When it comes to quality, the common assumption is that indoor cannabis is fire and outdoor is trash, but there really is much more to it than that.
You’ll always hear these random, arbitrary rules about what type of weed you should buy – many people push for indica, or claim that indoor is better, or won’t look at anything below a certain THC level, and the list goes on. But the reality is, none of that is true. All that stuff matters to an extent, but your criteria will vary considerably based on your own personal needs.
Preference, desired experience, cannabinoid and terpene content, and of course, price, are all things to bearm in mind when choosing the perfect flower. If you find something that looks and smells good, comes from parent strains you know you enjoy, has high levels of cannabinoids and a good blend of terpenes, and doesn’t break the bank… will it really matter whether it’s indoor, outdoor, or greenhouse grown? Probably not.
That’s not to say there aren’t any differences between these mediums though. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, for both the grower and consumer. Let’s take a deeper look at what you can expect with the three most common cannabis cultivation methods.
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Cannabis cultivated indoors is consistently good because all the impossible-to-manage variables, like weather and air quality, no longer exist. Growers have complete control over their growing environments and they utilize a variety of techniques – such as light and water schedules, heat and cold exposure, humidity levels, and specific nutrient needs – to perfect the flavor, appearance, and potency their buds.
However, according to Bryan Gabriel, CEO of Washington’s Gābriel Cannabis, this advantage can turn against you. “If you get [toxins] in your grow room, it’s harder to get rid of because it’s contained in a little environment,” he told Leafly. “If we keep it clean, it’s a pro, because we can control [the airflow]. But if you’re not watching your CO2 levels and reading your plants, and if those plants start spitting out some toxins, this can lead to CO2 poisoning.”
Because of the limited space available for indoor grows, these flowers tend to be denser and more compact. Indoor grown flowers also usually have a much higher trichome content, giving them robust flavor profiles and harder-hitting effects. The high levels of cannabinoids and terpenes found in trichomes are the reason for the entourage effect felt when consuming the plant in its natural state.
The increased potency, enjoyable flavor and show-stopping appearance of these buds has made indoor cannabis particularly appealing to connoisseurs who are willing to pay top-dollar for premium weed products. This, unfortunately, translates to higher prices for the average consumer as well.
The next cultivation method on our list that has been getting an increasing amount of attention lately, is greenhouse growing – also known as sun-grown with light deprivation. The light deprivation technique allows growers to block out the sun with tarps toward the end of the grow period, which tricks the plants into flowering faster. Cannabis grown in natural sunlight contains a full and natural terpene profile, and the plants are still grown in a safe and controlled environment.
The greenhouse method is also much better for the environment. Indoor grown cannabis requires a lot of resources, especially electricity for the long cycles of artificial lighting. Cut out that part of the equation, and you’re saving a considerable amount energy and leaving behind a much smaller ecological footprint.
Not only that, but the energy savings means the grower will be saving a substantial amount of money as well, and these savings are passed on to the consumer. By using proper netting to support correct growth and encourage airflow, greenhouse cannabis can be grown mildew-free and without the use of harsh pesticides – and the potency is comparable to that of indoor flower.
According to Jeremy Moberg, CEO of Washington’s CannaSol, “light deprivation produces the highest quality product with the least impact on the environment. However, there are disadvantages to sun-grown cannabis, as growers have to work around the climate and season, while indoor growers can produce cannabis year-round.”
Growing cannabis outside is the most natural and least expensive way to grow bud. The only necessities are tents, sunlight, and good soil. It’s straightforward, but the obvious disadvantage is that the grower cannot control the elements, thus leaving the plants susceptible to any negative environmental changes. Temperature, pollution, and pests are some of the most common factors that can have detrimental effects on the final product.
However, Anders Taylor, CEO of Walden Cannabis, says that when done correctly, cannabis grown outside has many qualities that you can’t get from indoor or greenhouse flower. “As a point of fact, outdoor-produced flower will always enjoy a broader, more intense, more deeply penetrating spectrum of light. This advantage allows outdoor grown plants to more fully express their genetic potential.”
Another drawback to outdoor cannabis is the appearance. Outdoor buds normally don’t have the aesthetics of indoor, or even greenhouse, flower. In other words, they’re not as pretty. The reason for that is the availability of abundant space and natural light. Outdoor cannabis will stretch as it grows toward the warmth and energy of the sun. This results in longer, fluffier buds than the tight, dense ones you see in top-shelf section at dispensaries.
In my opinion, there are two major selling points when talking about outdoor flower: the fact that it’s the absolute best option for the environment, and the price. If you’re trying to stock up on flower for the lowest cost possible, then outdoor is the way to go. I personally have found some real hidden gems when looking at the outdoor flower, and most of the strains are just as high in cannabinoids as indoor flower.
The Entourage Effect
I’ve mentioned the Entourage Effect in this article and wanted to elaborate a bit more on that. The Entourage Effect refers to the medicinal benefits (and recreational effects) that can only be achieved when all the natural plant compounds work together synergistically.
When you smoke raw, natural cannabis, or consume products that use full-spectrum extracts, you get the benefits of everything in the cannabis plant – all the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and minor compounds that make weed amazing.
That said, there is a time and place for isolated cannabinoids. When formulating medications, topicals, and other therapeutic products that require very specific and consistent ingredient quantities, you will absolutely need to use isolates and distillates. If you’re looking for a more holistic and natural approach, then it’s the Entourage Effect that you’re searching for.
One of the best things about cannabis legalization is the sheer selection of products that are now available to consumers. Decades ago, all you find was flower and a pothead could only dream of walking into a store dedicated to the sale of safe, high quality, and extremely varied and unique cannabis products.
The best you can do is be an educated consumer to learn about the products that are available to you. That way you can determine which factors are most important when choosing flower and make decision that’s best for your health, wellness, and wallet.