You could have noticed that despite the availability of cannabis in dispensaries, the quality, and the quantity is not always the same.
This is especially true when it comes to legal cannabis. Sometimes, there are drastic shifts in cannabis supply depending on the seasons which push some consumers to turn to black market sources or try to grow marijuana at home. The best-quality sun-grown cannabis appears on the dispensaries' shelves in the winter and early spring, but later the supply declines and prices rise sharply.
To understand what are the reasons for this tendency and when is the best time to find your favorite strain of top-shelf quality, you need to understand the many factors that influence the supply of marijuana.
Cannabis is a non-perennial plant that depends a lot on the weather and climate. The seedlings develop in spring, and over a few months, they become much taller and bushier until longer nights trigger the flowering period. Then they get in blossom in the late summer and keep on flowering until fall. When the flowers are ripe, the growers cut them down, dry them, and only after that cannabis enters the market.
If we are talking about Northern hemisphere, here the seeds are usually planted during the period from March to May, and the ripe flowers are harvested between September and November. In the Southern hemisphere, where the seasons are reversed, planting starts in September and ends in November and the harvesting goes through March, April, and May. The countries that lie close to the equator, are more independent from the seasons, and it is often possible to harvest outdoor cannabis there regardless of the season.
At the same time, even within one hemisphere, the beginning of the growth season may shift drastically. A strain that turns to flowering in late June in Colorado may start its flowering stage in August when grown in Canada. In Columbia and Southern Mexico, it is possible to get the harvest from the same strain throughout the year.
And even if we take one latitude, the growing stages may differ depending on the climate. All the environmental conditions, whether it is temperature, rain frequency, wind, or other factors, affect the time of harvesting of cannabis. Grown in mild climates, marijuana provides yield faster, while heat and cold temperatures may delay ripening.
Since there is not so many pure indicas or sativas today, most of the commercially-grown strains were modified in order to shorten their flowering time and make them deliver higher yield. Though, generally, you may expect that indica-dominant strains grow shorter and switch to flowering mode faster than sativas. Some of the equatorial sativas may have such a long flowering time that they will not manage to ripe on time before the freezing weather comes when grown further to the North.
When grown in one outdoor garden, a combination of, for instance, Super Silver Haze, Blueberry, and the autoversion of Lemon Haze can make a grower busy with harvesting all three autumn months and sometimes even in December.
But even if exactly the same strains are grown together in the same garden, their times of harvest can still be different if you use different growing techniques. The Screen of Green technique may make you wait longer for the harvest, but at the same time, this method will significantly increase the amount of the yield. On the other hand, you can significantly reduce the growing period by growing cannabis from clones as opposed to seeds.
Some farmers prefer to plant and harvest cannabis according to the Moon calendar. Others start gathering the yield only when the milk and amber trichomes appear in a certain proportion. Ed Rosenthal, the author of Big Book of Buds, considers marijuana to be ready for harvesting a week later after most people prefer. He notes that Dutch cofeeshops are selling immature weed that cannot satisfy a true connoisseur.
At the same time, Casey O’Neill, a Mendocino farmer and activist, suggests to start harvesting early and finish on time as he believes that late harvest has sedative, opioid effect that is no good for most users. He thinks that indica-dominant strains that are harvested late may be way too heavy for a modern consumer.
The cultivation of cannabis does not end with harvesting. The process of drying plays a significant role in defining the taste and effects of cannabis. It is recommended to hang plants for 10-14 days in a climate-controlled room. However, many commercial growers dry cannabis for only five or six days and try to put the product on the market as soon as possible. Flowers that are dried too fast may stay too moist for burning properly and can develop a harsh and bitter flavor.
Kevin Jodrey, the director of Wonderland Nursery, says that it would be ideal to wait for six or even eight weeks between harvesting and sending weed on sale. The weed should pass the stages of drying, trimming and stabilizing. While a novice may not see any difference, connoisseurs would immediately notice the gap in flavor, aroma, and effects between weed that was dried for ten and, for instance, 14 days.
Drying and curing cannabis will inevitably change its features, and only true growers and experienced consumers know whether it is for better or worse. One should be very careful to preserve and develop the terpene and cannabinoid profile. The flowers that passed all the stages correctly often obtain smoother taste with more nuances, and the high is often deeper and more meditative.
Modern cannabis growers try to supply cannabis on the market regardless of the season. Using greenhouses with artificial light that simulates sun's energy, the growers are able to get three or sometimes even more harvests per year. Controlling lighting regime, applying different growing techniques, hydroponics or aeroponics makes it possible to deliver a constant supply of marijuana all year long.
This approach to growing means that you will never come to a dispensary to see empty shelves because it is not the season for cannabis yet. Cannabis may be of different quality or available in different quantity, but you may expect to find the strain you want whenever you need.
On the other hand, it is the same situation as with locally grown fruits and vegetables: no matter how good are they in the supermarket, the ones that are grown on the farms and during the right season are simply better. So is the cannabis: if you are lucky enough to live in a place where the local growers deliver seasonal sun-grown cannabis, you have a chance to try an unequivocally superior product. So, do not waste your chance!