The outdoor cannabis growing season for 2019 is well underway, with crops beginning to flower in many parts of the U.S. October, aka “Croptober” is right around the corner; that’s the traditional harvest month for outdoor-grown cannabis in North America, so now’s a good time to have a look at how things are going for cannabis farmers around the country.
The Emerald Triangle’s outlook for 2019
The west coast has had great weather this season and California’s Emerald Triangle—the Northern California region that includes Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties—should see a great harvest for 2019. This region is the country’s top outdoor cannabis growing region for good reason. Certainly, its location has helped in the past; when cannabis was strictly a black-market crop, this area’s remoteness allowed guerrilla growers to keep their illegal crops hidden from authorities. Even with the opening of a legal market, though, this region remains one of the best in the country for growing marijuana outdoors as it has a near-ideal climate and a long growing season.
This season, the weather has been fairly typical for the region—warm and sunny most days. The rain has been moderate during the growing season, which typically begins in May and finishes up in October. As well, there was higher-than-average precipitation in the area last fall and winter, leaving plenty of water to irrigate 2019 cannabis crops.
Rain late in the season can be bad for flowering cannabis when excess moisture can lead to “bud rot.” Fortunately, for now, none is anticipated, so this looks like it will be a good year for legal weed in California.
Oregon and Washington 2019 cannabis crops
The northwestern corner of the country has experienced a bit more rain than Northern California. The coastal region here is, of course, notorious for heavy rain, and thus indoor growing is more common. Moving inland, though, we’ve seen above-average rainfall leading up to the start of the season, and that has continued throughout spring and into summer. The good news is that rain, for the most part, has not been heavy enough to cause significant damage, and the extra water has been mostly welcome.
Unrelated to the weather, Oregon is, in fact, experiencing a problem unfamiliar to most cannabis farmers in the past—a surplus. The state has been very diligent in keeping its legal cannabis industry competitive with the black market and the efforts have been perhaps a bit too effective. As a consequence, Oregon has been working to curb production.
Medical cannabis crops in the South
This traditionally conservative part of the country has fairly strict laws regarding cannabis. Nonetheless, a few states—Kentucky and Tennessee, in particular—do produce significant amounts of black-market marijuana. As for the legal market, recreational cannabis is not legal anywhere in the south but Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Florida do allow medical use. Louisiana’s production is limited to two licensed growers, both growing strictly indoors.
This is the first season of legal cannabis crops in the Sooner State and several farming operations have begun producing legal cannabis in 2019. That includes both THC-containing marijuana plants and non-psychoactive hemp plants—both members of the cannabis family, but grown for different purposes.
Oklahoma has had heavy rains this year and those who didn’t take measures to protect their cannabis crops have seen significant damage. This is particularly true for backyard growers; the state allows medical patients to grow up to six plants for their personal use. Much of the state’s medical marijuana is grown in greenhouses, which provide protection from the weather. For this reason, most licensed producers will still have a decent crop.
There’s no legal psychoactive cannabis grown in Kentucky, but with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is now being legally produced. As a black-market producer, Kentucky is surpassed only by California in terms of outdoor cannabis growth. With hemp now legal, the state is seeing the potential of this valuable crop. Unfortunately, though, this year’s heavy rains have not been kind to the first legal crops. The harvest this fall will be lighter than hoped for.
The Sunshine State is the fastest-growing medical marijuana market in the country and is now allowing hemp to be grown legally. There won’t be a legal hemp crop until 2020, and outdoor medical crops have been hit with heavy rain this year. Most of the medical cannabis in Florida is grown indoors, though, so there should not be a significant reduction in supply for 2019.
Northeastern U.S. cannabis crops for 2019
The northeastern states all have some form of legal cannabis available and growing conditions can be good. Hemp is rapidly becoming a high-demand crop here, too, along with high-THC medical and recreational cannabis. Weather here can be more unpredictable than in the southern states and the west coast, leading most pot farmers in New England indoors.
Hemp, on the other hand, is quickly becoming a popular outdoor crop in the area. Maine, for example, has 2,706 acres dedicated to legal hemp production in 2019.
A bit to the south in Massachusetts, outdoor cannabis crops have only begun to be permitted this year. Though the state legalized pot in December of 2016, thus far only indoor growing has been allowed. Only two outdoor farms have crops for 2019, and with the timing of getting licensed both got a late start. Nonetheless, they are expected to have a decent crop considering their short season.
This year, winter rains continued late into spring and early summer, delaying planting of cannabis and particularly hemp crops in the northeast. Though weather has been mostly good through the summer growing season, this delay will lead to a smaller harvest.
Cannabis crops in the Midwest
Among the Midwestern states, only Michigan and Illinois allow recreational cannabis, though four states in the region have a medical program. Perhaps more significantly, hemp farming has expanded substantially in the area.
Heavy rains have hit the Midwest hard this springtime and into early summer, delaying the planting of hemp as well as medical and recreational cannabis crops. Indiana’s hemp crops were among those hardest hit, tempering some of the initial excitement over the renewed legality of the plant. As a whole, medical and recreational crops will be least affected; this region has historically had significant amounts of wild hemp which can pollinate high-THC cannabis, reducing its potency and market value. Thus most growers take their crops indoors, protected from pollination by wild and now commercially-grown hemp plants.
Overall, the western states will have the best crops this season, but many areas of the country have been affected by a particularly rainy spring. Hemp is a relatively new legal crop nationwide and weather has not made it an easy start this year. Still, hemp and high-THC cannabis farmers alike appear committed to making 2019 the best year yet for legal weed production.