Across the Americas and in many locations around the world, many of today’s cannabis crops are grown indoors, typically in large warehouses-turned-greenhouses that can produce multiple crops per year in regions that are legally hospitable to the plant, if not environmentally so.
And while many firms are working hard to create sustainable systems for a truly ‘green’ indoor grow, climate and energy realities have made the importance of outdoor cultivation ever clearer to execs like Luis Merchan.
As Chairman and CEO of Flora Growth, Merchan is planting his hopes for sustainable cannabis business in the hillsides of Bucaramanga, Colombia, where the all outdoor-sourced company has its ‘flagship’ cultivation and extraction facility.
For their part, Flora has already started transitioning as many of their 500 products to Colombian sourcing as possible.
“Colombia has a deep history of cultivation and agriculture,” Merchan said in a phone interview this summer, not long before pro-cannabis candidates made a big splash in Colombia’s presidential election (and made history).
In fact, “Most [bouquet-style] flowers coming to the United States are largely from there,” he noted. “Skilled labor in Colombia is very well acquainted with the idea of cultivating a flower, which is precisely what cannabis flower is.”
“Where you select your cultivation site matters. We selected a site in Bucaramanga about 4500 feet above sea level, where we’re growing it outdoors using very little electricity, growing the plant in natural conditions where it has frankly been grown for hundreds of years.”
Merchan also noted that in Colombia, where “a majority of skilled labor and cultivators” were forced to grow cannabis in previous decades (not unlike in the U.S. a couple of hundred years ago, as hemp), the country’s government is “making a meaningful effort to make sure the cannabis industry will be an engine of economic growth.”
One that’s “equal to or perhaps greater than fossil fuels,” he added.