Steve Decker: Dealing with local crop aromas
Guest Commentary

Steve Decker: Dealing with local crop aromas

From the Complete Series - Green Rush in the 805?: Cannabis on the Central Coast - Looking at land use, money, science, law enforcement and education series
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Local cannabis cultivation is going through its growing pains. Misinformation abounds. For example, the aroma — terpenes — from cannabis are a potential health problem? The FDA says they are not harmful.

Terpenes are the aroma compounds found naturally emitted from many plants. They come in dozens of variations — spice, rose, sweet, citrus, lemon, pine, musk herbal and floral, to name a few. Broccoli emits a terpene aroma while growing that is almost universally disliked. Yet no one is expressing any concern of its effect as a potential health problem.

Terpenes found in cannabis have numerous proven medicinal values: anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-spasmodic, anti-tumor anti-fungal, anti-depressant and anti-epileptic to name a few. So, when odor from cannabis is detected, it is medicine in the making. There is a sound scientific reason medical cannabis was approved in this state over 20 years ago.

Sharyne Merritt, an avocado grower in Carpinteria, wrote a compelling commentary last week about the pesticide spraying conflict between cannabis and avocado growers. She accurately cites the extreme pesticide restrictions that only cannabis cultivators must endure. More so than any crop in California.

Many in the cannabis industry rightfully say it is regulatory overkill. Yet, the restrictions clearly assure consumers a safe product. Not so with black market-produced cannabis, which often comes with high doses of pesticides proven to be harmful.

Of the 58 California counties, Santa Barbara County ranks in the top 15 of reported chemical fumigants controlling agricultural pests. Pesticide drift is an ever-present issue in our agriculture dominant county, regardless of the crop.

The problem in Carpinteria is that the greenhouses there are recycled vegetable and flower growing facilities that are not fully sealed to preclude air leaving or entering them. Using existing, under-utilized greenhouses from around the county for cannabis cultivation is a very reasonable economic approach to developing a profitable cultivation enterprise, and a natural progression in developing the nascent cannabis industry.

Odor control for these types of facilities is addressed by types of harmless air treatment systems that mix with the air leaving the greenhouses. The fact that greenhouses are open to the outside air allows for just about anything entering the interior greenhouse environment.

Not all greenhouses are created equal. The newest greenhouse systems today are called “sealed hybrid” greenhouses and they do not allow for air going in or out. How can that be you ask? Well, remember sealed glass terrariums in biology class? A closed environment that can sustain plant life without any outside air. This can be accomplished for the cultivation of cannabis or any other crop, albeit on a much larger scale than that terrarium in biology class.

There are many examples of this technology being successfully used today in the cultivation of cannabis worldwide. New greenhouse designs and state-of-the-art environmental-control equipment allow for a positive pressure differential between the inside and outside atmosphere. No outside air comes in and no inside air goes out. Because the plants naturally produce oxygen through the photosynthesis process using CO2, it is easy to keep the CO2/oxygen ratio at optimal levels for the plants and the workers tending them.

Greenhouse cultivation is the most productive growing method. That is the case for any plant. Mixed-light greenhouses allow for year-round growing and is the best use of agriculturally zoned land. High production value with a very small footprint.

Calls to ban cannabis cultivation on AG1 lands loses that value.

Steve Decker is CEO of Santa Barbara Cannabis,


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