The farm that has made the first legal outdoor cannabis cultivation on the US east coast has already harvested its plants
For the first time, hundreds of legally grown outdoor cannabis plants have been harvested in early October in Maryland, on the east coast of the United States. This is a milestone in the history of outdoor cannabis cultivation in this part of the country whose climate is absolutely inadequate for this purpose due to its very high humidity that invites fungi to colonize the precious flowers of marijuana.
Almost an acre of meticulously maintained cannabis plants is the reward of a crop that was far from guaranteed. It is the first time that in this part of the country a commercial scale crop grown legally outdoors is achieved. We insist on the word “legal,” but it seems hard to believe that any type of cannabis cultivation, legal or illegal, can occur in such an inappropriate climate for marijuana.
Mackie Barch, owner of the medical cannabis company that has made the first fully outdoor crop (not inside a greenhouse) and a team of workers used plastic sleeves and latex gloves to defend against the sticky resin of the plants, trimming stem after stem in what industry experts said is the first crop of this type in this part of the country.
Barch says it has been a race against time to harvest the crop on time. The truth is that this multimillion dollar experiment has been a worthwhile bet. If you are an experienced cannabis grower and know Maryland, you will understand the difficulty of growing marijuana outdoors in this state. Maryland, one of the most beautiful states in the country, has an environmental humidity that sometimes reaches almost one hundred percent. Yes, you read that right: one hundred percent. There are days when you see drops of water suspended in the atmosphere. This fact is due to the millions of centenary oaks that exist, the proximity of the sea and the rivers.
For decades, marijuana farms in northern California and Oregon have been growing plants outdoors and the same is true in Colorado. But commercial growers on the east coast grow cannabis in greenhouses or warehouses with artificial lights because the humid weather and variable temperatures on this side of the country create less than ideal conditions for growing cannabis outdoors.
Michael Wheeler, vice president of a major medical cannabis company that works with hundreds of small outdoor marijuana growers in Northern California, says that growing outdoor marijuana needs six months of hot, dry days, with cool nights , which few places on the east coast have. There are no problems for indoor cannabis cultivation in Maryland, but outdoor cultivation is totally different. Wheeler puts the example of tomatoes by saying that if you have ever experienced the satisfaction of a mature tomato grown in the sun, you can see the difference between cannabis grown outdoors and cannabis grown indoors.
The company that has carried out the first legal cultivation of medicinal cannabis outdoors in the east of the country, usually grows marijuana plants indoors, in a warehouse that costs more than 10 million dollars in which it controls all the parameters of good crop, humidity included.
But indoor cannabis cultivation is expensive, about three times the price of putting irrigated plants on land outdoors. And as the industry, still relatively new, expands at high speed, producers cannot access bank loans to finance their cultivation, because most financial institutions do not lend money to an industry that the federal government still considers illegal . As an alternative way of lowering production costs, Barch and its investors decided to take risks and grow cannabis outdoors, near their warehouse in an industrial area of downtown Cambridge. In any case, with a little luck the situation of lack of access to the financial services of the banks could change soon. For more information we recommend you read our article “Cannabis and banks in the US”
Barch thought that if he could grow cannabis outdoors for a third of the price, he could invest more money in further expansion. And being the only outdoor grower in Maryland, Barch could theoretically perfect the process and be the first to legally grow outdoor cannabis, which he calls “sun-grown cannabis,” and that is sold as organic and sustainable marijuana, with a lower carbon footprint, but in the same way that organically grown tomatoes may look uglier than organic ones, “sun-grown” cannabis may also seem imperfect.
For now, Barch intends to use its entire outdoor crop to make processed cannabis products, such as tinctures, instead of selling flowers for smoking.
In Maryland, outdoor cannabis cultivation is banned in some places by local zoning laws that regulate the smell emitted by cannabis plants. Other states have imposed restrictions due to security concerns.
Brian Vincente, whose Colorado-based cannabis law firm represents thousands of clients across the country, said those limits could decrease as marijuana markets mature. It often happens that when consumers are more interested in the benefits of outdoor cannabis (price and others), legislators relax. According to Vincente, when marijuana is legalized for the first time, it is regulated as if it was plutonium and most states do not start allowing outdoor cultivation.
To conduct the first legal outdoor cannabis cultivation in the east of the country, Barch had to clean four inches of three-acre land, much of which was contaminated during the 1989 Cambridge Butter Fire, a hell that It lasted several days caused by the burning of fat in a nearby warehouse that had stored 750 tons of butter, millions of kilos of pork ribs, turkeys, hot dogs, crab cakes, eel and mackerel. Barch had to bring garbage trucks full of good soil to raise the entire area by 18 inches (about 65 centimeters), enough to keep most plant root systems out of the local water table. In late July, workers planted an acre with hundreds of different varieties of marijuana plants.
But the fact that Barch has managed so successfully to make the first legal outdoor cultivation of medical cannabis in the eastern United States is partly a matter of luck. This year the summer has been hot and ended with a drought. This helped to concentrate some of the most desirable cannabinoids and terpenes in marijuana. A light and steady breeze helped prevent mold, and there was no need to fight undesirable pests, except one afternoon when Barch panicked, when someone discovered an invasive caterpillar. Barch doesn’t just look for a plant that grows well in this climate. It is also “hunting pheno”, which is what cannabis growers call the process of identifying a plant that expresses the correct traits (phenotype) to make it a perfect variety for the area. About 90 percent of the varieties that Barch has grown this season will not be cultivated again, because those varieties are not strong enough for Maryland’s climate.
The other 10 percent will be cloned and replanted in bulk and further experiments will be done, as Barch and his team look for a plant that produces the correct amount of THC and has a good amount of terpenes. The experts of the cultivation of marijuana assure that the season of cultivation of cannabis outdoors is longer and this allows that the plants develop and mature more terpenes, another variable for the experimentation that would not be practical inside a warehouse since Barch could not Experiment without reducing production.