The first time I saw a vape with an app, I was very excited. The original make of the first brand I encountered with an app, the Firefly, underwhelmed me. But with iPhone-based controls and some other new features, it seemed like the second edition would be a game-changer.
Well, I didn’t really like the Firefly 2, which I found buggy. That feeling is not universal—the Portland Mercury’s cannabis columnist called it “the best portable vaporizer on the market,” after getting the exact same review model I had—but for me it that opinion is rather deeply held. I’ve been a loyal Pax man since.
Well, the DaVinci IQ ($275) might finally flip me. This handheld loose-leaf vaporizer is one of the sleekest I’ve yet seen.
And that starts with the app. While the forthcoming Pax 3 also has an app, it’s not yet ready to link to the latest Pax, which has the same body as the Pax 2.
The DaVinci IQ’s app is up and running, and boy is it slick. It’s totally intuitive, makes a connection as easily as Bluetooth headphones and allows you to set up custom preset paths to bake the most out of any particular flower over a set time period. It heats up fast—about 2 degrees per second—and displays the temperature on a retro-futuristic array of dots.
There’s not many details to talk about with the app, which is the highest compliment you can give it. As far as I can tell, it’s accurate, gently toasting at 300 and charring a little once you move above 400. If you keep it up near 420 for any length of time, it also runs too hot to hold comfortably in your hand.
The body is about the size of a slide-open cellphone with nice rounded edges and a reassuring heft. It’s a bottom-loader with a battery that recharges inside the device by micro USB.
Like the Firefly (but unlike the Pax), it has a ceramic bowl and air path, which I find very easy to clean. At least when it’s new, a few taps leaves it looking like it did when it left the factory. I also found it makes for tastier vapor, a little smoother and milder than you get from flower baked in metal.
Like Pax, the DaVinci line makes a wide range of accessories, from a keychain pick to a little cloth carrying case. At least for now, little goodies like that $15 carry case, an adapter for glass, and a little aluminum bud box come with it, which definitely left me feeling like a baller.
Once the Pax 3 and app are fully operational, it’ll be interesting to compare and contrast the two. But if you’re shopping around, you should definitely check out the DaVinci.
One-quarter of the United States—and all the residents of the West Coast—could have access to recreational marijuana after Election Day, when five states will vote whether to join Oregon in legalizing cannabis.
Next week, voters in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada will decide whether to further undermine federal pot prohibitions, potentially more than tripling the number of Americans with access to retail cannabis. (Three states—Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota—are weighing whether to permit medical marijuana sales, something that’s legal in 25 other states.)
Meanwhile, Oregonians also face pot-related questions on their ballots. A total of 111 counties and cities, from Astoria to Yachats, will decide whether to levy local pot taxes up to 3 percent on marijuana sales. That list also includes Portland.
Six Oregon counties and 54 cities, from Cannon Beach to West Linn, will consider whether to block marijuana sales in their jurisdictions.
Here’s a look at how the market for recreational marijuana could grow from 18 million people to 75 million overnight.
Where recreational weed is already legal
Where recreational marijuana legalization is on the ballot
Arizona—population 6.9 million
Nevada— 2.9 million
Sampling of Oregon cities considering sales taxes on pot up to 3 percent
Sampling of Oregon cities considering bans on recreational marijuana dispensaries**
* Washington, D.C, doesn’t allow recreational dispensaries.
** In some places, voters will consider pot bans and pot taxes on the same ballot.
On Oct. 1, new rules went into effect for Oregon’s marijuana stores. While most of the talk about these rules is centered on testing and labeling, you might have noticed some products are now required to leave the store in a new, heavy-duty plastic bag.
Here’s the deal: According to an administrative rule, cannabis and cannabis products except for seeds and plants must now be in an Oregon Liquor Control Commission-approved, child-resistant container. The OLCC has a list of approved containers on its website. Some, like the screw-top containers that look like prescription pill bottles, are familiar. But any extract, concentrate or other product with more than 15 milligrams of THC must be placed in a package that is resealable and child-resistant.
The exit bags resemble the money bags businesses use. The product can’t be removed until the locking mechanism is triggered.
The exit bags provide companies a “work-around,” says OLCC marijuana spokesman Mark Pettinger. Perhaps in a nod to the somewhat complicated nature of the new rules, the OLCC has a website infographic suggesting that budtenders put anything they’re not sure about into an exit bag. And you might get it in an exit bag anyway, because it’s quicker to put an ounce into an envelope and then into an exit bag than it is to put the ounce into several child-proof containers.
While keeping weed away from kids is laudable, the bags are an attempt to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist. Data doesn’t lie: Kids in Oregon aren’t getting poisoned by pot in great numbers, with just 10 such cases involving children under age 6 reported to the Oregon Poison Center in the first quarter of this year. There were only 25 cases in 2015.
And while the bags are designed to keep kids away from the goodies inside, they can be difficult for the frail to open, especially people suffering from ailments such as arthritis, according to Oregon Grown Gift Shop manager Joe Frackowiak.
“We get all kinds of complaints,” says Frackowiak, adding that since his shop started using the bags in January in anticipation of the new rules, he’s received “complaints from elderly people saying they’ve had to cut the bag open because they couldn’t get the zipper open.”
Frackowiak estimates that his shop uses 300 to 600 bags per month, which also eats into the bottom line. He says Oregon Grown has “absorbed the cost” but might have to raise prices.
The bags also raise environmental concerns. Frackowiak says customers have refused to make purchases because they did not want their weed product in an exit bag.
Plastics are not progressive. Asked about exit-bag-related environmental concerns, the OLCC’s Pettinger mentioned Hi Sierra-brand exit bags as approved and recommended. However, despite the bags’ green claims (“Eco-Responsible,” “Eco Clean Manufacturing,” “Green Packaging”), the bag’s inventor, Mike Greenfield, says they are not recyclable because of the plastics involved in the manufacturing process. This means that unless you save your bags, they could end up in the belly of a whale, or in a landfill for future generations to deal with.
But there is still hope. Caleb Tice, operations manager of Foster Buds and Glisan Buds, believes use of exit bags will eventually decrease as weed manufacturers adjust their packaging to meet requirements.
“I’m happy to do it in the short term,” he says, “knowing that the packages are ultimately going to get to the point where we aren’t going to use them much.”
Jager, the sticky sweet green German digestif of bros and kings, is not my idea of a good time. But Jager, the sticky sweet green bud strain, most definitely is.
An 80/20 Indica dominant hybrid, this strain is also sometimes as “Jr.” or “Jgr” in the weed biz; like many weed strains its exact provenance is unknown, though it’s thought to be a genetic cross of Hindu Kush, Blue Dream and LA Confidential.
Jager smokes like a dank, green fairy, with notes of nori and licorice up front followed by a spicy, tasty Szechuan pepper tingle. The strain’s .23% THC comes on lightly spinny, but not freaky-outie. I tried this as a pre-roll from Kings of Canna, and 20 minutes after smoking I’m stoned but not incapacitated, heady but not a headcase, and happily able to complete an involved baking task—although I did at one point misplace the vanilla extract.
If all the high CBD strains we’ve featured recently make it feel like you’re drinking decaf, try some Jager, bro.
Jager is available at The Kings of Canna, 1465 NE Prescott St Suite C, $12/gram.
This roll-on topical is a functional alternative to getting high, but still has the invigorating and calming effects of cannabis. The senses will be activated to the full degree with one whiff. The potent blend of herbal ingredients includes bergamot, grape, geranium, sesame oil and sun-grown cannabis sativa oil from Applegate Valley Organics. Rub a little on the temples or back of the neck or between the wrists for a boost of energy and rebalancing of spirit.
The taste of this resinous Rick Simpson oil settles on earthiness and strong coffee. A one-gram dripper contains 674 milligrams of THC and 2.6 milligrams of CBD and blends well with hot tea or coffee. A little goes a long way. Within an hour the strong euphoric and pain-relieving effects take hold. Breathe easy as your body unwinds and then some. Squeezing out the tiniest drop (the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen) onto a thumbnail is a sufficient starting dose of this powerful medicine. It’s made in-house with organic cannabis grown on the company’s farm near Mount Hood. Trust the medicine!
This dab stands alone. The concentrates coming from Bend’s Oregrown Industries are superior and making a racket across the state. This golden butane hash oil shatter glows on the parchment paper and stinks so good. Every dab (76.01 percent THC, 0.40 percent CBD) is clean and full of flavor and provides penetrating relaxation. Stress will be zapped from the back of your eyeballs, much like the feeling when an ice cream headache goes away. This is the weight of the world slipping away.
There is zero cannabis taste here—I love the light and sweet flavor of the tangerine, which has the right amount of citrus twang. One could easily eat a handful before realizing they are infused with 13.9 mg of Durban Poison grown by TJ’s Organic Provisions out of Eugene. Use it for a mini pick-me-up in the afternoon or for a little added pop to a workout. The experience is more stimulating than intoxicating.
This cartridge (63.25 percent THC, 4.17 percent CBN, 3.13 percent CBG and 3.26 percent CBC) puts flavor and effects first. The extraction process leaves more fats in the end product, which in turn produces higher percentages of cannabinoids and terpenes. This product is proof that the benefits of cannabis don’t rest solely on the properties of THC and CBD. One pull of the Grand Daddy Purple left my mouth watering and senses settling. It tasted like I had just smoked a fat nugget of GDP from a pipe. Plant material used in the extraction process is grown sustainably in the beautiful sun of Eastern Oregon.
$30 via Serra
Made with premium flower grown by Eco Firma Farms in West Linn, these hand-rolled, filtered joints are a few notches above the rest. That cigarette-style filter is the game changer as far as rollies go. The craftsmanship makes smoking joints more enjoyable. The fusion of Dutch Passion Blueberry produces a chill blend of herbal vapors. Puff in confidence knowing the flower used in these joints is rolled with clean green-certified greenery.
This is your new chill pill. It tastes as if a carton of chocolate mint ice cream got in a wrestling match with a hibiscus flower. Snack in confidence knowing the flower used to make the extract in the bar was grown in Portland, Oregon. The dark chocolate is made with full-extract cannabis oil, and the effects suggest as much. With 11.5 mg THC, 15.1 mg CBD and 0.8 mg CBC, this little square packs a relaxing punch. Get ready for serene mood vibrations.
Anchored by clean green-certified cannabis and a state-of-the-art extraction process that leaves higher ratios of cannabinoids and terpenes, Cannananda in Portland is creating deeper, more meaningful experiences with cannabis. For a sativa, this Island Sweet Skunk had a whooping 8.52 percent CBD to go along with 1.02 percent CBC, 1.26 percent CBN and 0.99 percent CBG. Ultimately, it was a full-spectrum high with the head being elevated and tension escaping from the body. The experience produced a strong boost of calm energy and inspiration.
The meditational benefits of this tree sap-like substance extends far and wide. The sun-grown cannabis used in the RSO is grown in Williams, Ore., surrounded by the Siskiyou Mountains. Two of the best uses for it are pain management and to combat insomnia. Starting with a Bic pen tip-sized drop on the finger will get things started. A little goes a long, long way. The aftertaste will be spicy, sweet and earthy. Mixing it with a drink or food item only adds to the flavor spectrum. This RSO has a pronounced euphoric mental effect that fades into breaking up tension in the body and mind.
Archive is for canna-sseurs. The shop billed itself when it opened in June as the city’s first fully vertically integrated dispensary—it does everything from seed to sale—but the people behind Archive have been growing for 35 years and opened Archive Seed Company in the early 2000s. You feel like you’re an insider when you’re here because of the casualness: industrial stone floors, prices scribbled on a white board, dudes in different marijuana leaf-emblemed gear walking in and out, and trays of 2-foot-high clones in the back room. And the products and prices feel insidery too: Rich Extracts rosin for $40, 1-gram pre-rolls for $7, and nearly 40 seed varieties. SOPHIA JUNE.
New Amsterdam 2201 N Killingsworth St., 503-558-5678, thenewamsterdam.com. 10 am-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, 10 am-7 pm Friday, closed Saturday.
Walking into New Amsterdam is like scrolling through the Instagram profile of an advertising major who calls himself a “creative.” Designed by Carlos Wigle—the New York creative director behind Jose Cuervo, Tropicana and Toms Shoes ads—the place carries a glow of hip minimalism, from the floor-to-ceiling black paint to the hand-stamped white paper shopping bags to the 24-karat gold rolling paper. It’s had time to achieve this aesthetic: New Amsterdam got its license two years ago, but after being delayed by building-code snafus in the former Beaterville Cafe spot, it finally opened in June. One gram of flower runs $12 to $15, while you can get a half-gram pre-roll for $3.75 and a gram for $7. The most fun buy, though, is the pre-roll flight, a fat container of 14 half-gram pre-rolls for $43. Pro tip: Follow New Amsterdam on Leafly, where it regularly posts one-off deals. On a random Tuesday evening, it was offering 30 percent off everything. Dope. SOPHIA JUNE.
The lobby of Satchel, which opened in March, is like an art gallery, with huge glossy photos of close-up buds and concentrates in sleek white frames. When you enter the room, the art gets even cooler, with pop culture mosaics from local artist Dakota Anding.
When you pair a pink and red mosaic portrait of David Bowie with a dozen brightly lit clones, the shop looks like the slickest stoner den of all time. And like your true stoner buds, the staff tries to keep it as cheap as possible for you. When you make your first purchase, you get a 1-gram pre-roll for just $1.25—the dispensary equivalent of your dealer smoking you out. But unlike your dealer, the people at Satchel want to teach you to fish: They have a large stock of seeds, starting at $40. SOPHIA JUNE.
Serra is the pot-shop equivalent of Anthropologie. From the gold detail on the light fixtures to the origami-wrapped chopsticks for measuring buds, the chic setup uses every opportunity to incorporate minimalist sophistication. Across the room from the modest edible/concentrate selection from vendors like Luminous Botanicals and Wyld gummies sit impossibly trendy ombre pipes from Hacienda Ware and Summerland ceramic bongs. Rather than be limited by the illogical binary of indica and sativa, you can even pick from a combination of six “feelings” when selecting your strain from the array of indigo-stained ceramic dishes: relaxation, focus, creativity, happiness, pain relief and energy. LAUREN TERRY.
Agriculture is the foundation of this new industry, but it hasn’t been highlighted in marketing, partly because many cannabis growers are still secretive about their operations. But there’s reason to suspect the next step for Oregon cannabis is to highlight the farms, as we’ve seen with cheese, wine, hops and berries.
To do that, Oregon growers will have to start talking about terroir. Just like wine, outdoor-growing areas for cannabis can be defined by geographic features like soil and weather during the growing season. Just as wine is classified into American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs, the future of cannabis might be ACAs: American Cannabis Areas.
Imagine walking into a dispensary and seeing your Sour Diesel labeled “Applegate Valley” or “Yamhill-Carlton.”
“There would probably end up being at least a dozen, if not more, appellations in the state,” says Donald Morse, director of the OCBC. “It could become our most valuable cash crop.”
Right now, Oregon cannabis growers are generally split into three main regions: Willamette Valley, Eastern Oregon and Southern Oregon. Each region has a distinct climate, growing season and certain strains that flourish there, according to Norris Monson, an outdoor-grow expert and CEO of Rolling Joint Ventures, an Oregon consulting firm.
“Cannabis has a natural range that’s similar to tomatoes,” Monson says. “It likes warm and dry. Psychoactive strains traditionally originate from either high mountainous regions like Afghanistan or Pakistan for indica, or from tropical equatorial regions like Jamaica or Vietnam for sativa.”
Just as certain varieties of grapes are native to certain environments—think how pinot noir thrives in the cool, moist Willamette Valley—certain strains of cannabis do well in certain areas. Weather is a challenge for Oregon outdoor growers, especially in the northern part of the state.
When it comes to matching strains to climate, Eastern Oregon is the most like Pakistan, where indica comes from. Once you get east of the Cascades, it’s drier, colder and there’s less “insect pressure,” as Monson puts it. Indicas thrive there because they are more resilient to low temperatures, and the first frost decides when growers harvest.
In the Willamette Valley, early rains and heavy night dews make the climate the closest this state gets to Jamaica—though it’s still pretty far from it. Sativas have the best chance there, so long as they mature early, before the rainy season starts. “Some growers in the valley use leaf blowers to dry dew from plants and to expedite drying,” Monson says.
Southern Oregon is the best of both worlds for cannabis growers. It has the longest season because the rains come late, allowing plants to mature longer. “The region has the ability to grow the largest variety of strains in Oregon,” Monson says. Even in the relatively dry and sunny south, late-flowering sativas struggle to mature before the long, wet season sets in.
But as with wine, the primary way to discover which strains grow best in a certain areas is to actually plant different strains—and then track the results. If some terroirs yield successful grows, cannabis planted there could become more valuable, especially if growers in a region are held to specific standards. As with wine, there might be tighter standards for calling yourself “Josephine County” cannabis than just being grown in Josephine County.
This is one aspect where the state’s aggressive oversight of the cannabis industry might pay dividends. The state is implementing a seed-to-sale tracking system that will standardize information on the origins of any cannabis product, says Morse of the OCBC.
“Through the tracking system, we would be able to keep people honest,” he says. “You wouldn’t be able to just slap an appellation on it. We know exactly what marijuana is coming out of McMinnville.”
And, Morse adds, some folks in Salem see the value of that.
“There are people in the statehouse,” he says, “who have a long-term vision where Oregon cannabis would be in demand throughout the country in legal markets, sought out by people from Florida, Texas, Massachusetts.”
Way back in the non-heady days of 2014, when legal weed was still just a green light on the horizon, some in the crowd at Portland’s Hempstalk may have been a little surprised to see a labor union boss take the stage.
Jeff Anderson wasn’t there because he cared much about smoking a joint. He was endorsing legal cannabis on behalf of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, the largest private workers’ union in Oregon. He wanted the jobs he thought would roll in with the fields of hemp—marijuana’s non-intoxicating country cousin with little or no THC content but plenty of industrial and medical potential.
“Let’s quit using cereal stocks to make fuel when hemp is three times more productive!” Anderson said excitedly, to scattered and perhaps confused applause.
UFCW 555 ended up kicking in over $75,000 to help pass Measure 91—one of many strange bedfellows that supported the measure because it would also legalize industrial hemp.
Hemp and marijuana didn’t stay together for long. Two years later, you see a lot of dispensaries selling psychoactive cannabis products, but you don’t hear as much about hemp.
Even before legalization, Oregon had plenty of marijuana farms serving the medical community. But before last year, nobody in Oregon was growing legal hemp. And if outdoor recreational marijuana growers had their way last year, nobody would be growing hemp now either.
In 2015, the process for certifying hemp growers came in so late that a mere 11 farms were licensed by the Oregon Department of Agriculture in time for growing season. This amounted to only about 10 acres of crops.
But even with those small numbers, many outdoor marijuana farmers were worried hemp pollen would drift downwind and contaminate the genes of their prized psychoactive stocks, lowering their THC content. This was a particular worry because according to the regulations at that time, all hemp had to be grown from seed rather than female hemp clones that wouldn’t pollinate. In Colorado, hemp farmers have even accused recreational farmers of setting fire to their crops.
“People have gotten some threats,” says Cliff Thomason, an Oregon gubernatorial candidate who’s also one of the few hemp growers to get seed in the ground in 2015. He says hemp growers are often greeted with suspicion by outdoor weed farmers. “I invited the people from Sungrown to come on down and inspect my operation.”
The Oregon Sungrown Growers’ Guild—the unified voice for the state’s outdoor weed growers—has been one of the state’s biggest advocates for regulating possible cross-pollination by hemp crops. The guild lobbied hard for a 2015 bill that would have decertified all of Oregon’s hemp farms, placed a moratorium on hemp-growing, and, weirdly, outlawed hemp farms within 1,000 feet of schools. (That’s a bit like banning quinoa near schools, but whatever.)
“It created an ironic situation, because you had hemp growers and marijuana growers at odds with each other,” says Vince Sliwoski, a Portland lawyer who specializes in cannabis. “They’re both growing cannabis.”
But in 2016, it would appear that hemp and weed farmers have reached at least an unstable compromise.
While the hemp moratorium bill blazed through the Oregon House last fall and seemed destined for passage, the Oregon Senate surprised most onlookers by blocking the bill—with all Republicans voting, alongside five Democrats, to allow hemp farming to move forward.
This year, the ODA has registered a bumper crop of 77 hemp farms for a possible total of 1,200 acres—although this does not necessarily mean that 1,200 acres have actually been planted.
The hemp grown this year is mostly clones, says Thomason. Thanks to Oregon House Bill 4060, passed in April, hemp farmers are free to use clone plants just like the ones for THC-bearing cannabis that many dispensaries sell to home growers. Unlike plants that grow from seed, cloned plants are all female and don’t spread pollen, eliminating the risk that hemp crops will dilute the stock of psychoactive crops.
Thomason says his farm, located near the town of Murphy in Southern Oregon, does grow some plants for seed—but he uses a variety with a very short time to maturation so it flowers before his plants have a chance to affect other crops.
The requirement that hemp farms be larger than 2.5 acres was also scrapped under the new House bill. And perhaps most importantly, the bill made a provision so that products made from Oregon-grown hemp—including CBD oils, salves and tinctures—could be screened by the Oregon Health Authority for human consumption.
But while clone use is widespread, it’s not required. Hemp farmers could still grow flowering plants that cross-pollinate, near weed farms that could be affected, a situation Thomason says he believes has already occurred.
“[The ODA] rules are very underdeveloped, it’s brand new,” Sliwoski says. “They’re eager for hemp people to get licensed.”
Lindsay Eng of the ODA says the agency does not currently regulate cross-pollination.
“We regulate it as we would any other agricultural crop,” Eng says. “Instances of coexistence occur in every part of agriculture. We do talk to both sides. We have had some marijuana farmers call. We recommend they talk directly with their neighbors to solve potential problems.”
According to Sliwoski, the situation hasn’t been tested in court, but it’s conceivable farmers could sue each other if they believe their crops were affected by neighbors’ pollen.
“It’s a tort,” Sliwoski says. “You can have a trespass claim. It is technically a physical invasion. Unless the state itself—through an administrative rule—makes a rule that says a hemp crop cannot be located [near other farms], it’d be between private actors.”
Thomason says he’s thinks rules prohibiting hemp crops from being located near other cannabis crops would be unworkable and worries that hemp could get pushed out of existence in Oregon. But he says he’d be open to a rule limiting the growing season for flowering outdoor hemp crops.
At the moment, Sliwoski says, hemp farmers accused of letting their crops pollinate a nearby field would have a pretty solid defense against lawsuits: “You could say, ‘I wasn’t breaking any laws.’”
Now that the bud-gates have opened, there are nearly 27,000 registered medical grow sites in Oregon. And as of mid-September, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has received 839 applications for recreational grows.
Lighting costs alone will drive some growers outdoors, but it’s hardly a black-and-white decision: The western parts of the state don’t have those dry, hot summers that bless the southern and eastern counties—and not every greenhouse is created equal.
Granted, a lot of medical operations will bow out as recreational cannabis comes into the market—and we don’t know how big the market for weed can sustainably get. But even as they shed old stoner stereotypes, cannabis growers are already being labeled with a new stigma: resource hogs.
In Oregon, where many consumers want everything to be sustainable, there’s a retail-side push for growers to use different methods. But varying climates throughout the states, as well as an uncertain regulatory environment, can make things hard for growers who want to use more eco-friendly methods.
Outdoor grows are the most obvious way to reduce the carbon footprint. Although some outdoor cultivators do so because they can’t afford to do it any other way—lights are expensive—some farms have taken this route with Mother Nature in mind.
“We shouldn’t be generating coal-fired power plants to grow pot in warehouses, when the sun has been around for millennia,” says Kevin Coffman, a grower at Rosebud Farms in Douglas County in Southern Oregon. Rosebud’s outdoor medical grow site employs solar panels to power the mechanics of the farm, and looks to take advantage of its breezy hilltop location with wind power. Coffman wants to build a truly zero-emission farm.
“By growing cannabis in greenhouses, the electrical budget is drastically reduced,” he says. “With our crop sequestering more carbon than the operation emits, that brings us close to a net-negative carbon company.”
Jeremy Plumb, the mad genius behind Newcleus Nurseries, Farma dispensary, and Cannatonic—one of the finest CBD strains, and winner in its category at the 2016 Cultivation Classic—recently announced the construction of a new facility that will use biological pest control, solar-cell technology, rainwater catchment, and geothermal loops to collect heat energy from the ground. “We aspire to model an evolution in ecological horticulture,” Plumb wrote. “These are not merely buzzwords to better market a product, but sincere convictions and a way of life.”
Not every grower has the money to do things the way they’d like—especially since layers of regulation can make it challenging to find affordable land to lease that passes muster under city, county and state laws. Only some of the available plots get enough sun. In some jurisdictions, outdoor growers can’t use supplemental lighting on a rainy day without a license to grow indoors.
“What’s unfortunate is that bureaucracy stops us from being able to make sustainable moves,” says Erick Polk, a co-founders of Green Choice Farms, a Portland-area recreational outdoor operation. “We couldn’t get a temporary use permit from the local utility provider, so we had to be on generators for longer than we wanted. That’s dirty power. We are heading toward a passive hybrid greenhouse, its own microgrid. But those require money and cooperation from the city.”
Polk has a master’s degree in renewable energy engineering, and focused his research on the balance between affordability and sustainability. But even with his expertise in the field, he says constantly evolving regulations make it expensive for farms to implement ecologically sound methods.
“We’re aiming toward a soil-recycling program, if we had the spare space,” he says. “But to make ourselves profitable, we have to use every square foot inside the warehouse for growing.”
OLCC rules measure growers’ permitted quantities by canopy size, not plant counts, so there’s an incentive to make the most of the space.
“The first level of being sustainable is about staying alive in the business,” says Nelson & Company’s grower. “Once you have that handled, you can work on making your farm more environmentally aware.”
IT’S NEVER EASY
Even if money and legislation weren’t issues, there are no simple solutions to responsible growing.
“Sustainable agriculture is a rabbit hole,” Polk says. “How far do you want to go? Using predatory insects rather than pesticides? Are you going to recycle your water? Sustainability isn’t just about energy consumption.”
He says the different benefits between indoor and outdoor cultivation get a little fuzzy after a certain point.
“Producers in Southern Oregon have the advantage of a very desirable climate [of low humidity and a lot of sun],” Polk says. “However, outdoor producers around the Willamette Valley need more climate-control and insulation levels, so they turn to greenhouses.”
The holy grail of naturally lighted greenhouses includes a well-timed light-deprivation system to further control the development of buds. But that setup requires greater temperature control from day to night and regulation of humidity levels. Insulation means indoor operations can more efficiently regulate temperature, and those systems can recycle water better than an outdoor crop.
“It is a slippery slope for greenhouse growers if you plan to maintain environmental control levels rivaling indoor grows,” Polk says. “While your electrical consumption for lighting may be lower, your higher HVAC costs could potentially offset the lighting savings. Is that being more sustainable?”
The numbers are a bit more complex than a single line on a PGE bill—and the cannabis industry has very little recorded data to work from when trying to assess sustainability.
“I bet I use less electricity in 5,000 square feet of space than a manufacturer of any other product,” says the grower at Nelson & Company Organics. “In general, if you compare us to an agribusiness, yes, we use a lot of energy. But not compared to a manufacturer of a product.”
In the end, Oregon cannabis growers are going to plant as much as they can. Out-of-state investors will make sure of that. But local regulators can do a lot to help the industry—not just for cannabis producers and consumers, but for environmentalists.
Anyone who thinks growing weed is cool has probably never grown weed.
Whenever I came home from work complaining about having to climb our office ladder to the roof, people would say they were “jealous” and that it was “so badass.”
Growing weed isn’t cool. It’s a huge pain in the ass. Rewarding, yes. But a pain in the ass nonetheless. It takes perseverance, strategy and patience. I feel 30 percent more prepared for a baby after taking care of the WW office grow for the past three months. Also, I now understand why hip moms who live on Sauvie Island with their kids Pumpkin and Skye like to take so many photos of carrots.
Anyway, this past week we harvested two full plants from the roof of WW world headquarters. This is an uncharacteristic success for us, given that last year’s grow ended up being mulched after coming down with a brutal case of bud rot.
Here’s what we learned during four months of growing a Texada Timewarp plant from seeds smuggled across the Canadian border, plus clones of BC Pinewarp, the Purps and the Big that were generously gifted by our friends at Satchel dispensary on North Interstate Avenue.
If we can do it, you can too. Just be warned that it’s a hassle, and heed these modest bits of advice.
You can’t change the past. (Growing weed is full of so many life lessons.) You need to have clones in the ground on April 20, says WW’s weed expert, Chris. It may sound like we’ve misunderstood an old cliché, but it’s actually the best day to plant them, he says. We waited until late June to get our plants in the ground, and they ended up much smaller than they otherwise would. We won’t know what we’ve yielded for a few weeks, but our expert estimates the largest plants will be about 4 ounces.
Plants need water…
I knew plants needed water, but not, like, that much water.
We put our plants on the roof. When they were just baby clones under the care of our summer intern, we could carry a watering can up the ladder and get them wet enough. But they got bigger and needed more water. At one point, I was filling up three 64-ounce growlers, putting them in a backpack and waddling up the ladder, only to get the plants merely damp in the hot August sun.
We brought our weed expert up to the roof, and he said the plants were dying.
So we bought a hose and pulled it to the roof, got a 5-gallon bucket, and we started really watering the plants. If we hadn’t done so, they would have died.
If your plants are in cloth pots, here’s how to tell if they need more water:
Lifting cloth pots should be extremely difficult. The heavier they are, the more water they’re holding. Pretty basic stuff, but just giving ’em a lift every day is a better indicator than just feeling the soil.
If you reach into the pot and feel the roots, they should have expanded to the edges of the pot, which means they’re growing strong. When you reached into our pots, all you could feel was dry dirt.
We decided to cut down part of one of our plants in early September. For the record—yes, we know this is early, but the threat of bud rot was rising and the rains were coming and we had the traumatic experience of not getting anything from the plants the previous year, so we clipped a few branches off knowing they could otherwise be destroyed by bud rot overnight. I had chickens when I was a kid—one night their coop caught on fire and all of my pets died. I think that’s what bud rot would feel like.
We posted this on social media and were flooded with comments from know-it-alls. A user called “herbcircle” wrote, “2-3 weeks too early. There’s a reason they call it ‘croptober’ :).”
James Wisniewski was less friendly: “Y’all don’t know shit. Is Cizmar growing your plants?!?!”
Don’t wait too long to cure…
After taking a few samples and stripping them of their leaves, we left them in the basement to dry. While their scent has grown alluring, after two weeks they became a little too dry. On the upside, those samples were still deemed smokable by our expert.
Be ready to move…
Cannabis plants need sunlight. The sun doesn’t stay in one place. (Well, it does…but, you know.) Every morning, we tried to maximize sun exposure by pulling our plants into the light. Any stereotype of stoners being lazy totally shattered for me when I saw how much work it took to even keep five plants alive.
Keeping your plants dry is just as important as keeping them wet…
When we weren’t dousing the little dudes with 5-gallon buckets of water, we were hoisting them into a small plant tent purchased from Walmart to protect them from overnight showers and morning dew. Even trimming is a push-pull of keeping plants wet and dry. You want to trim them enough to dry out, but you don’t want to leave them so they dry out too long. When curing, they actually get some of their moisture back. Never have I understood Katy Perry’s “Hot n Cold” on such a personal level.
Some plants might just not grow—that’s OK.
One of our plants was stunted from the start. Ironically, it was a strain called the Big. Despite treating the plants exactly the same, the Big never grew taller than a foot, nor did it flower. I guess it’s probably the cannabis equivalent of a guy with a really big…truck.