Many consumers are turning towards corporate cannabis to fulfill their weed needs. Thanks to the rise of recreational dispensaries, cannabis farms now have a stable and safe market for their product. Unlike fruit and vegetable farms, many of these weed-growing operations are done in greenhouse-like facilities, using hydroponics, aeroponics and other, emerging garden technology.
Unsurprisingly, California leads the way in outdoor cannabis production. Welcome to the “Emerald Triangle” or “the Napa Valley of Cannabis,” an affectionate nickname for Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties. This farming-friendly region of Northern California is rumored to have cannabis plants as high as trees and has been a fertile grounds for counterculture since the 1960s.
Humboldt County, the heart of the Emerald Triangle, was the first municipality in California to adopt a commercial land use ordinance for marijuana, and continues to be recognized name among cannabis connoisseurs. Growers attribute their flourishing cannabis plants to the region’s the rich soil, Mediterranean climate and morning marine layer of fog, which add a terroir or “taste of place” to the cannabis grown there.
Humboldt County-grown cannabis fetches higher prices at dispensaries and comes with a seal touting the weed’s origin, similar to “proof of origin” label on wine bottles. Humboldt’s Finest Farms was one of the early adopters of the “craft cannabis” movement and has an entire website devoted to their belief in the superiority of sun-grown, Humboldt-county cannabis.
Cannabis is big business in the region. According to a study commissioned by Mendocino county, pot accounts for up to two-thirds of the local economy. The demand is high and the profit margins are even higher for savvy growers.
It costs an average of $400 to grow a pound of pot, according to CNBC. And a plant that produces two pounds of marijuana is valued at about $5,000. The low start-up cost and favorable conditions for growing make cannabis a logical investment for anyone with a green thumb.
But as cannabis industry professionals know all too well, legal red tape cuts into both time and profit. As the popularity of cannabis continues to flourish, so do regulations and requirements for both growers and sellers. Emerald Triangle growers have to contend with the state Bureau of Cannabis Control, Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Water Board plus state and federal laws.
Above-board cannabis farms often compete with illegal growing operations for resources. Illegal operations have diverted natural creeks and streams and otherwise modified the natural landscape for their own benefit, according to A Proper High. These black market operations also bring increased scrutiny from law enforcement and federal agencies and environmental protection advocates.
While hydroponics, aeroponics and vertical growing may help reduce environmental impact and better utilize resources, these industrial methods lack the “earthiness” of sun-grown cannabis. Indoor farms can be located practically anywhere and, while they might not produce the most flavorful bud, they can be a smart alternative to sun-grown, hand-cultivated weed. Large-scale cannabis is ideal for edibles, topicals and tinctures while craft cannabis is meant to be smoked and savored.