I think there’s a possibility that most of the strain stuff is just hocus-pocus pot culture fantasy, in which no one really knows anything about the hundreds of strains, their effects or where they originated. My thought is that good weed is good weed. Different varieties obviously show different characteristics, and there’s no denying that a lot of so-called indica strains flower earlier and faster than their sativa relatives. However, beyond that, my guess is most of the strain stuff and highs associated with them is more placebo effect and wishful thinking than reality.
Brown vs. Green: How important is the curing of marijuana? While there seems to be little consensus about anything in the marijuana business, it’s a long-established practice in the tobacco industry to cure (dry) quality tobacco leaves for months and sometimes years. This is done to ensure the green (chlorophyll) in the leaves is gone by the time the plant is processed into cigarettes and cigars.
In the marijuana business, growers, retailers and consumers can’t seem to agree whether there is any value to a slow cure. Many retail buyers have told me they prefer to buy marijuana that has been recently harvested because it’s fresher, while an equal number of consumers and growers swear that for cannabis to really reach its flavor peak, it must be slow-cured and dried to remove the chlorophyll. Who’s right?
Indica vs. Sativa: Is there really a difference in the high? This is one of my favorite subjects because it seems so silly. If you visit any of the websites like Leafly or Weedmaps, descriptions of different strains and the two main subspecies of cannabis — indica and sativa — include a seemingly endless number of effects attributed to them. Really? Some strains cure headaches, but can also cause headaches. Some are “uplifting,” but also cause a user to mellow out, and others do everything from make you want to go skydiving to causing you to sink into a couch all day.
It may be that I’m just not enough of a regular user to be able to distinguish the subtle differences in how marijuana affects me, but I swear that on the rare occasions I use marijuana, I get stoned, and that’s about it. I can’t recall any kind of significantly different effect from one type to another. The only way to determine if there’s any truth to this would be to conduct a series of blind tests on consumers using clear extracts distilled from various strains. Without any prior knowledge or visual clues, it would be interesting to see if the highs obtained from the oils matched what the high was said to be like.
Greg James is the publisher of Marijuana Venture and SunGrower & Greenhouse magazines. He has more than 25 years of experience running a consumer software company with more than $500 million in sales to Walmart, Costco, Amazon, Best Buy and other major retailers.