If the outdoor farmer is to prosper in a regulated market, now is the time to start educating the public about the benefits of sustainably grown cannabis

Originally published in Lift News.
If you have ever walked into a field of sunflowers, then you can imagine the hypnotic beauty of a sun grown cannabis garden.

The sunlight flickers between the broad leaves as resin sparkles on the flowers, and the sounds of nature are almost in congress with the good energy such a field evokes. Most of these fields are in remote and secret places, amongst the pines in the north, in the swamps further to the south, hidden between the rows of corn in many a farmer’s field, and on the sides of mountainous hills further west.

Hard to get to, hard to spot, and hard to maintain. “ Set it and forget it” is a cannabis farmer’s creed in many parts. It’s not like there is a lot of investment initially other than the hard labour of the planting. These fields grow themselves and they are bountiful with the right amount of sun and rain. Bumper crops are like winning the marijuana lottery. There is very little investment until harvest. An experienced seasonal marijuana farmer can easily live off their annual crop. It is a beautiful thing.

Seasonal cannabis farming is a cheap start up with potentially very high rewards. It is also high risk. Bad weather, getting ripped off, and the long arm of the law are just the obvious risks. There is also incredible stress, cost to personal freedoms and relationships, and uncertainty. It is a unique lifestyle. Sun grown seasonal farmers are the pioneers of cannabis cultivation. It is how things began and it is how they might end, ideally with much less risk.

In Northern California the seasonal farmer is the artisanal grower of the past and of the future, as they are now organizing to protect their economy and their way of life.

In various regions across Canada, seasonal farming supports communities. The nature of the activity lends itself to the notion of rural sustainability. There are a lot of plots in the back forty. Career seasonal farmers are men and women who have lived off and from the land for generations and they have done it with a lot of hutzpah.

Some folks have chosen to forego seasonal cultivation and have made cannabis a full-time way of life. This is partly due to technology, and a lot of loopholes in the medical marijuana systems that exist in all jurisdictions, as well as good old fashioned greed.

Indoor cannabis cultivation began in the early 80’s with the advance of technology and the heightened demand for a year-round supply. Also, grow stores started popping up in every city in North America. High Times magazine, which was the go-to for all things cannabis back then, began advertising lights, seeds, nutrients, and the big buds and bucks that would come with indoor grows.

It was intoxicating, but it was also extremely high maintenance and high tech. Then there were the costs. Hydro bills rocketed, and mold destroyed many a habitat. Indoor cultivations were not for the timid, technically challenged, or lazy — they were the factory farms of cannabis, even on a small scale.

Enter the new regulations for medical marijuana that began in California and made their way across the US and Canada at an alarming rate. The seasonal farmers of Northern California were always the providers for the more populated regions to the south, and business was booming.

The medical marijuana rules were a direct result of the AIDS epidemic. Since the early 90’s, California has been the frontrunner in the cannabis movement. And even with the failure of Prop. 19, which would have made it the first state to legalize recreationally, it remains the visionary and this is very much due to the efforts made by the seasonal farmers of NorCal.

The imminent legalization and controversial regulations facing California producers reflect similar concerns held by Canadian farmers.

In Canada, the Medical Marihuana Access Regulations (MMAR) created a cottage industry almost entirely based on indoor cultivation. The outdoor medical marijuana cultivator was given some advantages but not nearly enough to make it truly worthwhile, economically and psychologically. Outdoor cultivators were given an increased plant count, and the costs were certainly lower, but it required a considerable amount of privacy and security due to visibility, not to mention the risks of a poor growing season. Thankfully, Health Canada, in the re-vamp of the MMAR — the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulation (MMPR) — have since allowed for greenhouse cultivation, which is both cost effective and environmentally friendly.

The medical marijuana landscape is just the beginning. Where do we go from here? Cannabis will be legal for adult use everywhere eventually, it is happening. Will we build an industry that is conducive to positive environmental practises? Ultimately it will be the consumer who decides.

If the seasonal farmer is to continue to prosper in a regulated market, now is the time to start educating the public about the benefits of sustainably sun grown cannabis. Although this may not matter. During a recent conference in California, Steve DeAngelo pointed out that if farmers are excluded from a legal market, “We’ll take to the hills, like we always have.”

The concerns are legitimate for the regulators, the seasonal cannabis farmers, and the environmentalists who are now becoming more aware of the positive and negative impacts of cannabis cultivation.

The secret beauty of sun grown cannabis farming in a legal framework is that it will not only effectively create a fair market by minimizing the costs to the farmers and the consumers, it will also effectively bring about a shift in how we impact the environment with our cannabis consumer habits.

~See you in the Future~