We may think of cannabis as a new industry, but the plant actually has a history that is thousands of years old. The Cannabis sativa plant, the one that we use today to cultivate what you smoke and bake into edibles, has its origins trace back almost 12,000 years, in Central Asia, including parts of ancient China. This makes cannabis one of the first cultivated plants in human history.
So what can that fact tell us about which state grows the best cannabis today? Well, understanding the origins of cannabis points to what climate is best suited for the plant. Central Asia is known for its high altitudes and dry, arid environment, so it’s little wonder that modern cannabis thrives in hilly regions with lots of sun.
Of course, understanding its origins can only inform us of so much. As any grower could tell you, with such a long history of cultivation, cannabis has undergone quite a development, genetically speaking, with hundreds of different strains commonly grown today. For instance, the same study cited above highlighted that it was 4,000 years ago that cultivated cannabis diverged into the two distinct genetic groups responsible for hemp/CBD on one end and the high-THC strains that are recreationally grown on the other.
So while the origins of the cannabis plant can tell us the ideal growing conditions 12,000 years ago, today’s cannabis is as different as modern corn is different from ancient maize. The more important question we need to ask is what are the ideal growing conditions for the modern cannabis plant?
What are the ideal cannabis growing conditions?
There are a lot of factors to consider when talking about the ideal cannabis growing environment. The one we usually think of first is access to sunlight. Cannabis tends to do best when it has access to direct sunlight for at least 6 hours a day. In fact, the more sunlight the better. As fall approaches, and the amount of sunlight drops, this will trigger cannabis plants to flower. Locations with longer growing seasons and access to sunlight are preferred.
Another important consideration, often related to the amount of sunlight, is the temperature. Cannabis is well known to be highly adaptable, like any good weed, but if you want the best possible flower, the ideal temperature range is above 55°F and below 85°F. Sustained temperatures outside those two extremes will stunt growth and do damage to the plant.
The ideal soil for growing cannabis tends to be considered silty. This kind of dirt crumbles easily, warms up quickly, and holds onto both moisture and nutrients well. Its granules are of medium size, making it easy to till. Such soil is highly fertile, and while it holds onto water well, it does tend to suffer from poor drainage. This means that the best conditions also doesn’t suffer from an over abundance of precipitation during the growing season. Another aspect of the preferred cannabis soil is that it should have the right pH level, without being too acidic.
So what does this mean for where the best growing climate of cannabis can be found? Well, the preferred environment should offer plenty of sunlight, while avoiding extreme temperatures. Warm, without being too hot, during the day, with warm, pleasant nights. While avoiding drought conditions, the growing environment should offer low rainfall during the growing season as well. To find locations with this precise mix of growing conditions, you’ll typically want warm, hilly regions with lots of sun.
While it’s obviously possible to grow in locations that don’t exactly match the above profile, the further you move away from these conditions, the more limited your options are in terms of what strains you can effectively grow. Some strains are just more vulnerable than others to extreme conditions. Of course, when professionals cultivate indoor cannabis, they are trying to mimic the above conditions as much as possible.
Which is better, indoor or outdoor cannabis?
Speaking of indoor vs. outdoor cannabis, this is one of the central debates in the cannabis community. Some people swear that the best cannabis must be grown outdoors in the perfect climate. Others will fight to the death over the belief that growing indoor cannabis is the surest way to produce not only the most potent, best-tasting weed, but to ensure your flower is as clean as possible as well.
Right off the bat, it’s necessary to admit that because of the patchwork legalization environment we are currently stuck with, you are limited to the cannabis grown in your state. This means that if you live in a particular unfriendly climate for growing weed, the only viable option may be indoor grown.
But the truth is that even in locations where you might expect to have little likelihood of producing good cannabis, there might be a solid growing season. Even up north in Canada, cultivators are finding that while the growing season may be short, they are able to produce some world class weed during that narrow window.
So which is better? That’s obviously a tough question to answer, and one of personal choice. While the best outdoor and the best indoor cannabis both will offer many great attributes, you’ll also find that the worst of both will be barely worth looking at, let alone smoking. Your best bet is to find a craft cannabis grower in your area that you trust and have found produces the kind of cannabis that you find appealing and stick with them.
Why legal cannabis is better (and safer) than black market cannabis
The question of why you should stick with legal cannabis rather than relying on the black market is easier to answer. If you are lucky enough to live somewhere where weed has been legalized, then you may be presented with the choice of purchasing cannabis through a legal dispensary or medical facility, or on the black market. While you could save money by avoiding the taxes involved with going through legal channels, there really are a number of good reasons to buy weed that has been regulated.
Of course, if you live in a location that doesn’t allow the legal sale of cannabis (in the worst case, not even for medical purposes) then none of the following applies to you. There’s no judgement here if you have to rely on illegally grown and sold cannabis to get a product that should be available to every American adult to consume safely in their own home.
First of all, legal cannabis is safer. That’s because it’s been grown in a regulated environment, with strict guidelines as to what can be added and testing is done to ensure there aren’t any toxins or other issues. It will be labeled properly, so you know exactly what you are smoking. When you buy on the black market, there’s no telling how your flower was grown, what chemicals might have been added to it, how it was stored, and any number of other factors you might need to consider. Obviously, even in legal markets there are still bad actors, but your chances of getting scammed, ripped off, or given bad weed is much lower.
You’ll also have access to more information about the cannabinoid profile. When cannabis is tested, they are looking for more than just toxins. They’ll ascertain the strain you’re buying, and can get really specific about the cannabinoid contents. While the research into this area is still in its beginning stage, there is a lot of potential for understanding how any particular strain might affect you before you even try it. For medical patients, or those who use cannabis to regulate their mood or emotions, this information can be invaluable.
Legal cannabis is also better for the environment. Certain toxins are against the law, growers have access to energy efficient options provided by their local utility, and they are subject to water and electricity requirements. Many states are baking energy efficiency requirements into their rules for cultivation. For those of you who are especially eco-conscious, you can look for growers who are organic, regenerative, or are certified for their healthy practices.
Finally, it’s much more likely that your legally purchased weed was grown, harvested, trimmed, packaged, and shipped by workers getting paid a fair wage and adequate benefits. The same can certainly not be said of cannabis grows operating outside the legal bounds.
Which regions are most famous for growing great cannabis?
With all that being said, let’s look at where you can expect to get the best cannabis flower here in the United States. Naturally, we need to start with a part of the US known as the Emerald Triangle. This is a portion of Northern California that has a long history of cultivating cannabis, going back at least to the 1960’s. When California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis, it meant that some growers were able to enter the legal market for the first time.
Today, California is responsible for producing the largest amount of cannabis in the United States, with 17.3 million pounds in 2019 alone. The Emerald Triangle, with it’s warm, sunny climate and high altitudes make for near-perfect conditions for outdoor cultivation. There’s a reason why California cannabis is famous around the world.
Close on California’s heels is the Medford-Ashland region of Southern Oregon. This hilly region is blessed with pretty much the same climate conditions as Northern California, and the growers in these two communities have been trading secrets for a couple generations. This means that not only the quality of the weed here is top-notch, but also the variety. Combine these elements with the low cost, due to the lower cost of living compared to California, and you can’t go wrong with Oregon craft cannabis.
Growing up in the midwest, no one I knew talked about California weed. That was way too far away. For the central United States, everyone knew the best cannabis could be found in Kentucky and Tennessee. Long known as a tobacco region, the mountainous areas near the Smoky Mountains and the Cumberland Gap are very similar in climate and fertility to the Emerald Triangle. While neither state has legalized recreational cannabis, Kentucky especially is taking the lead in hemp cultivation, so you could definitely do worse than buy your CBD products from this region.
As for indoor cannabis, Colorado has earned a reputation as a cultivation leader. This is party down to the fact that Colorado had a head start, as it was the first state to legalize recreational cannabis in 2014 (along with Washington state). Another factor in its well-earned reputation is the fact that Colorado is home to a number of industry leaders in terms of genetic breeders and seed banks. This has allowed for the state to be at the forefront of strain cultivation and research. Also of benefit is the low prices. Weed in Colorado is cheaper than most other states, without sacrificing quality.
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