Tag: growing

How to Find the Best Soil for Growing Cannabis

When it comes to growing cannabis in soil, it’s imperative to choose or create a blend that will allow your plants to perform at their best. Soil, at a basic level, is defined as the topmost layer of earth in which plants grow, a mixture comprised of organic remains, clay, and rock particles. However, when perfecting an environment for high quality cannabis, there is so much more to consider. Soil varies in a number of common ways, such as:

  • pH level
  • Water retention
  • Texture
  • Nutrient makeup
  • Drainage

In this article, we’ll look at what traits make up the best soil for cannabis, tips for building your own soil, and options for pre-mixed soils that will help support a healthy garden.


What Is Super Soil and How Do You Make It?

Traits of Quality Soil for Cannabis

Soil is generally described as having a mixture of sandy, silt, or clay textures. Most of us have gotten our hands dirty before–and while playing in the dirt, you’ve likely noticed these variations. The texture directs the overall structure of the soil, so when it comes time to put your seeds in the ground, be mindful of its attributes.

Sandy Soils


  • Large granular size
  • Lower pH
  • Pros: Drainage, prevents compaction, easy to work with, and high oxygen levels
  • Cons: Poor water retention, dries out quickly, and nutrients get washed away

Silt Soils


  • Medium granular size
  • Pros: Naturally fertile (contains nutrients), retains water, and stabilizes plants
  • Cons: Poor drainage and easily compacted

Clay Soils


  • Small granular size
  • Higher pH
  • Pros: Provides minerals, retains water, and stabilizes plants
  • Cons: Poor drainage, heavy soil, and hard to work with

While some plants thrive in their native soils that are dominated by one of these compositions, cannabis plants are best grown in soil that includes a combination of these three textures and properties. This mixture is known as loam.

Loam Soils


  • Mixture of sand, silt, and clay
  • Near neutral pH
  • Pros: Drainage, water retention, naturally fertile, easy to work with, nutrient retention, supports microorganisms, and high oxygen levels
  • Cons: Can be costly

What Does Loam Soil Look Like?

The best way to identify loamy soil is by touching it. How does it feel? Sandy soil should be difficult to compact while clay should compact into a tight ball that will not crumble. When squeezed, loamy soils should form a loose ball that will hold its structure momentarily before wanting to break apart in large chunks.

Most potting soils used in gardening will be loam soils. If you’ve ever worked with potting soil, you’ll remember its composition looked rich and diverse, and the color appeared dark and hearty. Beyond texture and color, the soil should smell alive and rich.


A Simple Super Soil Recipe for Your Cannabis

Buying the Right Soil for Cannabis

While shopping for soil, you will surely be overwhelmed by the options available at your local garden store. You now know most of these soils will be loamy by definition, but then why are there so many different types? Consider the soil type as the basic structure for your soil. From there, look at nutrients, microorganisms, and other amendments that improve your soil. Your choices will be flooded with words like:

  • Perlite
  • Worm castings
  • Bat guano
  • Biochar
  • Peat Moss
  • Compost
  • Fish Meal
  • Bone Meal
  • Glacier rock dust
  • Plant food

These are just a few examples of amendments that are commonly listed on different types of soils. Heavily amended soils will have long lists that break down all organic nutrients. Meanwhile, some companies create soils that offer great structure with base nutrients, but allow you to fill in the gaps as you desire.

For most first-time gardeners, I recommend buying a quality potting soil that will provide your plants with enough nutrients to get them through most of their growth cycle without having to add many amendments and liquid nutrients. Below are two soils I would recommend to beginner cultivators.

Browse Cannabis Soils For Your Garden

Recommended Soils for Cannabis

Depending on where you live, you’ll have a different experience finding a quality soil mix that fits your needs. Generally speaking, my advice is to visit your local nursery or grow store and talk to the experts. If you’re shy about mentioning cannabis, ask for a rich soil suitable for tomatoes, which thrive in similar soil.


Your Regional Guide to Growing Healthy Cannabis Plants Outdoors

It also should be noted that the soils below are not recommended for starting your plants. Ready-to-grow soils contain lots of organic nutrients that are too rich for a seedling. These soils are made so that you can transfer starts, but seedlings should be grown in a simpler potting soil.

All-in-One Soil

Red’s Premium Biochar-Based Soil 

Produced in Colorado by Miller Soils, Red’s premium blend is your one-stop shop for growing cannabis. This soil is ready to plant, containing their most complex mixture of amendments. The biochar provides a quality habitat for the microbes to populate while aiding water and nutrient retention. This blend is designed to hit the ground running with a complex food web already active in the soil, waiting for your roots to enjoy.

While not yet readily available to the public, this soil will be making its way into every major city on the West Coast by April. When using a soil like Red’s, you don’t need to worry about feeding your plants more than a few times, if at all.

Simple Soil

Roots Organics 707

A notable soil produced by Aurora Innovations, the Roots Formula 707 organic blend offers a different approach to read- to-pot soil. It was designed to aid in water retention with a peat moss base, while backing off on amendments so that you can topsoil or liquid-feed your plants at your own discretion. It is recommended that you wait 10-14 days before you begin to feed your plants growing in Formula 707.

Designed for large-scale outdoor growing, Formula 707 is widely available and suitable for indoor gardens as well.

Shop for More Cannabis Soils

‘Breeding Is an Art Form’: An Interview with Cannabis Cup Champion, Exotic Genetix

When it comes to quality cannabis, it all begins with a quality seed created by a breeder. In the last decade, Washington State’s Exotic Genetix has taken a strong hold on the cannabis breeding community. Most recently, Exotic Genetix won Best Indica for their strain Tina in addition to Best Hybrid for Cookies & Cream at the 2017 High Times SoCal Harvest Cannabis Cup. Having claimed numerous awards since their beginning in 2008, Exotic Genetix is widely recognized for their consistent quality. Other notable strains include Kimbo Kush, Trap Star, and Lemon Meringue. Leafly was given the opportunity to catch up with Exotic Genetix’s founder, Mike, and get a look into to what fuels their success and where they’re headed in the years to come.

Exotic Genetix’s award-winning Tina in bud-form. (Trevor Hennings/Leafly)

Leafly: How did you find yourself breeding cannabis?

Exotic Genetix: I started out doing this for myself and friends about ten years ago. I made a few new strains and handed them out to friends, and they would bug me to make more new genetics. Before I knew it, I was making seeds for everybody.

I got into it because almost everything out there was junk. The cannabis clone market and low-grade genetics you’d find were insufficient–not to mention the bugs, pests, and diseases you’d find on the clones. That’s what got me started and gave me motivation. Back then, I wouldn’t say it was a passion, but now it is.


The Home Grower’s Guide to Simple Cannabis Breeding

Which strains are you most proud of? Do they express any traits you find yourself striving toward with other strains?

Exotic Genetix: There are a lot of strains I’m proud of. Early on, I would always focus on frost. Plenty of good strains have frost, but when we throw our twist on genetics or come out with new strains, they glisten and that is what we’ve strived for since day one.

“If you are going to take breeding seriously, it’s my belief that you should make something of your own first. It’s all about making it into your own art form.”

How do you look at breeding? Is there something you could compare it to?

Exotic Genetix: I look at breeding as an art form. I’m not the best out there, however I might be your favorite. People buy Picasso or Van Gogh paintings because of their fame, but there are great artists who aren’t famous and don’t cost as much. For these reasons, people go out and purchase those paintings because they like their style. It’s the same thing when breeding cannabis. People support us and stick with us because they like the product. Either they like your style or they don’t. It just depends on what you are into.

Tina, the award-winning indica strain, grows in the Exotic Genetix garden. (Trevor Hennings/Leafly)

As with all artists, there are opinions about how they created their art and its originality. What are your thoughts when it comes to “pollen chuckers” and the overflow of new genetics?

Exotic Genetix: We all start somewhere. If you want to produce seeds and chuck pollen, I say go for it. However, if you are going to take breeding seriously, it’s my belief that you should make something of your own first. Make your own male, make your own lineup. It’s all about making it into your own art form.

Once you’re an established breeder or seed bank, you can go out there and grab a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and try to put it into a different product. But it’s unfair to take something from Exotic and something from DNA Genetics and say, “I’m going to cross these two together and call this X,” and sell that under a new seed company name for a large profit. It’s an insult to the community.

“The largest influence for me would be the strong love and appreciation for cannabis in the community.”

Do you have any specific breeding stories you’d like to share?

Exotic Genetix: I went to Amsterdam about five years ago, and a friend of mine at Hortilab gave me some seeds that he had created with Karma that were never released. He said they were a cross of his Starbud x Karma’s Biker. It was such an amazing strain that I used it in my Tripple OG lineup. Then I took this special indica that had a great fuel smell, and I crossed that into the Triple OG lineup and came up with the strain called Tina.

She’s colorful, potent, high in THC, and smells like jet fuel. If you’re going for a Kush, this is the mother of all Kushes. All the hard work paid off because we won Best Indica with Tina at the 2017 High Times SoCal Harvest Cup.

Tina is an indica strain bred and grown by Exotic Genetix. (Trevor Hennings/Leafly)

What outside influences have affected how you run your business or breeding projects?

Exotic Genetix: I was always a fan of growing forums back in the old days. Looking at all the backyard growers, secretly working to get their genetics out there–it was inspiring to see what could be done. I never thought it would be like this nowadays. The largest influence for me would be the strong love and appreciation for cannabis in the community. No matter what forum or website it is, when you start to meet and talk to these people, you realize they’re just like you. You realize we’re all out here trying to do what we love and not get persecuted for it.

Has legalization changed anything about how you operate?

Exotic Genetix: 100%. We used to just run medical cannabis out of Washington before recreational cannabis came around. We would go from state-to-state and follow their medical rules, and would partner with farms to produce our seeds in different states. We still use these practices in legal medical states.


Home Cannabis Cultivation & Possession Laws: A State-by-State Guide

However, in legal recreational states, it’s been a little tough because we’re confined by strict regulations; the only genetics we see in the recreational states are through licensed producers. In Washington State, we have Green & Gold Brands which exclusively runs our Exotic Genetix products. In California, we have another program based out of Long Beach so we can hit the California market strong right out of the gate. We’re just trying to follow the rules everywhere so we don’t get in trouble for doing what we love.

Cookies & Cream is bred and grown by Exotic Genetix, and it won 1st Place Hybrid at the 2017 SoCal Harvest Cup. (Trevor Hennings/Leafly)

Can you speak to the farming practices that you stand by?

Exotic Genetix: Washington State requires a list of any pesticides you used when you sell that packaged product in a retail store. It has to be disclosed. You’ll find that Exotic Genetix doesn’t use pesticides or products that are going to hurt you. If we do use anything, it would be organic and applied very early on so that doesn’t linger. Something with a short half-life.

There are natural, organic pesticides out there that aren’t harmful to humans. However, it’s important to remember there are also organic pesticides that have half-lives that aren’t good for you. But at this point, we anticipate that no pesticide use will be necessary. We believe if you have a clean environment, there’s no reason to need that stuff to begin with.


Organic Pest Control for Cannabis Home Growers

Outdoor growing is a completely different scenario. That’s why they make organic, natural pesticides that aren’t bad for humans. No matter how talented of a grower you are, you can’t keep nature off of nature, so to speak. In a controlled indoor environment, you really have no excuse for pest issues.

Where do you see Exotic Genetix heading in next decade?

Exotic Genetix: I see Exotic Genetix becoming a household name. I want to be like a craft beer that you go and grab off the shelf. I want to be that consistent, top quality product that isn’t going to break the bank. I don’t want to be the guy that raises prices when the product is mediocre. I want to be the strong name that you know is a good price for a great product.

California Legalization Brings Host of Environmental Rules

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — At a state briefing on environmental rules that await growers entering California’s soon-to-be-legal marijuana trade, organic farmers Ulysses Anthony, Tracy Sullivan and Adam Mernit listened intently, eager to make their humble cannabis plot a model of sustainable agriculture in a notoriously destructive industry dominated by the black market.

In line with a 2017 study that found marijuana grows are more damaging, plot for plot, than commercial logging in Northern California forests, Anthony said he has seen too many destructive grows. Trash-strewn clearings. Growers heaping fertilizer at the foot of a centuries-old sequoia tree, needlessly endangering it. Wild streams diverted for irrigation.

“It really bothers me when I see some of the other operations, the treatment of the land,” he said.

Hopes are that legalization will help rein in environmental damage from black-market grows, much of it in Northern California old-growth forests.

He came from Northern California’s remote Lake County with his two business partners for the state-run seminar on just some of the water regulations that growers must follow when California — the United States’ biggest economy, and biggest producer by far in the underground U.S. cannabis market — legalizes recreational marijuana for licensed and permitted growers and sellers in the New Year.

Complying with water laws alone would mean daily record-keeping, permit applications, inspections and more, state officials said. The three growers took in the volume of new environmental rules but were confident they could comply and be ready to go legal with their 1-acre (4,000-square-meter) farm, said Sullivan, sitting between her two male business partners.

“Oh, yeah, it’ll be possible,” she said. “It’ll just be a longer road” than they expected.


The Future of California Cannabis Depends on Rain

Hopes are that legalization will help rein in environmental damage from black-market grows, much of it in Northern California old-growth forests. But early signs are that only a fraction of growers are applying for permits immediately as recreational marijuana becomes legal here.

At the briefing earlier this month, state regulators and consultants hoping to do business with cannabis farmers notably outnumbered the growers. Rachel Begonia of West Sacramento, one of those consultants, wondered aloud: Where were all the other cannabis growers scrambling to comply with environmental requirements?

As legalization and all of its environmental oversight for farmers who go legal approach in just a few weeks, “either they’ve got it in the bag, or they’re going to try to fly under the radar,” Begonia figured.


In California, Many Growers Will Stay Underground

It’s impossible to know exactly how many growers statewide are planning to go legal, two years after Californians voted to legalize recreational marijuana starting in 2018.

California’s agriculture department just started accepting applications from growers this week, agency spokesman Steve Lyle said. By midweek, it had received fewer than 200 such applications and approved four, Lyle said.

In this undated photo provided by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the remains of a marijuana farm are visible on private land in the Eel River watershed near Willits, Calif. However many of California’s cannabis growers come off the illicit market when recreational marijuana becomes legal here next month, legalization will bring environmental rules and regulators to an previously unregulated industry notorious for bulldozing forest, draining streams, and strewing banned poisons. (California Department of Fish and Wildlife via AP)

In Northern California’s remote and forested Humboldt County, where an estimated 15,000 cannabis farmers grow illicitly now on private lands or in so-called trespass grows on tribal lands and publicly held forests, only 2,300 have applied for the required local growing permits, officials say. Humboldt County anchors a swath of California forests known as the Emerald Triangle, estimated to produce almost two-thirds of U.S. cannabis.

Mourad Gabriel, a wildlife biologist in Humboldt County, has spent years documenting and sounding alarms over the damage that black-market marijuana grows wreak in California’s sloping old-growth forests and virgin streams.


California Releases Applications for Cannabis Cultivation Licenses

A container of pesticide exploded in his face at one grow site, Gabriel said. All of the so-called trespass grows Gabriel has inspected have featured illegal diversions of water and some kind of toxic substances, he said.

That’s often in the form of old soda or water bottles refilled with widely banned poisons, such as carbofuran, and used to keep bugs or rodents from gnawing on drip irrigation lines or plants.

He and colleagues conducted some of the first surveys of lethal poisoning of significant numbers of California’s few hundred remaining fishers, a threatened carnivore. Overall, chemicals at grow sites threaten wildlife ranging from owls to bears to elk, Gabriel said.

He’s skeptical California is bringing strong enough enforcement to bear on environmental infractions.


Leafly Investigation: California Has a Dirty Cannabis Problem

Even if half its growers decide to go legal, California will still have numerous farms that flout the rules, Gabriel said. “If even a fraction have pesticide and water use … that’s a concern. A definite concern.”

California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation is adding about 10 toxicologists and other scientists to its staff of 400 to deal with the industry, said Jesse Cuevas, assistant director of programs. “It’s not too often we get a multibillion-dollar industry regulated overnight,” Cuevas said.

Since marijuana remains illegal under federal law and California’s list of allowed bug, mold and rat killers is tied to federal law, no conventional poisons are specifically approved for California cannabis growers. Pot farmers will be allowed only a limited number of conventional pesticides and those associated with organic farming such as cinnamon oil, citronella or traps.

Cannabis sold legally in the state must be tested first for pesticides and other dangers.


California Releases Emergency Cannabis Regulations

California’s wildlife department has added about 100 law enforcement officers, scientists and others to deal with the marijuana industry, said Nathaniel Arnold, a deputy chief of law enforcement for the agency.

State and local water boards are adding just under 100 staffers to deal with the industry’s water problems, which include contaminating and destroying waterways, said Clint Snyder, assistant executive officer of one regional water board.

Snyder expects many in the black market to wait and see how things go for the first legal growers, like the Lake County business partners.

Ideally, as in the years after Prohibition, trust and market forces will bring growers out of their hideouts in vulnerable hills and forests, and onto the valley floors with the rest of California’s farmers.

“The current status quo is unacceptable, and it’s very damaging to the environment,” Cuevas said. “Any step to regulate the industry is a step in the right direction.”

Washington Report Gives Side-Eye to Homegrow Legalization

If legal homegrow comes to Washington state anytime soon—and that’s still a big if—it’s likely to be very, very tightly regulated.

Recommendations unveiled Wednesday by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) say that if the state does allow personal cultivation, grows should be subject to strict limits: government-issued permits, a four-plant cap, steps to ensure security and prevent access by minors, and, in the case of one proposal, even a system to track each individual homegrown plant across the state.

Washington is currently the only adult-use cannabis state that doesn’t allow residents to grow their own plants for nonmedical use. A bill passed by the Legislature in April directed the LCB to review that policy. On Wednesday, the agency released a report with three recommended “options” for lawmakers to consider.


Will Washington State Finally Get Homegrow?

One option would maintain the status quo and keep adult-use homegrow illegal. The other two options would establish systems to license and regulate homegrows in ways the LCB says would comply with the Department of Justice’s Cole memo, which outlines provisions states must follow to avoid federal enforcement actions.

While the LCB report outlines a path for lawmakers to legalize homegrown cannabis, it’s hardly a full-throated endorsement. It actually provides plenty of fodder against legalizing homegrow, including warnings that “home grows have operated as a cover for the illicit market and diversion and could undermine the regulated system” and that “any approach that allows for private citizens to grow marijuana at home will carry considerable resource impacts and costs for regulation and enforcement.”


Leafly Investigation: Is Washington’s Top Cannabis Lab Inflating THC Numbers?

This isn’t unexpected from the LCB. In 2015, the agency wrote a letter to lawmakers opposing a bill that would’ve allowed adults to grow up to six plants for personal use. It threw cold water on a similar proposal earlier this year, saying homegrow enforcement would be expensive and cut into state tax revenue from retail sales.

“People who consume marijuana should not be forced to take part in the retail market, and home cultivation is really the only way to do that.”

Morgan Fox, Marijuana Policy Project

“The WSLCB considered many options from tightly regulated approaches to no regulations but ultimately dismissed any considerations not consistent with the Cole Memo,” Chris Thompson, the agency’s director of legislative relations, wrote in a letter to lawmakers that accompanied Wednesday’s report.

The biggest difference between the two legalization options is tracking. One option would set up a framework to track plants throughout the state, similar to track-and-trace programs that Washington and other legal states use to track retail products from seed to sale. A second option would drop that tracking requirement and instead charge local officials with controlling and enforcing limits. (Overviews of the two plans are included at the end of this article, and the LCB’s full report is available on the agency’s website.)


Washington Sees Declines in Teen Use, Treatment Admissions Since Legalization

What’s so important about homegrow? Supporters argue that allowing adults to cultivate small amounts of cannabis for personal use would cut into illicit sales, give growers more control over the products they consume, ease access for medical patients wary of registering with the state, and put cannabis on equal footing with alcohol. It’s long been legal for Washington residents to brew their own beer and make their own wine without a license. Making hard liquor, however, requires a federal distilled spirits permit.

“We firmly believe that marijuana should be regulated very similarly to alcohol, and home brewing is legal in most states,” Morgan Fox, Marijuana Policy Project’s communications director, told Leafly in June. “People who consume marijuana should not be forced to take part in the retail market, and home cultivation is really the only way to do that.”


Leafly List: The Best Cannabis Dispensaries in Washington, Fall 2017

John Novak, an advocate who worked on a homegrow bill this year that failed to make it through the Legislature, wasn’t optimistic when the LCB began working on the recommendations. “The WSLCB could come back and say, ‘Y’know, why the hell not.’ But for the past two or three years, they’ve been fighting against it hard.”

Now’s the time to call your elected officials.

Wednesday’s report represents the most favorable stance to homegrow the LCB has taken so far, but it’s also peppered with warnings that could scare lawmakers into upholding the current ban. Its pages give prominence to the concerns of law enforcement officials, who have a whole host of concerns around homegrow. The report is virtually silent on the benefits homegrow could bring—despite the fact that nearly three-quarters (74.5%) of public comments came in favor of personal cultivation.


ACLU, DPA Sue California City Over Restrictive Homegrow Rules

With the report in the hands of lawmakers, now’s the time to call your elected officials. Here are the options the LCB has recommended to them:

Option 1

Tightly Regulated Recreational Home Grows – State Framework

  • Allow recreational home grows under a strict state regulatory framework that requires a permit and tracking of plants throughout the state, with enforcement jurisdiction shared between the WSLCB and local authorities.
  • Absent a permit, growing marijuana for any purpose is illegal other than already legally sanctioned medical marijuana home growing.
  • Require tracking of all plants in the traceability system to help prevent diversion.
  • Limit of no more than four plants per household.
  • Include a statutory provision that allows law enforcement to seize and destroy all plants possessed by a person if the person has more plants than the law allows.
  • Include a statutory provision to allow recreational growers to acquire plants from licensed producers so long as the person possesses a valid permit.
  • Include requirements for security, preventing youth access, preventing diversion, etc.
  • Include the same restrictions that apply to medical marijuana patients on processing marijuana in recreational home grows (no extraction with combustible materials. See WAC 314‐55‐430)


Washington’s Cannabis-Tracking Snafu Could Disrupt Sales

Option 2

State Statute Framework, Local Authority Recreational Home Grows

  • Allow recreational home grows under a regulatory framework based on statewide standards set in statute, but authorized, controlled, and enforced by local jurisdictions (counties, cities).
  • Include statutory requirements for security, preventing youth access, preventing diversion, etc.
  • Require a permit to possess plants. Absent a permit, growing marijuana for any purpose is illegal other than already legally sanctioned medical marijuana home grows.
  • Limit of no more than four plants per household.
  • Include a statutory provision to allow recreational growers to acquire plants from licensed producers so long as the person possesses a valid permit.
  • Include a statutory provision that allows law enforcement to seize and destroy all plants possessed by a person if the person has more plants than the law allows.
  • Include the same restrictions that apply to medical marijuana patients on processing marijuana in recreational home grows (no extraction with combustible materials. See WAC 314‐55‐430).
  • Allow local jurisdictions to “opt‐in” for or “opt‐out” of allowing recreational home grows.


PBS Travel Host Urges Illinois to Legalize Cannabis

Option 3

Prohibit Recreational Home Grows

  • Do not allow recreational home grows. Maintain current status.
  • A regulated system is in place and widely available throughout the state.
  • Home grows for medical purposes, including cooperatives, are currently allowed under state law.
  • Allowing recreational home grows may provide a cover for the illicit market. This has been seen in other states that permit home grows for both medical and recreational purposes.
  • Recreational home grows may contribute to diversion, youth access, etc.; primary considerations under the guidelines set in the Cole Memo.

How the Emerald Triangle Became America’s Cannabis Epicenter

This three-part series by wine and cannabis writer Tina Caputo explores the past, present, and future of the Emerald Triangle, looking specifically at factors that have made the area a venerable growing region; current efforts to divide the region into cannabis appellations; and questions of whether the region can maintain its preeminence as adult-use legalization hits California in 2018.

Ask any cannabis enthusiast today where America’s best buds originate, and the Emerald Triangle will invariably top the list. In fact, the Triangle—a triumvirate including Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties—grows some of the best cannabis in the world, and has for decades.

The region’s rise wasn’t the result of great marketing or even intention; it took a serendipitous confluence of hippie fatigue, cannabis-friendly topography, and prohibition-inspired creativity—not to mention 40 years of growing great pot—to earn the Emerald Triangle a reputation as the nation’s cannabis capital. Now, with prohibition falling away and adult-use legalization set to hit the Golden State in 2018, many are wondering: What will it take for the Emerald Triangle to preserve that reputation?

Origins of the Emerald Triangle

Marijuana Appellation Growing Regions in the Emerald Triangle | Leafly(Courtesy of Scott Buttfield/Humboldt Legends)

It all began in the 1960s and 70s with the back-to-the-land movement.

It all began in the 1960s and 70s with the “back-to-the-land” movement, when thousands of young people, disillusioned with mainstream society and disheartened by the Vietnam War, moved to the countryside in search of sustainable living. Northern Californians who went “up the country” chose the region now known as the Emerald Triangle for its beautifully remote location a few hours north of San Francisco.

The settlers didn’t initially view the area as an ideal place to grow pot, but they soon realized that its rugged terrain and redwood forests provided the perfect cover for illicit farming.

“The first folks to move there were part of a group called the Diggers, community activists and organizers from Haight-Ashbury,” says Martin A. Lee, director of Project CBD and author of the book Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana. The group had a passionate interest in ecological restoration, and sought to continue its efforts in the wilds of Northern California.


The Rise of Craft Cannabis: Signs of a Maturing Industry

“When they moved to the countryside they quickly encountered the hard realities of earning a living,” Lee says, “and it became easy to grow a little weed on the side. It was really a matter of augmenting what they were already doing to make ends meet. A lot of the impetus was to support their ecological activism.”

It didn’t take long for their side hustle to become a significant source of income. The surrounding area offered a relatively easy place to grow cannabis, and its nooks and crannies were difficult for law enforcement to access. It was also fairly close to the Bay Area’s pot-loving population, and word of mouth helped spread knowledge of the Emerald Triangle’s primo products.

Ties to Off-the-Grid Living

Marijuana Appellation Growing Regions in the Emerald Triangle | Leafly(Courtesy of Real Goods)

“Part of what made the Emerald Triangle a crucible for the cannabis industry was its proximity to the frontier of the off-the-grid rural environment,” says veteran cannabis grower Scott Davies, owner of Humboldt’s Winterbourne Farms and co-founder of Humboldt Legends. “The industry couldn’t have gotten where it is today, out of sight, in a less-remote place.” Such advancements as the availability of solar power, introduced to the region by back-to-the-lander John Schaeffer, set the stage for the industry’s success. Schaeffer moved to Mendocino County in 1972 to live on a commune with 20 like-minded environmentalists, and soon recognized the need for a one-stop shop where hippies could buy off-the-grid living supplies. He opened the Real Goods store in Willits in 1978.

The Emerald Triangle became a crucible … The industry couldn’t have gotten where it is today in a less-remote place.

Scott Davies, co-founder, Humboldt Legends

Along with drip irrigation systems and organic fertilizers, Real Goods sold the first solar panels available in the United States. When used to charge 12-volt batteries, the panels allowed cannabis farmers—the only ones who could afford to buy the expensive systems—to have electricity out in the woods.

“In 1975 or 76, just before I started the store, people were just beginning to grow marijuana,” recalls Schaeffer, who is also the founder of the Solar Living Center. “It was totally secretive at the time—people hardly even wanted to tell their best friends they were doing it. We started to see helicopters flying over the area and people were very paranoid about getting caught and spending years in prison.” Logging was the region’s main industry at the time, and the local population was not cannabis-friendly.


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“People were very conservative,” Schaeffer says. “It was just logging trucks, apples and pears, and good ol’ boys and girls.” When a man from Schaeffer’s commune decided to run for local office, his political opponent created yard signs that read, “Don’t Let Anderson Valley Go to Pot.”

The early to mid-90s … that’s when outsiders started coming in.

John Schaeffer, owner, Real Goods

Despite local hostilities, the cannabis industry continued to expand. “In the early 80s we started hearing about 1,000-plant gardens and people bringing in ‘trimmigrants’ from the outside world to work on the farms,” Schaeffer says. The Emerald Triangle’s timber industry began to collapse around the same time, which slowly began helping to change locals’ attitudes about the cannabis business. Many who had opposed the region’s pot culture suddenly found themselves in need of work, and turned to cannabis growing as a lucrative alternative. It was no longer the hippies versus the rednecks.

Even so, cannabis didn’t really become big business until the early to mid-90s, Schaeffer says. “That’s when outsiders started coming in.”

The Impact of Cannabis Prohibition—and Repeal

Marijuana Appellation Growing Regions in the Emerald Triangle | Leafly(Courtesy of Scott Buttfield/Humboldt Legends)

Lee believes that rather than hindering the cannabis industry’s development, prohibition helped it succeed. “Ironically, I think it helped magnify the growth of the whole thing,” he says. “Prohibition was a catalyst for a lot of innovation on the part of the growers, because they had to be very creative to avoid law enforcement.”

Today the Emerald Triangle supports more than 20,000 cannabis growers, by conservative estimate, and is known around the world as America’s cannabis epicenter. A study has never been conducted to measure pot’s economic importance in the region, but local growers’ organizations confirm that cannabis is—by far—the tri-county area’s most important industry.

Today the Emerald Triangle supports more than 20,000 cannabis growers—by conservative estimate.

“Cannabis growing is completely out in the open now,” Schaeffer says. “People come into the store and say, ‘I need a solar system for my trimming crew. How many lights should I get?’ Before, no one would ever let on what they were doing. Now you’ve got ‘The Cannabis Hour’ on the local radio station.”

Even Schaeffer has gotten into the business; in 2015 he co-founded Emerald Pharms, a solar-powered medical dispensary in Hopland, right next to the Real Goods store and the Solar Living Center. “Sometimes I see people walking out with bags from the dispensary and lighting up in the parking lot,” he says. “It’s crazy.”

California’s legalization of adult-use cannabis will bring about a new phase of transformation for the Emerald Triangle: On January 1, 2018, the region’s growers will finally be able to step into the light and talk about the factors that make the Emerald Triangle arguably the best cannabis region in the world. (Whether all growers will choose to do so is another story.)


In California, Many Growers Will Stay Underground

When the discussion begins, growers in Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties will have an important advantage. “What the Emerald Triangle has going for it is a very significant history,” Lee says. “The farmers in this region have a lot of experience and a lot of know-how. They have a name that means something.”

How to harness that advantage? The urgency of addressing that question is increasing as 2018 nears. Many key players believe the answer centers around the potential of establishing cannabis growing regions, or appellations, for cannabis, similar to the way in which wines from Sonoma and Napa Valley may be legally labeled and marketed as such. In the next article, we explore the challenges and opportunities associated with such a project.

Part Two of this series details efforts to divide California’s cannabis country into distinctive growing regions known as appellations.

Texas Issues One of Three Planned Producer Licenses, But Questions Remain

Production of low-THC, high-CBD cannabis can begin in Texas, as the state’s Department of Public Safety granted one of three planned licenses to a medical marijuana producer on Friday.

The constricted medical marijuana program was created by the Texas Compassionate Use Act more than two years ago. Currently, only patients suffering from intractable epilepsy are allowed to receive low-THC cannabis with permission from a very limited number of physicians.


Why Cannabis Reform Crashed in Texas

Cansortium Texas, the company that received the license on Friday, will now start growing medical cannabis. Two other companies, Compassionate Cultivation and Surterra, were granted provisional licenses back in May but are still waiting on their final licenses.

Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Leafly that it remains unclear why the other two cultivators weren’t issued final licenses today. Each of the three that were given provisional licenses had to pass onsite inspections before given a final license to start producing, so that may be a reason.

Even with the delivery of a first license, the Texas medical marijuana program still has major issues to work through.


In Texas, It’s Do or Die Time for Cannabis Decriminalization

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, data obtained from the Texas Medical Bureau, the American Board of Psychiatry, Neurology, and the American Board of Clinical Neurophysiology indicate that only 411 doctors in Texas have the necessary qualifications to register for the program.

According to MPP, this amounts to approximately 0.54% of the licensed physicians in Texas.

The number who actually register will likely end up being lower. Some physicians may not decide to register in light of the personal and professional risk involved.


State of the Leaf: Texas Decriminalization Measure Moves Ahead, MMJ Stalls in SC

“The few patients that could be helped by this program are now one step closer to finding relief,” Fazio said. “However, the extremely limited scope and flawed language may doom the program unless it is revised.”

So far, all attempts to fix the program have failed. Earlier this year, Rep. Eddie Lucio III introduced HB 2107, which would have resolved the problems contained in the current Compassionate Use Program.

A majority of House members signed on as supporters, but the bill did not end up getting to a floor vote before the end of the session.


Texas Has a Medical Cannabis ‘Prescription’ Problem

Tips for Growing ACDC Cannabis

Ever wanted to grow your favorite strain? Leafly and Botanicare are teaming up on a series of grow guides that will equip you with all the tips and tricks you need to grow different strains successfully.

Strain Overview: Few strains produce as much CBD as ACDC, and as the demand for CBD increases, so does this strain’s popularity. The THC/CBD ratio of this strain can reach as high as 1:20, which means it delivers little to no psychoactive effects. ACDC has been utilized heavily by the medical community to treat conditions such as anxiety, epilepsy, and pain. Consumers sensitive to THC’s side effects have also come to deeply appreciate the mild and relaxing effects ACDC has to offer.

Grow Techniques: This strain will grow in any medium. The plant structure is naturally bushy and requires little or no training. HST (high stress training) will help level the canopy of the plant, and pruning will keep the energy focused towards the topmost buds.

Flowering Time: 10 weeks 

Yield: Moderate

Grow Difficulty: Hard

Climate: ACDC is a picky strain that likes a stable, consistent climate between 68 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Indoor/Outdoor: ACDC can be grown indoors or outdoors successfully. If growing outdoors, make sure you have enough time for the strain to finish flowering before temperatures drop in the fall.

Feeding: During the vegetative stage, feed half the recommended amount of nutrients and increase to full feeding during flowering. As a high-CBD strain, ACDC is sensitive to overfeeding.

Tips for Growing Purple Trainwreck Cannabis

Ever wanted to grow your favorite strain? Leafly and Botanicare are teaming up on a series of grow guides that will equip you with all the tips and tricks you need to grow different strains successfully.

Strain Overview: Purple Trainwreck is a cross between Mendocino Purps and Trainwreck. Both parent strains are well-known in the California scene, and Purple Trainwreck follows in their footsteps. Known for its large yields and resistance to disease and mold, this strain has been a longtime favorite for outdoor cultivators.

Grow Techniques: Grow this strain outdoors if you can. Healthy soils and exposure to sunlight will allow this strain to grow large. Top once when the plant is a few feet tall and again every few weeks until it reaches flowering; this will allow the plant to grow into an even bush of buds. If you prune and stake the branches, you will be well rewarded.

Flowering Time: 8 to 9 weeks

Yield: High

Grow Difficulty: Moderate 

Climate: Purple Trainwreck resists mold well and tolerates colder temperatures. While harsh weather can lower the yield, this plant can push through some tough times. Ideally, Purple Trainwreck should be grown between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Indoor/Outdoor: If you have the option, grow this strain outdoors where it has enough space to take off.

Feeding: Healthy soil at the beginning of the season will get Purple Trainwreck started on the right foot. Compost tea can improve the plant’s vitality, and top dressing the soil with phosphorus-dense nutrients at the beginning of flowering will keep Purple Trainwreck growing at full speed.

Tips for Growing King Louis XIII Cannabis

Ever wanted to grow your favorite strain? Leafly and Botanicare are teaming up on a series of grow guides that will equip you with all the tips and tricks you need to grow different strains successfully.

Strain Overview: King Louis XIII is thought to be a unique cut of OG Kush as they share many similar attributes. The buds offer a classic earthy Kush aroma, and the light green buds are dense and resin-packed. This indica-dominant strain is cherished for its relaxing effects that segue nicely into sleep.

Grow Techniques: King Louis XIII flourishes indoors in a hydroponic setup. Utilize a SOG (sea of green) or SCROG (screen of green) method with clones to fill your space. Train the plants and switch to flowering early to keep a continual rotation in your garden.

Flowering Time: 8 weeks

Yield: High

Grow Difficulty: Moderate

Climate: If kept in a consistent climate, this strain will thrive and produce beautiful, dense buds. King Louis XIII prefers temperatures between 68 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Indoor/Outdoor: Grow indoors to keep the plant protected from the elements. If grown outdoors, be aware of high humidity levels which can cause mold.

Feeding: Feed on the heavy side, especially with CalMag and phosphorus. Introducing CO2 to your grow space will help these buds pack on extra weight.

Tips for Growing God Bud Cannabis

Ever wanted to grow your favorite strain? Leafly and General Hydroponics are teaming up on a series of grow guides that will equip you with all the tips and tricks you need to grow different strains successfully.

Strain Overview: A longtime favorite from British Columbia, God Bud was bred by Jordan of the Islands, who mixed a Canadian strain known as “God” with Purple Skunk and Hawaiian. God Bud is a powerful indica strain that offers potent medicinal properties and a sweet aroma of berry, lavender, and pine.

Grow Techniques: This strain can be grown indoors or outdoors in a hydroponic or soil setup. The plants and buds grow dense, so prune and train them to maintain airflow while using trellising to keep ample space between buds. God Bud’s flowers develop loads of sticky resin, making it a great plant for creating hash.

Flowering Time: 7 weeks

Yield: High

Grow Difficulty: Moderate

Climate: God Bud can handle colder climates, but be careful of high humidity levels as the buds develop. A drop in temperature can cause the buds to take on purple hues, but this strain prefers temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Indoor/Outdoor: God Bud can be grown either indoors or outdoors with success. 

Feeding: This indica strain requires heavier feeding. Keep the plant happy by top dressing with organic nutrients.