Recreational cannabis is spreading across the United States with ever-increasing popularity including the medical front, which continues to press forward in many states that choose to decriminalize the plant. To me, the most beneficial outcome of all the hard-fought cannabis legalization battle has been the increased efficacy of cannabis as a medicine. With several states allocating money for formal research in universities, we are discovering new pathways being formed to help more patients every day. As we push forward, bringing easier access to more and more people nationwide, the methods for growing must be the right ones both for our planet, and patients.
The method by which we grow our plants directly impacts the quality of our final product. This includes not only what we fertilize with or whether we do or don’t use pesticides, but how we prune, nurture and harvest the plant, all plays heavily on the quality of the medicine. To be more specific, you should even tune your techniques to what type of medicine being created.
To attack the elephant in the room, let’s discuss fertilizers and pesticides first. There are all types of economic and environmental opinions that surround the use of chemical fertilizers, however, when it comes to making medicine, there is not much of an argument. Science has shown that vegetables grown with chemical fertilizers, though equivalent in macronutrients, substantially lack the quantity of terpenes and antioxidants produced in organically grown vegetables. The same holds true for cannabis. For example, the benefits of juicing cannabis are largely in the amount of antioxidants present. Juicing with chemically fertilized plants would produce substantially lower qualitative values. Similarly, creating a low-heat RSO (Rich Simpson Oil) from organic cannabis will substantially increase the amount of other cancer fighting chemicals in the final product.
Pesticides are a whole other beast, with a large selection available for growers on the market. The number of chemicals allowed on foods seems increasingly out of control. How do we know which ones to safely use? If consuming the plant, or smoking it for that matter is the ultimate goal, stick to only the natural ingredients or byproducts, such as neem oil, pyrethrins (from Chrysanthemum flowers), and circumstantially spinosad. What many people don’t realize is there’s an entire marketplace dedicated to biological controls, and these can completely eliminate the need for pesticides.
Ladybugs are the first to come to mind but they are only the tip of the iceberg. For mites, there are several species of predatory mites (the good guys) that can completely control a grow space. Predator nematodes are an especially helpful biological control that eliminate any soil dwelling insects. Phylloxera, fungus gnats, thrips and aphids all start their life cycles in the soil. Using biological controls is substantially cheaper than continually reapplying pesticides, and its often more successful when done right.
When it comes to how we groom our plants, little actions can make a big difference, and the best thing one can do is be intentional. If growing to juice the plant, treat it differently than if growing to produce RSO. When juicing or blending cannabis, all the minerals, vitamins, nutrients and any chemicals present at harvest are consumed. This makes it optimal to harvest and fresh freeze the plant around week 6 or 7 when it has maximized its nutritional production. Just the same, removing healthy fan leaves from a plant to be juiced is only reducing the overall yield; the fan leaves are just as important!
RSO is produced in many different ways but one thing everyone will agree on is the need for quality product to start with. Because RSO uses a solvent to strip the chemicals from the plant matter, makers will need to know everything that is about to be stripped down into the final product. For RSO many prefer to start with pesticide-free organic dried flower only. It may be more costly to produce, but when treating cancer, costs can be relative.
The love of growing plants is what introduced me to the cannabis world. I believe that how we grow our product and ultimately how we choose to use it is what will define our culture. While the War on Drugs era stumbles to an ignorant end, we are now harnessing the opportunity to redefine our image. No longer will we be seen as ‘lazy stoners’, but as innovative pioneers encompassing business and care for humanity in one.