Nation & World

America's marijuana growers world's best

But federal laws keep them out of global markets

Marijuana growing in a LivWell Enlightened Health facility in Denver. (Kaiser Health News)
Marijuana growing in a LivWell Enlightened Health facility in Denver. (Kaiser Health News)

In a large warehouse, LivWell Enlightened Health in Denver feeds its cloned cannabis plants a custom blend of nutrients, sprays them with filtered water and pumps extra carbon dioxide into the air, and releases three types of insects to clear1 unwanted pests without the use of toxic pesticides.

Every part of the growing process is meticulously documented and evaluated to refine the process.

After 20 years of experience, legal marijuana growers in the United States have the reputation of creating the best product in the world, scientifically grown and tightly regulated for quality and safety.

The crop would be in high demand internationally — perhaps the centerpiece of a new U.S. industry — if not for the regulatory conundrum in which growers operate.

Because marijuana is legal in many states but still illegal federally, marijuana growers are unable to ship their products to other countries or even other American states that have legalized the drug.

So while U.S. cannabis companies have driven product innovation and mastered large-scale grow operations, they restlessly wait for the export curtain to lift.

Instead Canada has emerged as the dominant exporter in the burgeoning global marijuana trade, which ArcView Market Research and BDS Analytics estimated at $14.9 billion in sales for 2019.

Companies are raising capital and building international trade ties despite Canada’s unlikely climate to be an agricultural pot haven.

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“Canada has a huge advantage because they can fill a gap,” said Rezwan Khan, vice president of global corporate development for cannabis seed supplier DNA Genetics, based in in Amsterdam.

The genetics and sophistication underlying the U.S. cannabis industry lead to better-quality and higher-potency flowers for those who smoke marijuana and innovations in oils, tinctures and edibles.

“The world wants that technology,” said Michael Sassano, CEO of Solaris Farms, the largest cannabis hybrid greenhouse in Nevada. “The Netherlands had a big jump — they could have done anything.

“But the U.S. is the one that turned the industry into what it is today, with all the products we make, not Canada.”

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