Commercial Cannabis Cultivators in Colorado Move Outdoors

Using sunlight instead of electric lights could cut the price of pot in half.


Outdoor pot farms save massive amounts of electricity

It's scientifically proven that marijuana increases users' consumption of (or at least desire for) junk food.

On the supply side, pot cultivation also increases consumption—of electricity. Growing pot indoors requires power-sucking lights and climate-control systems. In Denver, almost half of the city's year-over-year increase in electricity use has come from its hundreds of new indoor pot farms.

As ReasonTV reported from Colorado's Cannabis Business Summit (video below), innovators in the industry are working to combat this exorbitant energy usage by supplying low-power LED grow lights. 

"Most lighting that's used in the cannabis industry right now is standardized on 1,000-watt high-pressure sodium bulbs," said Kevin Frender of Black Dog LED. Frender claims his company's LED lighting rigs use 30 percent less electricity.

But some commercial growers in Pueblo County, Colorado, are putting their facilities on an electron diet by taking their grows outside, according to NBC affiliate station KOAA:

"In the past, when I had a 2,500 square foot warehouse and once we flicked on half of the building, maybe three quarters of it, we were looking at costs to about $30 to $50 grand a month just in electric," said Jim Bent, Vice President of Operations at Emerald Fields.

But there is a shift in how businesses are growing their marijuana. Emerald Fields now has literal fields of plants at their new 28 acre outdoor facility, and they plan to open up grow houses nearby for other businesses to use.

Outdoor (or greenhouse-style) facilities require beefier security, but for commercial pot farmers like Bent, the tradeoff is worth it:

Bent said the benefits are two-fold: reducing their carbon footprint and saving money.

"Not only does it help the environment but it also helps you increase your sales because your cost per gram is a lot cheaper using green houses or outside methods of growing versus indoors with all the electricity and so forth," he said.

Those cost savings and increased sales could drastically reduce the price of legal cannabis. In Reason's November 2014 issue, Jacob Sullum reported that high retail prices, resulting from taxes and regulations imposed on the industry, have kept Colorado's black market for pot in business:

Many consumers balk even at those prices, which helps explain why the black market persists in Colorado in spite of legalization. How long that situation will last is an important question for Colorado and for other states that are considering following its example, since eliminating the black market is one of legalization's main selling points.

Colorado has yet to see eighths selling for $10–$15, as predicted by one pot retailer Sullum interviewed for the piece. But as more commercial growers shut off the lights and move outdoors, prices should continue to fall, benefiting consumers and reducing black-market sales.

Check out ReasonTV's video from the recent Cannabis Business Summit:

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  1. This is the type of solar energy that actually works.

  2. Using sunlight to grow plants, whatever will the kids come up with next.

    I grew a MJ plant outdoors once, and it was a constant fight with caterpillars (or whatever they were) that would bore through the buds. Hard to see, and tenacious they were.

    1. The plants are bred to produce THC and not much else, defending them is the grower’s responsibility.

      1. I thought THC was the plant’s defense against insects.

  3. Who cares about the potheads?

    1. All of those young naifs listening to jazz and smoking reefer cigarettes?

    2. Well, the potheads do for a start. And probably their friends and families. And people with a generally friendly and caring disposition, members of a good number of religions, and most importantly, pot farmers.

      1. Yeah, but who cares about all those people?

    3. The parents of kids with Dravet Syndrome you pompous ass.

  4. Colorado utilities hardest hit.

  5. Kind of on topic: If you’re a new smoker looking for a strain to help with stress, I have a reccomendation: Flo! It’s a cross between Purple Thai and Afghani Indica, and all I can say is, as a decades-long smoker, this thing really hits the sweet spot. Virtually no parnoia, and so ecomonical!

    You’ll want to vape this one, and start with one solid hit, and just put the vape hose down, and wait. Stress immediately disappears, and you get this soothing body relaxation as well.

    Highly recommended!

    1. I don’t get the paranoia thing. The only thing that used to make me paranoid was the fear of getting caught. Now that I’m older and mostly just smoke in my house with near zero fear of being arrested anymore (and I live in a state where it is “decriminalized”), there’s absolutely no feeling of paranoia. My main problem lately is that I tend to find stuff that is way stronger than I anticipate and so I smoke a “normal” amount of it and get way too stoned. It’s hard for me to take 1 or 2 hits and leave it at that.

  6. God damn it, Denning, you’ll never make it out of intern with this shit.

    “Colorado’s Commercial Cannabis Cultivators Colonize Countryside”.

    Christ we commenters have to do everything around here.

  7. The problem with growing outdoors is you get one crop a year. If bugs or disease or hemp pollen gets to it you’re shit out of luck. Indoors you can have a perpetual harvest moving plants from the veg room into the flower room.

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