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Outdoor Growing: Another Canadian Cannabis Innovation Suitable For Export?

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With the news that Health Canada has authorized outdoor cultivation (see Aurora), the entire cultivation conversation has now shifted into interesting new territory. And not just in Canada.

Never mind that these first two sites will be used for research (for both indoor and outdoor grown strains). For the first time, since grow operations initiated the same way at the University of Mississippi’s cannabis farm back in the early 1980’s, a federal regulated authority has given the greenlight to outdoor grown cannabis.

But what does this mean for both the home-grown Canadian industry and those far beyond, all across the globe?

Medically Bound?

While the focus so far in the big time cannabis industry has been indoor growing (for reasons ranging from security to accidental, weather-caused cross fertilization), outdoor growing for commercial purposes has yet to come into the serious regulated conversation at the federal level.

In California, for example, as well as many farms in the American West, outdoor grows are a way of life – even to the extent that, as in 2014, larger farms had to start trucking in water as they were forbidden from using federal groundwater aquifers.

But on the international scene so far? Especially as dominated in Europe to date? Indoor growing so far has been the norm.

That may be changing too. Large corporate and regulated grows are showing up everywhere from Greece to the United Kingdom that are more outdoor than indoor. And then, of course, there is what is starting to happen in Africa and Asia.

Is “indoor growing” a requirement that will shift into history as the regulated industry matures, globally?

For the short term, at least, the answer seems to be no, but not forever.

That means that outdoor grows might indeed be on the upswing (the initial start-up costs are far cheaper for starters). But don’t expect them to take over the market any time soon.

Supply Chain Issues Loom Large

Supply chain quality, testing and purity are all issues of course. Beyond security as well as setting industry barriers to entry (see the cost discussion), what are the other benefits and drawbacks to allowing outdoor grown cannabis into the supply chain?

Supply itself of course is one of the advantages, even though cross fertilization of strains is a real threat – across grows and even property. However, growing plants outside is a form of agriculture that humans have relied on for millennia. Why should cannabis be any different?

Indoor vs. outdoor strain cultivation will also lead to a natural search to preserve strain diversity.

It will also thrive in another area. Namely, anywhere adults, for medical reasons or otherwise, are allowed to grow their own, legally. That too is an open question.

But the debate, at least, is clearly in the room. And likely to be with the global industry going forwards.

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Aurora, cannabis exports, Health Canada