Just Say NO to Cannabis Factory Farming

Just Say NO to Cannabis Factory Farming

factory farming and cannabis

If you had been told that the apples or lettuce in your grocery store were grown in a warehouse, would you purchase it? Probably not, but somehow, the rules of farming don't seem to apply for cannabis. It's time for that to change.

Yes, I am aware of the vertical growing trend within our urban centers. I also concede that for decades, growing indoors was the only practical solution for most growers. However, no matter how durable those decisions remain for the future of our industry, this is one tradition I’d be happy to see go by the wayside. Because it’s led us towards the grim threshold of factory farming, just as other farmers and consumers are wisely heading the other way.

Thankfully, there is an alternative, one we at Medicine Box know will prevail. Here’s why.

The problem with cannabis farming

Before I continue, I must confess: I, at one point, was an indoor farmer, too. During that time, I remember hearing about a hapless crew in Oakland and a mishap in their operation. One day, a float valve in their location failed to turn off when the float valve didn’t engage. Consequently, the water overflowed and flooded the hallway and the unit underneath them!

That scenario is far less likely in the modern era, but the fact remains: when you’re growing indoors, you have to pay VERY close attention to your inputs, or else you can set yourself up for disaster. If your climate isn’t consistent, it will become a breeding ground for pests and disease, which will overtake the facility quickly. As a result, indoor grow ops have to expend a large portion of their startup capital on retrofitting their buildings - some of them ill-suited for the task - for sterile, climate-controlled atmospheres. As we have seen in Colorado, these cultivation units swallow up vast amounts of electricity - one headline declares it accounts for 4% of Denver’s electricity usage. One simply cannot declare oneself an environmental city while co-signing this sort of profligate usage.

Not only are these grow ops environmentally wasteful, they also exploit their workforces by their very design as well. Typically, in the developmental phase, a “master grower” will work on consultancy to develop the grow schedules, fertigation cycles and SOPs for the company, and then leave the rest for poorly compensated cultivators to maintain. It maps directly to restaurant development, where an executive chef will write the menu and recipe, then leave the gruntwork to line cooks, who are usually immigrants. 

The solution: co-operative cannabis grows

“But what about consistency?," you may ask. “Isn’t that a priority?” Of course it is. But as I shared in our last blog, that consistency is dialed in with our genetics and our SOPs, which are shared with our co-operative growers. While there’s something to be said for a vertical supply chain (something that will be present in the 20,000 units of Equanimity we’ve released, the last ever formulated from our own source material that our founder grew himself), the co-operative model has created brand consistency throughout the world: Blue Diamond, Land O’Lakes, Aria Foods, Sunkist Growers - the list goes on and on.

Moreover, the more ethically grown one’s cannabis is, the better a product it eventually becomes. Ultimately, cannabis is a product of nature, and when you try to control the environment, you’re pushing against nature herself. The plant won’t express itself to the fullest, the end consumer gets a substandard and even poisoned product and the larger consumer suffers. The worst of the outlaw growers already exemplify this. The regulated market should not attempt to emulate them.

Oddly enough, Prop 64 has built the entire regulated system atop the indoor mega grow model, one which has already infuriated residents from Santa Barbara to Sonoma County. That’s why I’m thankful Nevada County, CA has only 10,000 square feet of canopy at its max. This cuts down on mono cropping and strengthens the hand of the co-operative model. You see, bigger is NOT always better. Matter of fact, if you want to avoid the inevitable corner-cutting of factory farming, it’s all about keeping the industry manageable and accountable. All of those tools are here. This month, we’ll go through them and show how Medicine Box leads by example.

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