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Is Organic Cannabis worth it?

Is Organic Cannabis worth it?

Organic cannabis is becoming the standard in the industry, but what does it take to become truly organic?

At The Real Dirt we are big fans of using organic cultivation practices. Whether it’s using a compost tea, creating a living soil, or incorporating organic fertilizers into your nutrient regiment, there’s a lot you can do when it comes growing more organically.

But what does it take to grow 100% organic, and is it worth the trouble?

Growing organic cannabis vs growing cannabis with organics

It’s easy to incorporate organic products into your current grow regiment. But that’s not the same as growing organic cannabis. Sure, your cannabis will be more organic than if you hadn’t used an organic input, but to truly produce organic cannabis, it all has to be organic.

From the products you use to the medium you grow in, every factor of your grow needs to be organic. You need sustainable and environmentally friendly grow practices. And it’s a lot easier said than done.

The reason hydroponics and synthetic nutrients are so popular, is because these systems allow growers to produce big, high quality yields consistently. Synthetic nutrients are specifically formulated to feed your plant the exact portions it needs to grow strong foliage and dense buds. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done in an organic grow.

Common organic cultivation practices

Developing organic cultivation practices takes time, because nature takes time. Living soil is an incredible way to grow organic cannabis, but you can’t buy it in a bag at the store. But you can buy everything you need to start making your own.

Living soil is composed of organic inputs, like earthworms, bat and seabird guanos, peat moss and composts. When you combine organic inputs together in your soil base, over time an organic biome will develop in your medium.

Your plants will benefit from the organic setting, and it will feed off of the organic matter in your soil. But it can take a season or two to get you living soil truly living, and some growers don’t have that time.

Chip Baker answered some frequently asked questions about organic inputs if you want to learn more.

Time and money

That’s what it comes down to; time and money. You can pick up some organic soil, feed your plants nothing but water and call it organic. It just might not be the best quality cannabis you’ve ever had.

It takes time and money to wade through the various organic inputs you can use to enhance your plant quality organically. When synthetic nutrients can be cheap, concentrated and effective, it’s easy to see why a lot of growers prefer synthetics. But flushing out your plants when it comes time to harvest so there’s no residual chemicals from the synthetic nutrients does not make it organic in the end.

Is it worth it?

Yes. While we could end it right here, let us explain a little bit.

We live in a world with finite resources, and an environment and climate that is changing around us constantly. When we cultivate cannabis, we need to take into consideration the impact that has on your local ecosystem, and the ecosystem at large.

Water run-off from farms that use synthetic nutrients can end up in water sources for animals and people. It can also soak into the ground, poisoning the plants around it that animals might see as food. Now imagine that on a massive scale.

When thousands of growers use synthetic nutrients without taking care to prevent run-off and other damaging side effects, it stacks up. Additionally the rise of indoor growing has caused a massive spike in electricity usage for cannabis production.

In other words, as the cannabis industry grows and more people have the ability to cultivate their own cannabis, the need for more organic and sustainable practices will grow too. And knowing the cannabis community, growers will rise to the challenge.

Can Massachusetts Recreational Cannabis Survive Coronavirus?

Can Massachusetts Recreational Cannabis Survive Coronavirus?

What happens to a federally illegal business during a national pandemic?

We are all about to see what happens in real time. As Coronavirus rapidly spreads across the United States, businesses everywhere are shutting down.

Restaurants are only doing delivery and takeout, and the only other businesses allowed to operate are those marked as “essential”. Doctors offices, pharmacies and grocery stores are understandably essential, but states are also marking liquor stores and cannabis dispensaries essential.

But not all dispensaries are so lucky to get the essential treatment.

The dispensary dilemma

Nobody would really argue that medical dispensaries are not essential. Medical cannabis users must get a doctor’s recommendation to use it, making cannabis their medicine. But recreational cannabis dispensaries are a whole different monster.

Different taxes, different regulations, different requirements. Recreational and medical cannabis, though identical in actual product, have been split into two different industries due to the progression of cannabis advocacy. While medical cannabis is just that, medicine, recreational cannabis has been put in line more with alcohol.

But while those who suffer severe alcohol addiction can actually die if they don’t have alcohol — presumably the main reason liquor stores have been deemed essential — recreational cannabis users can go cold turkey relatively easy with little side effects. And that’s why they haven’t been deemed essential in several states.

Although California and Colorado, among others, have deemed all cannabis businesses essential, Massachusetts has made headlines for shutting down all recreational cannabis sales. While it might not seem like a big deal considering hundreds of businesses have had to close down, there’s one crucial difference between recreational cannabis businesses and all others; federal legality.

No federal assistance

The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we all live and will live for quite some time. With a lot of businesses being forced to close, many have resorted to lay-offs, furloughs or completely closing down. In an effort to support small businesses, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act on March 27.

The legislation provides economic assistance to small businesses, in the form of interest free loans, a paycheck protection program and more. But this is a federal program, and a business that is considered illegal on the federal level can’t receive help from federal programs.

In other words, cannabis businesses both recreational and medical cannot receive any government assistance from the federal government. So while medical dispensaries have been deemed essential, recreational dispensaries in states like Massachusetts have not. So they are forced to close with no government assistance, leaving them with no option but to close down, lay-off or shut down completely.

To simplify, recreational dispensaries in states like Massachusetts are up shit creek without a paddle.

Can recreational cannabis survive Coronavirus?

Most recreational cannabis businesses might just have to tighten up a little bit over the next couple of months in most states. But the future is cloudy for recreational dispensaries in Massachusetts. If they can’t operate at all, they can’t make money, can’t pay rent on their location, and eventually can’t keep the business running.

It would be speculation to say that the governor of Massachusetts is doing this because of his lack of support for legal cannabis — even though it took Massachusetts over 3 years to open a recreational cannabis dispensary after legalizing in 2016 due to plenty of barriers — but it’s not hard to imagine a government official using a position of power to punish an industry they do not support.

Unlike other small businesses that might have to close down but can still receive government support, recreational cannabis dispensaries are pretty much on their own to make it through the Coronavirus pandemic, with no clear end in sight. It took four years for Massachusetts to get up and running with recreational cannabis, and it only took two weeks for the state to shut it all back down.

While the future is unclear, it’s going to be a tough road ahead for all cannabis businesses in the United States.

2020 Outdoor Grow Prep Guide

2020 Outdoor Grow Prep Guide

It might not seem like it, but Spring has sprung.

It’s slowly starting to warm up, which means it’s getting closer and closer to planting time!

If you’re growing indoors, you’ve probably already been growing through the winter months, but for those of us who only grow outdoors, now is the time to get your grow in order.

Get the Gear

Those pots from last year might be in rough shape. Cracked plastic or torn fabric won’t help your plants in the long run, so double check your pot conditions and pick up some fresh ones if you need to.

Once you get your pots in the sizes you want you need something to fill them with. Most outdoor growers will grow in some type of soil blend, but soilless media is becoming more popular as well.

A great option is to get your plants started inside in a soilless media like coco coir or rockwool, then transplant them into a hearty soil blend outdoors after they develop. Of course you can’t grow high quality plants without high quality nutrients though!

You can keep it simple with the basics and use organic fertilizers that carry the essential nutrients your plants need, then simply feed them water. But there are more concentrated options, both organic and synthetic that can provide consistent nutrients throughout your plants’ growth that will help grow bigger, stronger plants.

The biggest decision to make when choosing nutrients is whether you want to use organic nutrients, synthetic nutrients or a combination of both.

Prepping your grow

If you’re using pots for your plants then preparing your grow is pretty straightforward. You want to get your pots lined up with enough space between to account for future growth. You don’t want a bunch of plants growing into each other with no space to get in between.

If you’re growing in a soil bed you reuse instead of pots, you still want to make sure your soil is ready. The quick and easy option is to till your soil and mix in your new blend to freshen it up.

Some growers prefer a no-till method, mainly those trying to grow organic. But no-till growing can save time and money since you let the soil do all the work over time, building up its own nutrients and biological life to support your plants.

One of the great perks of growing outdoors is that you save a ton on electricity! Unless you have a greenhouse with supplemental lighting, you don’t need any sort of grow light outdoors because you have the best grow light in the sky.

If you’re just growing a few plants, you can save some more money by hand-watering. However if you have a big farm, you’ll like need some form of irrigation set up when you plant.

You can set up a DIY irrigation system to save some money, but it’s worth a little extra dough to set up a system like Netafim that can take care of every aspect of your feeding schedule.

Once you have your grow organized, you can move on to deciding whether or not you want to grow from seed or clone. We have a guide on how you can choose between the two, since both have their pros and cons.

There’s more steps you can take to make sure your outdoor grow is primed and ready for planting like soil conditioning, fertilization and more. But cannabis doesn’t need all the bells and whistles to grow strong and dank. Just some preparation and care throughout its growth.

Are ALL Dispensaries Essential?

Are ALL Dispensaries Essential?

Cannabis dispensaries are being labeled “essential”. Should that also mean legal?

COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus, has completely changed the way we all live. As much as we don’t want to admit it, our everyday lifestyles are changing pretty drastically and the nation, its states, and businesses big and small are all struggling to find a solution.

With several states beginning to shut down “non-essential” businesses, the decision has to be made what businesses are essential. There’s the obvious essential businesses like grocery stores, doctors offices and pharmacies.

But one business most people probably didn’t expect to be marked essential is cannabis dispensaries.

Cannabis dispensaries are essential?

While most states are shutting down all non-essential businesses, exceptions have been made for a variety of businesses in different states. Most states are permitting restaurants to stay open for carry-out only, and in Colorado, you can now get alcohol to go from restaurants that serve beer.

Now in Los Angeles, amid an entire state-wide stay-in order, cannabis dispensaries have been deemed essential businesses that can remain open.

Unfortunately for recreational users, the rule only applies to medical dispensaries, which makes sense. People with a doctor’s prescription for medical cannabis, especially those with serious or debilitating conditions still need access to their medicine.

But if medical dispensaries are essential, and New York has even deemed liquor stores essential, then why shouldn’t recreational dispensaries be essential too?

The question that this really beckons to be answered though, is if medical cannabis dispensaries are essential businesses, why shouldn’t they be federally legal?

A sign we should legalize?

The fact that state governments across the country have deemed medical cannabis dispensaries essential and sales of recreational cannabis have skyrocketed over the past two weeks should be a sign that it is a product that is in great demand, right?

But that doesn’t mean recreational cannabis is as essential as medical cannabis, and as much as we hate to say it here at The Real Dirt, even alcohol.

The reason liquor stores are being permitted to remain open is likely due to the 15 million people across the country who suffer from alcoholism, and a smaller minority that suffers from serious addiction that could lead to serious health problems if they were to quit drinking cold-turkey.

If we continue to insist that cannabis is non-addictive (or at least not as harmfully addictive as alcohol and other pharmaceuticals), then there is no reason for recreational cannabis businesses to be deemed essential.

Nobody needs recreational cannabis to survive, unlike those with medical cards who could seriously rely on it. Where the debate lies, is in the differences between medical and recreational cannabis and how the line drawn between the two is so subtle and blurry.

Where does this lead?

A day after I started writing this, Colorado announced a stay-in-order, including the closure of liquor stores and recreational dispensaries. Not even four hours later, they were forced to walk it back.

There was so much backlash that the Governor of Colorado has now made recreational dispensaries and liquor stores essential businesses.

So while only medical dispensaries are deemed essential in California, recreational dispensaries are added to that list in Colorado. If other states follow behind Colorado and include recreational and medical dispensaries in their essential business orders, it could be a big bargaining chip in the fight for legalization.

If every state with medical and legal cannabis deems the businesses as essential — just as essential as grocery stores, doctor offices, and pharmacies — then how someone seriously argue that it should be illegal? We know the fight we’re in, however, and we know it won’t be that easy.

A more likely advancement that cannabis consumers can get excited about is the rise of cannabis delivery. Colorado is only allowing the first medical dispensary in Boulder to deliver starting this spring, with plans for recreational to follow in 2021.

But with current developments and a need to provide cannabis to thousands of consumers, more dispensaries will start to ask the government to move faster.

The fact remains that cannabis dispensaries are the only business across the country that have been deemed essential, while also being federally illegal. It’s pretty crazy when you really think about it. Read that first sentence again for maximum impact.

Pot entrepreneurs flocking to the Bible Belt for low taxes

Pot entrepreneurs flocking to the Bible Belt for low taxes

oklahoma cannabis industry news

Jessica Baker takes a cutting of a plant at the Baker’s marijuana nursery at Baker Medical, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, in Oklahoma City. When voters in conservative Oklahoma approved medical marijuana in 2018, many thought the rollout would be ploddingly slow and burdened with bureaucracy. Instead, business is booming so much cannabis industry workers and entrepreneurs are moving to Oklahoma from states with more well-established pot cultures, like California, Colorado and Oregon. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

OKLAHOMA CITY — From their keen taste for sun-ripened pot to their first meeting at a pro-marijuana rally in college in the 1990s, everything about Chip and Jessica Baker fits the stereotype of cannabis country in Northern California, where they lived for 20 years.

Jessica, with wavy hair that falls halfway down her back, is a practicing herbalist, acupuncturist and aromatherapist who teaches classes on the health benefits of cannabis. Scruffy-bearded Chip wears a jacket with a prominent “grower” patch and hosts a marijuana podcast called “The Real Dirt.” They started their pot business in rugged Humboldt County when it was the thriving epicenter of marijuana cultivation.

But the couple bid goodbye to the weed-friendly West and moved somewhere that might seem like the last place they would end up — Oklahoma.

They’re part of a green rush into the Bible Belt that no one anticipated when Oklahoma voters approved medical marijuana less than two years ago. Since then, a combination of factors — including a remarkably open-ended law and a red state’s aversion to government regulation — have created such ideal conditions for the cannabis industry that entrepreneurs are pouring in from states where legal weed has been established for years.

Though 11 states have fully legalized marijuana for recreational use, Oklahoma’s medical law is the closest thing to it: Anyone with any ailment, real or imagined, who can get a doctor’s approval can get a license to buy. It’s not hard to do. Already, nearly 6% of the state’s 4 million residents have obtained their prescription cards. And people who want to sell pot can do it as easily as opening a taco stand.

“Oklahoma is really allowing for normal people to get into the cannabis industry, as opposed to other places where you need $20 million up front,” said Jessica Baker.

The Bakers have a marijuana farm about 40 miles (65 kilometers) from Oklahoma City, along with a dispensary, nursery and gardening shop in a working-class part of town where virtually every vacant shop and building has been snapped up by weed entrepreneurs in the last year.

When he leased his place, which had been vacant for 10 years, Chip Baker said, “to celebrate, the owner went to Hawaii for a month.”

Unlike other states, Oklahoma did not limit the number of business licenses for dispensaries, growers or processors.

In less than two years, Oklahoma has more than 2,300 pot stores, or the second most per capita in the U.S. behind only Oregon, which has had recreational marijuana sales for five years. Oklahoma has four times more retail outlets than more populous Colorado, which pioneered full legalization.

“Some of these states are regulating cannabis like plutonium,” said Morgan Fox, a spokesman for the National Cannabis Industry Association, the national trade group for marijuana businesses. “And the financial burdens that are placed on licensed businesses are so onerous, that not only is it very difficult to stay in business, but it’s also very difficult for the legal, state-regulated systems to compete with the illicit market.”

Marijuana taxes approach 50% in some California communities and are a factor in some business closings.

California requires a $1,000 application fee, a $5,000 surety bond and an annual license fee ranging from $2,500 to $96,000, depending on a dispensary’s projected revenue, along with a lengthy application process. Licenses can cost $300,000 annually.

In Oklahoma, a dispensary license costs $2,500, can be filled out online and is approved within two weeks.

Arkansas, next door to Oklahoma, also has medical marijuana, but like most such states, it allows purchase only for treatment of certain diseases, such as glaucoma or post-traumatic stress disorder. It also requires a $100,000 surety bond. Louisiana, which also tightly restricts prescriptions, has only nine licensed dispensaries.

Ford Austin and his sister opened the APCO Medical Marijuana Dispensary in a gentrifying part of Oklahoma City after he gave up on plans for a California weed store. “There’s way more opportunity here,” he said.

Sarah Lee Gossett Parrish, an Oklahoma attorney specializing in cannabis law, said about 15% of her cannabis clients are coming from out of state.

“I frequently receive calls from people in the cannabis industry in California,” Gossett Parrish said.

People in some rural towns are worried about the Wild West atmosphere of the boom, particularly where shops with funny weed-pun names, waving banners and blinking signs have opened near schools and churches.

A Republican state legislator, Jim Olsen, has proposed a bill banning dispensaries within 1000 feet (305 meters) of a church. “While I recognize that some people do find pain relief from medical marijuana, with children we really don’t want them to think that when they reach problems in life, that marijuana is a good answer to that.”

But Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt and the GOP-controlled Legislature have shown no interest in reining in the industry since the ballot measure authorizing it passed overwhelmingly. The industry has mostly fought off local attempts at zoning.

Many communities are welcoming cannabis shops because of the sales tax revenue. In college-town Norman and in Oklahoma City, at least a half dozen businesses have joined the chambers of commerce.

“In our community, I think most businesses view them as equals,” said Scott Martin, president of the Norman Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve even had a handful of ribbon cutting ceremonies.”

Marijuana sales generated $54 million in tax revenue last year, accounted for the sharpest ever annual decline in empty mid-sized industrial properties in Oklahoma City, and booked up electricians around Tulsa outfitting new grow rooms with lights and temperature controls.

Even some longtime opponents of marijuana legalization have softened their tone.

Sheriff Chris West in Canadian County, one of many law enforcement officers who decried the 2018 legalization ballot measure, says a number of farmers he knows have decided to switch crops.

“I’ve had them call me and tell me, ‘Sheriff, we’re going to venture into this business and we’d like for you to come out and see our facility, because we want you to know what we’re doing.’ And these are longtime, good, godly, Christian families that see it as an income opportunity.”

How to Brew Compost Tea

How to Brew Compost Tea

Growing organically should be the eventual goal of every grower, and brewing your own compost tea is the first step.

For most, growing “organic” is a lot easier said than done. At first it might seem like there’s a plethora of organic nutrients out there that do the same thing as synthetics. But a brand name and even a label isn’t always honest.

There are dozens of nutrients, fertilizers and other plant products that might have “organics” in the name, but this doesn’t guarantee the product itself is organic. But you can avoid a lot of the false marketing by starting your organic grow with a compost tea.

What is Compost?

If you grew up with a pile of food and vegetable scraps in the backyard, you’re already familiar with compost. Compost is simply just organic material that is combined together to produce a breeding ground for beneficial microbes and bacteria.

A healthy compost tea pulls the soluble nutrients and microorganisms from compost; this includes bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes. Nematodes do not have a life cycle that is rapid enough to increase their population in the time it takes to brew a tea.

However, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa can all increase their populations with the right foods and conditions. Once you’ve got the right mix you want for your compost, you can begin mixing your tea.

How to brew compost tea

Compost tea is literally just that, tea. Like you would brew up a cup of tea with a teabag, you’ll want to put your compost into a fine micron bag to ensure it doesn’t spill into your water while it is brewing. But before you add anything to anything, you need to make sure your water is aerated with an air pump. This is important especially if your water source is chlorinated, as aerating your water will remove it.

Once you’re ready to start brewing, you’ll want to use roughly 5 pounds of compost for every 25 gallons of water. In addition to the compost you add in, there are other beneficials you can add to enhance your compost tea.

You can add in 1–2 tablespoons of humic acid and dilute it in 2 cups of water before adding it into the tea. You can also use 1–2 tablespoons of fish hydrolysate as an alternative. Now go ahead and mix ½ cup of kelp into 5 cups of water. Once adequately mixed, add this into the compost tea for a highly nutritious punch.

Once you have all your ingredients together and your compost is in the water, all you need to do is wait. Ideally compost tea will take 24-36 hours to complete brewing. Make sure you keep an eye on the temperature of your water, as temperature is essential for the development of bacteria and fungi.

The optimum temperature for healthy compost tea is between 65-85 degree Fahrenheit.

Applying your tea

There are two popular ways to apply your compost tea to your plants. The simplest option is to use the compost tea as a soil drench, applying it during your regular feedings for optimal nutrient uptake.

The other option requires a little more gear, and that’s applying your compost tea as a foliar spray. With a sprayer you can walk the grow and spray down your plants making sure they are completely covered. Doing so can put beneficial fungi and even predatory nematodes on your leaves to protect against predators.

And that’s about it! When it comes to making compost tea, the most essential ingredient is obviously the compost. Make sure your compost is fully developed and not still breaking down the organic material within. It should look and smell like fresh soil from the earth when it is ready to use in a tea. And there is always more you can do to produce healthier, more beneficial compost.

You can also greatly simplify the brewing process by using a compost tea brewer. While these can be expensive, The Real Dirt is working with Cutting Edge Solutions to provide an incredible deal on their 15-gallon and 35-gallon brewers. When you buy a ticket to our Organic Cultivation Seminar, you can save over $500.00 on these compost tea brewers, all included with a full-day seminar on organic cultivation.

Everything from the basics of organic cultivation, to building your own organic soil and brewing compost tea efficiently will be covered at this seminar, all for an incredible price.

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