Jeremy Moberg has the best damned grow light in the business.
It’s called the Sun.
Moberg, the visionary behind CannaSol Farms, was a wildlife biologist. And if you wanted to point at the single person most responsible for the existence of Washington state’s sun grown marijuana industry, Moberg would be at the end of your finger.
You see, it was Moberg who made a pitch to the Washington State Liquor Control Board in 2013, including PowerPoint photos of large greenhouses in the Netherlands. He and legendary Okanogan environmentalist Michael “Buffalo” Mazzetti had already been attending meetings of the Liquor Control Board for a couple of years, making their opinions heard.
“We just wanted the Liquor Control Board to understand that sun-growers were just as capable of cultivating under secure conditions as indoor growers, and that our methods had been proven over time to create quality product that was on a par with anything you could produce under controlled environment agriculture conditions,” he said.
Conventional wisdom has always held that growing good outdoor pot is just about impossible in Washington state, due to our northerly latitude. During the middle of the summer, everything is fine, with the sun high overhead, supplying the critical light spectrum needed for cannabinoid development. The problem arises in the autumn, when at our latitude, the sun dips so low in the sky that plants are starved for the light they need to fully flower.
By the time the photoperiod dips below 12 hours, inducing flowering in cannabis, it’s too late in Washington to bring outdoor plants to a satisfying finish.
But Moberg uses light deprivation earlier in the season to make the plants think it’s autumn when it’s really summer, by giving them short days — thus triggering flowering when the sun is still high enough in the sky to produce proper lighting. Plants are deprived of sunlight with thick plastic tarps, creating an artificial night.
But having the ability to grow quality cannabis under the sun has another important factor: energy savings. Sun grown marijuana is much more friendly to the environment than the indoor kind, and Moberg told me that does impact buying choices of politically conscious cannabis consumers in Seattle and elsewhere.
Indoor growers have tended to gravitate to indica strains for several reasons, including flowering time (8 weeks compared to 12 or more for some sativa) and medicinal effects (medical marijuana patients often find indica strains to be the best at controlling pain and nausea). That 12-week flowering period for many sativas can get quite expensive on electricity consumption.
But with sun grown, growers like Moberg can give those sativas the luxury of a three-month flowering period — and that’s a big deal, he says, because most recreational marijuana consumers seem to prefer the heady highs of sativa strains. “I’m market driven,” Moberg told me, adding that the market demand for sativa flowers isn’t being fully met. “I want to grow what people want to smoke.”
Indoor growers have been pretty successful in establishing the perception that their product is superior. There’s no doubt that indoor cannabis flowers often maintain a pristine appearance, but when it comes to actual potency, Moberg says sun grown holds its own. In fact, according to tests he commissioned, the THC of his sun grown strains ran an average of one percent higher than the same strains grown indoors under lights.
Moberg’s more environmentally sustainable weed, in other words, doesn’t represent any sacrifice at all in potency. The mistake that has been made in the past, Jeremy said, is comparing full-term, late fall outdoor weed with indoor product. The true comparison, in which sun grown comes out well, is sun grown weed where light deprivation has been employed, vs. indoor product.
“My cannabis is sun grown, not ‘outdoor’ pot,” Moberg said. “All the connotations of ‘outdoor’ are negative. It implies a lack of skill, and the idea that outdoor isn’t medicine.”
Moberg, born in Moses Lake, employs about 30 people on his 21,000-square-foot grow in rural Okanogan County, where he grows about 180 strains of cannabis. It’s the biggest outdoor marijuana operation in Washington, and is one of the 10 biggest producers in the state overall.
“We have about 10 core strains that we’re pretty well-known for, and then we’ve probably got another 40 in production, and the rest are strains we’re looking at in our breeding program,” he said.
Moberg has formed the Washington Sungrowrs Industry Association, with the goal of moving the state away from the energy-hungry lights and climate control that currently define much of the marijuana market. “Everyone in Washington pays a marijuana tax every time they pay their power bill,” he said.
Moberg has cultivated cannabis indoors and out since his days as a self-described “guerrilla grower” back in the 1990s, and he prefers the outdoor stuff.
“The weed is just better,” he said. “Why waste energy when we can just grow it out here?”
If you’d like to try some of the artisanal sun grown strains from CannaSol, these varieties are now available at Uncle Ike’s: Cannalope Kush, Cashy’s Honey, Cheeseburger, Rainbow, Ringo’s Gift, Sage, Stonewall, Blue God, Granddaddy Purple, Terminator Kush, Alice in Wonderland, Ok OG, Harlequin Tsunami.