The Good, The bad, and the Buggy

flatirons moonlit

Some Advantages of the Small-Batch grow and why industrial warehouses are not the best places to grow “medicine”.

There used to be really good cannabis in Omaha, where I grew up. Thus the name Danktown which I have bestowed on it much to the chagrin of the current residents (I don’t know why- they should be proud of their amazing genetics). You may be skeptical, but I have long maintained that Omaha had some of the best cannabis on the planet in the 90’s.

We got amazing stuff from all over, really. We were blessed to have the Cali and Colorado buds coming through town regularly, and British Colombia was making its inroads through the north. Brick weed from Mexico was also an option. You could get a yugo($60/oz), a Toyota($100/oz), a Lexus ($200/oz), or a Ferrari ($350-600/oz); it depended on how much money you were willing to part with.

A lot of people I knew grew cannabis in their houses in Omaha. That is what made it so good. These gardens were only 10-30 plants that grew in a basement. These massive 1600-plant flowering rooms that we have here in Colorado aren’t even in greenhouses, but old industrial warehouses. Greenhouses that are built for commerce and shipping may not be the best conditions for growing any plant, let alone one that is nickel -and -dimed for up to $7700/lb at the cash registers.

MED revenue Chart 2014-2016

The advantages of a basement grow can best be identified by looking at a Walipini. It is a pit that is dug down about 6’ underground with a roof over it to let in the sun. Many of the advantages of the Walipini are also the advantages of a basement in a 2500 sq ft house. These include insulation and energy storage. The earth walls can soak up the warmth of the daytime sun and when the temperature drops, they will radiate that retained heat back into the cooling down room.

walipini3

Insulation is another key factor that makes a walipini a great option. The walls can insulate the interior from the elements, providing a more stable environment. The insulation can also reduce heat loss at night. On hot days, the insulation can keep the temperature cool as well. This would be especially important in a place like Omaha, where the temperatures can change by 40° F on some days. These elements make basements ideal growing environments. This is a great option for any local gardener who wants to have a garden of any kind in their back yard. It only takes a little patch of earth and a shovel (and maybe a day away from the gym).

This is in stark contrast to the massive gardens growing in Denver’s industrial district. Thin tin walls and a tin roof separate the garden from the elements. These greenhouses are ill equipped to handle the extreme heat in Denver. Businesses have to invest a lot of money into inadequate and expensive industrial air conditioning units to keep the plants from frying. This air conditioning leads to other problems too.

These tin boxes not only contain the heat from hundreds of thousand-watt lights, but they are baking in the hot Denver sun. Temperatures averaged mid-90’s from the beginning of June until the end of September in 2015. That is a lot of work for air conditioning units. They are constantly running at their peak for a huge energy cost. The bigger cost, however, is maintaining these behemoths. They leak all over everything, they constantly break down, and are a pain in the ass to maintain.

 

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This leads to my next point; the system is complicated by all of the increased moving parts that are required to make it work. all of these little joints in a massive industrial warehouse are perfect hiding spots for  spider mites and mold. A single hermaphrodite could spread pollen throughout the building that will last for generations if it is not all cleaned out.

These big greenhouses are producing more and more seeded flowers because of this breach in sterility. Harvest crews can go to two greenhouses in a day and take their contamination with them. Some greenhouses have potential investors bringing their contaminants with them as well. Then there is the grow staff. It is safe to assume that one or two of them might be growing something at home; this is another point of exposure. This is multiplied when the grower networks with other growers in the community.

These warehouses cannot close down to clean house and get their massive machine rolling again, so these businesses deal with it. They would rather spray, dip finished flowers in alcohol, and make shatter (more on that later) than suspend growing, empty the room, and sterilize everything. In the end they will undoubtedly have mold-resistant strains and plants that need poison for food.

The indoor grows are for the more specialized industry, not a major multi-national commercial endeavor. It is ridiculous to fight with the sun, wind, rain, and earth for growing superiority. But it is the law, so this is what we have to work with. These businesses are incredibly lucky that dabs reached the mainstream, because hash was never traditionally popular in the States. We liked our flower. Shatter propelled hash into the American ganja game and Trap turned “dab” into a household word. Even news anchors and Presidential candidates are taking to the “dab” to reach voters. Yes, my Middle Eastern and Israeli friends, hash is back in the good ol’ US-of-A.

It comes at a cost to us flower smokers, however. All of those factors that used to make an herb world-class are impossible in a room that doesn’t ever get sterilized. The stressed effects of the plants can’t reveal themselves when their flowers are cooked in alcohol. This takes the five senses away from the scrutinizing consumer. Sure, there area ways to discern good shatter from bad shatter. The problem is that you cannot tell whether the plant was fried under the lights, prematurely cut, or poorly maintained.

On top of that, many of my friends from the other side of the atlantic prefer hash to mix with their tobacco. It has been a common practice for centuries. Shisha means “glass” in Persian. It is the tobacco mixture that people smoke in hookahs. I hate to break it to ya, ‘Merica, but shatter is not anything new.

Shatter will be the vehicle that big Tobacco uses to increase their tobacco smoking market. This is, after all, the primary vessel that people in Europe and the Middle East use to smoke their hash.

Marlboro-M-cigarette-cannabis-marijuana

The result is that the worst plants get blasted and return to the shelves at prices that are three times higher than their sistren flowers. This current market demands a chemically-altered product. Their natural product is lower quality and seeds are becoming more common. The market does not need to create a better product because they are making a killing off of their current business plan.

Fortunately, this is just a result of a market with neither a ceiling nor  a floor yet. We are still building the scaffolding as well as digging the holes. The time when you can walk into a gas station and get some spliffs is coming sooner than later. Classy cafes may be the next great small-business revolution: the industry only just begun to evolve and find out where cannabis fits in American society moving forward. Like everything, we learn from our mistakes. In the grand scheme of things, this industry is just a baby. She can’t even crawl yet.

 

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