Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor) Jan 3 2020
In a large warehouse, LivWell Enlightened Health feeds its cloned cannabis plants a custom blend of nutrients, sprays them with filtered water and pumps extra carbon dioxide into the air. LivWell releases three types of insects to clear the plants of unwanted pests without the use of toxic pesticides.
Every part of the growing process is meticulously documented and evaluated to constantly refine the process.
After 20 years of experience, legal marijuana growers in the U.S. have the reputation of creating the best product in the world, scientifically grown and tightly regulated for quality and safety.
The crop would be in high demand internationally — perhaps the centerpiece of a new U.S. industry — if not for the regulatory conundrum in which growers operate.
Because marijuana is legal in many states but still illegal federally, marijuana growers are unable to ship their products to other countries or even other American states that have legalized the drug. So while U.S. cannabis firms have driven product innovation and mastered the science of large-scale grow operations, they restlessly wait for the export curtain to lift.
Instead Canada has emerged as the dominant exporter in the burgeoning global trade of marijuana, which ArcView Market Research and BDS Analytics estimated at $14.9 billion in sales for 2019 . Companies there are raising capital and building international trade ties despite having an unlikely climate to be an agricultural pot haven.
Rezwan Khan, vice president of global corporate development for cannabis seed supplier DNA Genetics , believes that U.S. cannabis is the world's best but said: "Canada has a huge advantage, because they can fill a gap." Best in the world
Khan said California cannabis especially is superior because its growers have been developing legal marijuana products since 1996, longer than everywhere but Amsterdam.
"California has been the epicenter of cannabis culture for many years," he said.
Its cannabis seeds have been distributed all over the world, and many foreign firms are trying to reproduce the quality of West Coast marijuana. But Khan said it takes more than seeds and water to grow good weed.
The genetics and sophistication underlying the U.S. cannabis industry lead to better-quality and higher-potency flowers for those who smoke marijuana and innovations in oils, tinctures and edibles.
"The world wants that technology," said Michael Sassano, CEO of Solaris Farms , the largest cannabis hybrid greenhouse in Nevada. "The Netherlands had a big jump; they could have done anything. But the U.S. is the one that turned the industry into what it is today, with all the products we make, not Canada."
The other draw of American-grown cannabis, according to Denver-based cannabis law expert Bob Hoban , is that foreign customers value the regulatory oversight that ensures the product is safe and unadulterated.
"It's being regulated by a government agency, which is not necessarily what's happening around the rest of the world," Hoban said. Hampered growth
Because federal law prohibits the sale and use of marijuana, growers have not had easy access to the banking system. LivWell had to pay cash for its HVAC system. And with sales limited to in-state retailers, it hasn't been cost-effective to invest in much automation for its production line. Most of its processing and packaging is done by hand.
The patchwork of legalization means cannabis isn't always grown where it's easiest to grow, in warm climates with limited rainfall. It's grown where it's legal. California, Oregon and Colorado grow most of the country's authorized marijuana as legally isolated islands. Related Stories
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