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Blog 丨 2021.08.16

How Important is the Growing Process for Creating a Successful Oil for Vaping?

The experience of end consumers of cannabis oil is impacted by several processes along the production chain, from the method of oil extraction to the post-extraction addition of some ingredients. However, one aspect of the production process plays the most fundamental role in determining the final characteristics of cannabis oil. Regardless of how oil is processed or mixed, there is no way to replicate the impact of quality cannabis crops as the input for a batch of oil. The growing process can impact the final product in many ways, from determining the level of aroma and potency of the cannabis oil to creating potential health implications through the use of certain pesticides. Consumers of cannabis oil are increasingly paying attention to its oil's origin due to the distinction of its aroma, potency, and health implications.

Good Cannabis Means Good Oil

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The first general rule of understanding the impact of the growing process on the quality of a given type of cannabis oil is straightforward. Any step that improves the quality of the cannabis flower harvested from a grow operation will also improve the end quality of the oil. The first decision is what to plant, as different strains of cannabis possess different properties, including their distribution of cannabinoids and their terpene profile. 

For example, the rise in popularity in the California cannabis market of oil made from classic strains such as Granddaddy Purple, Blue Dream, and Sour Diesel demonstrates the importance of strain recognition for product differentiation (ABX, 2021). As a consumer, each of these strains has a particular taste and quality that leads to a unique vaping experience. For example, Grandaddy Purple is known for its floral tastes with a hint of grape, while oil made with Blue Dream tastes more like blueberries, and Sour Diesel, as the name suggests, has a sour taste that comes from some of the same terpenes found in citrus fruits. Each has its own distinct psychoactive impact as well. For example, while oil made from the Indica Granddaddy Purple produces a more substantial sedative effect. The Sativa-dominant hybrids Blue Dream and Sour Diesel produce a stronger euphoric effect. Therefore, it becomes more enjoyable to vape during the daytime or when engaged in intense activity.

Finally, certain strains may be popular also due to being easier to grow or having a particularly high yield. In fact, in addition to their classic, distinctive taste, Blue Dream and Sour Diesel are also considered high-yield strains (Solaris Farms, 2021), which may contribute to their popularity. Ultimately, however, the impact of the growing process on the final cannabis oil product goes well beyond the decision of what strain of cannabis to plant.

Indoors or Outdoors? The Impact of Climate and Terrain

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A cannabis oil producer needs to decide the strain types as the primary stage of growing cannabis crops before moving to the next step on choosing the suitable location to plant the crops indoors or outdoors. There is a fun fact that we can learn from Snoop Dogg listeners, where Snoop Dogg often refers to the Weed that is grown indoors as "indo". The benefits for Indoor crops are generally known to have higher product quality due to manageable environmental aspects such as temperature, humidity, and more. The other advantage of the control given by indoors growing is that producers can grow crops throughout the year, even during freezing winters where it is known to be impossible to grow cannabis outdoor (WayOfLeaf, 2021).

On the other hand, cannabis crops grown outdoors also have some significant advantages since the investment cost may be lower. No artificial light source is as powerful and helpful for the cannabis growing process as the sun. Therefore, outdoors growing in states with no winter with a generally moderate climate may be worth considering since technological investment can be minimized. The decision can depend on the climate in a particular geographical setting. Moreover, the producer's decision may impact the purchasing decision of the targeted customers, as indoor cannabis is more visually appealing and potent on average. In contrast, outdoors cannabis tends to have a more robust flavour.

However, it is notable that several popular strains do not seem to be determined by the climate. For example, Blue Dream is the most popular strain in Maine, New York, and Colorado (Hanna, 2016), despite the huge discrepancy between the Eastern and Western United States weather. The consistency of such strains reflects how enjoyable these strains can be from a consumer perspective.

Harvesting for Maximum THC Potency

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The next step is the growing process itself. Several aspects of the growing process can be manipulated to impact the cannabinoid and terpene content of the harvested cannabis plant. Specifically, selecting the accurate harvesting date for a cannabis growing operation can assist in producing crops with higher THC concentrations. This ideal harvesting date typically lies after the cannabis has been flowering for around 2-months, although this is highly dependent on the strain, with some strains having optimal harvest times as short as a few days after flowering starts (Encore, 2019). When the harvesters pass the optimal harvest time window, some of the THC developed in the plant will begin to convert to the significantly less psychoactive CBN. At the same time, some of the terpenes will also start to deteriorate (Lynch, 2021). In any case, the concentration of THC and terpenes in each batch of cannabis crops used to produce oil can impact the flavour and potency of the final product. Although potency and flavour are also partially affected during the extraction and post-extraction process, it is impossible to maximize oil product's potency and natural taste without the proper cannabis cultivation procedure.

Pesticide Use: An Increasingly High-Profile Issue

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The cannabinoid and terpene profiles development of cannabis oil products can be very influential. However, the most crucial issue which impacts the growing process is the use of pesticides. This issue is rapidly transforming the industry as state regulatory bodies implement policies to address health concerns over pesticide levels in final cannabis oil products. For example, California, one of the most mature legal cannabis markets, illustrates how quickly regulatory policy towards pesticides can shift. In 2017, there were almost no state-wide regulations on pesticides to be prohibited for growing cannabis. As a result, one report found that up to 80% of cannabis oils tested had a significant concentration of pesticides (Margolin, 2017). However, by 2019 the regulatory structure for cannabis had been given more time to develop. During that year, the regulation of pesticides for cannabis was assigned to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. This organization oversees most regulations of pesticides for agricultural use in California (ChemService, 2019a). Such regulation represents a standard route towards pesticide regulation in other states with legal cannabis, where the legal cannabis market becomes incorporated through the regulatory bodies that already exist in the state. 

It is undeniable that consumers and businesses cannot expect any state with a newly legalized cannabis market to remain in a state of low pesticide regulation for now. However, several states have taken steps beyond the normal regulations for standard agricultural products, further demonstrating the importance of pesticide-free products for the developing legal cannabis markets in the US. Specifically, Massachusetts has implemented the strictest pesticide regulations in the country by banning all pesticide use on any cannabis or hemp of any form to minimize the concern of consumers. Moreover, a state like Nevada has also not approved any pesticides for use during cannabis cultivation despite de-facto legalizing a small number of pesticides exempt from registration (ChemService, 2019b). Ultimately, many states have taken a similar approach as California, with both Oregon and Colorado assigning the state board regulating agricultural pesticides to cannabis cultivation.

Conclusion: A Good Harvest Sets the Stage for a Great Cannabis Oil

The cannabis growing process is the first step that ultimately sets the groundwork for the vaping experience. Choosing the most highly demanded cannabis strains allows consumers to experience a high level of comfortability with specific cannabinoid and terpene profiles. It is undeniable that the usage of pesticides in the growing process is of increasing importance for both consumers and businesses. Hence, a well-executed operation in the crop development process will fully capture the potential of the cannabis plant and contribute to a final product with ideal potency and flavour. If consumers can pay attention to the aspects mentioned above, there is no doubt that they will manage to improve the enjoyability and safety of the vaping experience.