New growth in Alaska’s cannabis industry
This October, local growers of marijuana will be harvesting this year’s first legal crops. This marks a historic moment for those involved in the marijuana legalization movement. However, due to the stigma associated with cannabis, little is actually known about this plant.
Like all plants, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to grow it. All one needs is water, light, soil and, of course, the seeds. Beyond that, it a relatively simple process. Autoflowering cannabis plants are more simple than the strains that need to be life-cycled. Mike Emers of Rosie Creek Farm in Fairbanks farms autoflowering cannabis plants for a local grower.
“You pretty much just need seeds, soil, water, and sunlight…People will tell you this is a hard plant to grow, but it’s not…We just grow it like any other crop. We’re an organic vegetable farm and I treat them like just another crop,” Emers said.
The life-cycled strains need to be grown indoors due to their requirement for 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness to reach maturity. Leif Abel of Greatland Ganja explains that because of this requirement, this type of marijuana is easiest grown indoors.
“Most cannabis, unless it’s an autoflowering cannabis, is photosensitive. Meaning, in order to pick off its reproductive cycle, which is what creates the salable fruit, or the flower or the bud of the cannabis plant. In order to produce that, you have to put it into 12 to 12 light, meaning 12 hours of darkness and 12 hours of light…So, if you’re in an indoor environment, that’s relatively easy,” Abel said.
It should be noted that growing indoors can be rather expensive. Expenses include lighting, ventilation, air flow and money to build or sanction off a room to seal off from outside light. Abel explains that budding growers have to do some research and have a budget or an investment plan for their indoor crops.
“The second you start growing indoors, you start running into a lot of expenses. Because of lights, which are a huge power bill and a big investment. Then you’re going to want to control your lights with timers,” Abel said. Before you know it, your heat’s going to go up, because of your lights and you’re going to realize that you need to have either air conditioning or ventilation, or both…You’re also going to have to control humidity and CO2 levels.”
Growing outdoors is significantly cheaper than growing indoors. In fact, autoflowering strains of marijuana are relatively easy to grow in Alaska. Jeff Lowenfels, published author and writer for the Alaska Dispatch News’ gardening column, contests that marijuana is just as simple to grow as any common vegetable.
“There’s no difference between growing cannabis and a tomato. Period. Same soil, same pots, same fertilizer, it’s just that simple…It’s called weed for a reason; it just grows,” Lowenfels said.
Right now, tomatoes are a hot topic among gardeners. Everyone wants to grow the best tomato that they can. There are many books and articles written about growing tomatoes and the health benefits of fresh produce. Not only does marijuana have certain health benefits, but it looks aesthetically pleasing as well. Because of these reasons, Lowenfels believes that cannabis may be on it’s way to being gardening’s next hot topic.
“A lot of people are thinking that this really is, for the home gardener, the next tomato. Which is sort of the Holy Grail; everybody wants to grow tomatoes. But, the talk among garden writers now is that [marijuana] is going to be a really hot item. Because, not only can you grow it for the psychoactive purposes, but there are now any number of spectacularly ornamental cannabis plants that people are interested in,” Lowenfels said.
In order to get the best plants possible, every grower has their own trade secrets. Be it a tradition like playing music for the plants, talking to them or planting with a specific soil type, most growers have their own traditions. Unfortunately, no one is willing to share their secrets this early in the game, but there is a secret held within the roots of the plant itself. In addition to the basics of light, soil, and water, Lowenfels also suggests adding fungi into the mix.
“All the cannabis plants we grow are very heavy micro rhizome plants. In other words, they form a relationship with a fungus. That fungus in return for the Carbon, the plant gives it, goes out and gets food (Phosphorus, Nitrogen, Boron, Copper) for the cannabis plant and brings it back to the roots of the cannabis plant,” Lowenfels said. “There is one that is specific to cannabis sativa. That’s called Rhizophagus Irregularis and people who are growing seeds in Alaska, should most definitely roll this seed in this micro rhizome fungi. And make sure that the soil that their growing in has the fungi added to it. Then, they’re gonna get great plants.”
It should be noted that individuals must be over 21 to grow marijuana in Alaska. There are also many rules that prevent what can be and cannot be grown in Alaska. Know the plant and know the law before beginning to grow.