For thousands of years, cannabis was almost exclusively cultivated outdoors. That changed with prohibition. Cultivars who didn’t want their product seized and destroyed moved it indoors, and that shift transformed cannabis growth in fascinating ways. As indoor grows became the norm, consumers learned to prefer that method, and outdoor grows earned a mediocre reputation. But is there really a difference between the two? And how does that influence the flower pricing of each type of product?
Indoor Flower Pricing
Overall, indoor grown marijuana tends to be more expensive. Part of that is because of its stellar reputation, but part of that is because it also is more expensive financially and environmentally to cultivate.
Indoor Growing Pros
Quality Control: One of the greatest advantages to growing cannabis indoors is the protection that method offers from variables like weather and pests. Indoor grown cannabis isn’t subject to damage from storms, wind, and infestations (usually).
12 Months of Production: When grown indoors, cannabis can produce yields all twelve months of the year. Although the energy cost necessaryto cultivate cannabis can get high, it might be offset by a yearlong, steady stream of harvests.
Security: Flowers cultivated indoors are protected by the buildings they are housed in. There is no need to purchase outdoor cameras or fences to ward off pesky animals or curious trespassers. And remember, while home grown marijuana may be legal in your state, the DEA has categorized the flower as a Schedule 1 drug, or an illegal substance with no medical use and a danger for abuse.
If they really wanted to, the feds could seize your marijuana under federal law
This is what led people to grow cannabis indoors in the first place. Keeping your flowers inside keeps them out of a fickle federal government’s sight.
Bag Appeal: Because its environment is so controlled, indoor cannabis can be more easily genetically manipulated than its outdoor counterpart, and this has resulted in yields with greater potency, a more beautiful appearance, and a richer perfume. This is one of biggest reasons that indoor grown cannabis is regarded as top of the line product.
Indoor Growing Cons
The Carbon Footprint: So the cannabis industry has a lot of work to do when it comes to sustainability. Furthermore, cannabis grown indoors isn’t really contributing to any natural ecosystem although in its natural state and like all plants, that’s what it’s meant to do.
That Electric Bill: Cultivating marijuana indoors is not inexpensive. It takes quite a bit of electricity to power the lights, HVAC system, and humidifier necessary to create the optimal environment for growth. For example, in Denver, a pound of marijuana can cost an efficiently run warehouse up to $750 of power, but most warehouses aren’t using efficient growing systems. There are ways to mitigate the cost. More and more cultivars are using LED lighting on their cannabis.
LED lighting takes less power and creates less heat
and that reduces the power needed to keep the room at the appropriate temperature. While this helps, it still isn’t free.
More Protection Means Less Protection: Cannabis grown outdoors has evolved to survive mother nature’s greatest threats: temperature, weather patterns, fungus, mold, and insect infestations. In fact, when grown outdoors, plants of all kinds have a synergistic relationship which enables them to resist certain threats. When grown indoors, cannabis flowers lose that ecosystem and part of that wilderness-born resilience that’s kept the flower around for thousands of years.
Space is Limited: Marijuana grown indoors can only grow so high. This means that, unless you’re working in an enormous warehouse, certain strains must be intentionally stunted or the yield size simply controlled to a much greater extent than outdoor cannabis. Although indoor cannabis can be grown all year, the yields are going to be smaller, so the work it takes to produce as much as an outdoor farm may require much more labor.
Outdoor Flower Pricing
When you unload cannabis of the social, political, and medical baggage its accrued through the centuries, it is quite simply a plant, and plants are meant to be grown outside. This was how cannabis was cultivated for most of its existence, but because of prohibition, the norm has changed.
Outdoor cannabis tends to be cheaper
because its reputation for quality isn’t as stellar as its indoor counterpart’s and because it is less expensive to cultivate. While it certainly requires an investment, the outdoor environment is pretty much free.
Outdoor Growing Pros
Financial Cost: The sun is free. The natural humidity is free. The rain is free. Outdoor cultivars don’t have to worry about costly electric bills symptomatic of an artificially maintained environment. Moreover, the natural, ambient light of the sun, moon, and stars and the natural ventilation of the earth’s atmosphere produce superior cannabinoids and terpenes, and all of those perks are free.
Environmental Cost: Because energy consumption is so much lower for outdoor cultivation, growers can feel better about how their production is affecting the environment. Not only can growers rest easy about their carbon footprints, they can also feel good about contributing to the ecosystem. Even more importantly, organically grown cannabis can use soil to lock in carbon, helping to combat global warming.
It’s therapeutic: Working beneath the sun in a natural, agriculturally dense habitat is beneficial for numerous reasons. The most commonly known reason is the exposure to sun-produced vitamin D. Less known but entirely fascinating is the way that plant communication releases terpenes which helps to alleviate stress in humans.
Labor: Since so much of outdoor cannabis growth is natural, outdoor flowers require much less labor (until harvest) to produce large yields. If you’re growing for yourself, that means more time to do whatever else it is you want to do. If you’re in the business, it means a lower labor cost.
The Sky’s the Limit: Literally, grow as high as you want. There is no ceiling to stop you. The advantage to a greater amount of space is twofold: one, growers don’t have to worry about the height or size of their crop, and, two, they are able to produce much larger yields than they would if they were constrained by a building.
Outdoor Growing Cons
Nature Doesn’t Care About Your Feelings: It doesn’t matter how long you’ve spent cultivating your flowers. If a horrible storm hits or the temperature makes wild spikes or dips or the humidity levels turn your beautiful garden into a fungal, moldy wasteland, your hours of hard work mean nothing. Of course, there are measures that growers can take to mitigate these kinds of situations, but mother nature cannot be totally controlled. Additionally, because the risk of pests is much higher outdoors, growers are faced with the difficulty of repelling insects without poisoning their crops and customers, and the lack of standardized pest control has led some cultivars to use dangerous pesticides which are harmful to both humans and the environment.
Security: Animals, trespassers, and the DEA are all intruders outdoor growers have to consider. There isn’t much to be done about the feds, but growers can invest in security fences and surveillance cameras, both of which can be costly.
Potency: While it is totally possible for outdoor cannabis to be powerful and aesthetically pleasing, the more variable environment makes it harder for growers to control that outcome than it is for indoor cultivars.
Given the power and labor required to cultivate it as well as the pervasive belief that its quality is superior, indoor marijuana is often pricier than outdoor marijuana. Outdoor cannabis can be just as or even more potent than what’s grown indoors, but because of its poorer reputation and the lower cultivation cost, it is typically cheaper to buy. But remember, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the extra dollars you’d spend on something grown indoors. It just might be a steal.