Wow we’ve finally made it to November and the end to another fabulous outdoor growing season. For most of us in the Northern Hemisphere this means that if we want to keep growing our own fire weed, we need to move indoors. It seems like the perfect time to dig into the eternal debate of what’s better, indoor weed or outdoor weed? Of course if you’re a true fan of Mary Jane, the answer is “why not both?” And we completely agree. However there are major differences in both quality, cost and environmental impact so it’s worth digging into don’t you think?
Now we aren’t the experts in growing, not by a long shot! So we’ve assembled some cannabis leaders to help us unpack the arguments for team “growing weed indoors” and team “growing weed outdoors”. We won’t make a final analysis but we aim to provide you with the facts so you can. Before we introduce our expert panel we want to start with some basic terms, definitions and FAQs for the novice growers and consumers out there.
The answer to that question depends on how much you’re willing/able to invest in ventilation. If you buy a decent weed tent and vent it properly with HVAC hoses you can cut down on some (most?) of the smell. However we are talking about the sticky icky here, so it’s unlikely you’ll be able to eliminate the beautiful danky aroma. And more importantly why would you want to?
Unfortunately for mes amis in la belle province (as well as Manitobans) your government doesn’t allow for homegrow. While there was a case arguing the ban on homegrown weed with a financial penalty of up to $750, the Supreme Court found the ban was constitutional. Not being lawyers we can’t pick apart the ruling on legal grounds. However we still believe that all Canadians should be able to grow their own weed if they want to.
The good news for Ontari-ari-oh is that we are well within our rights to grow up to 4 plants at home. Now there are some exceptions to that rule, namely if you sign a lease or condo agreement that explicitly prohibits weed growing you’re on your own. However for the rest of us, we can grow indoors and outdoors so long as we have safety precautions in place. Or as the Feds say:
“You must follow all relevant provincial, territorial and municipal laws, including local bylaws, about: zoning, fire safety, electrical safety, inspection requirements, remediation requirements. Ask your local government about the specific regulations on growing cannabis to ensure you’re compliant.”
Leaving aside the slow-pokes of homegrow, Quebec and Manitoba, if you grow more than 4 plants you can face penalties ranging from fines to jail time. Here’s what a lawyer says:
“If you grow more than your allotted number of plants or produce more cannabis products than you are legally allowed to, you are required to destroy the extra plants or product. If you don’t destroy the additional plants or products, it is considered an illegal grow-op, and you could be charged.”
Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way let’s dive into the heart of this question. Again, we don’t take a position in this debate since we love both outdoor, indoor and greenhouse grown cannabis. However, we want to present the arguments and reflections from professionals to help you make your own decision. Of course, the best way to find out what’s the difference between indoor and outdoor cannabis is to try both and see what you like best!
Indoor cannabis cultivation offers growers the advantages of a controlled environment, reducing exposure to pests and diseases while allowing year-round growth. It often results in cannabis with brighter, more vivid colours, intensified flavours, dense nugs, and consistent potency. Conversely, outdoor cultivation harnesses the natural environment, which can potentially expose plants to pests, dust and debris. Some believe outdoor-grown cannabis offers unique terpene profiles due to the terroir, a concept encompassing local soil, climate, and other environmental factors. When grown in ideal conditions, outdoor cannabis can be just as potent as its indoor counterpart.
A third cultivation method, greenhouse growing, blends the benefits of both indoor and outdoor methods. Plants in a greenhouse setting enjoy natural light cycles and sun exposure while growers maintain some environmental controls, creating a balanced cultivation environment.
The debate over indoor vs. outdoor weed often boils down to personal preference. Quality, more than growing location, determines the cannabis experience. For the best results, consumers are encouraged to prioritize high-quality strains and sustainable, organic growing methods.
Misconceptions about outdoor-grown cannabis stem from historical clandestine growing practices necessitated by prohibition. Modern legal cultivation has dispelled myths suggesting that outdoor-grown cannabis is inferior. With the right conditions and care, outdoor-grown cannabis can rival, if not surpass, indoor-grown varieties in flavour, potency, and overall quality.
“I will touch on sun grown first because that’s where I started at Carmel over 4 years ago growing on a large scale in a full light assisted greenhouse. The greenhouse grower faces many environmental challenges that are avoidable in indoor settings. Without the ability to dehumidify or cool your room growers must endure extreme seasonal climate swings and even day to day at times. As Drew says “growing in a greenhouse is expert level”. Every day is a new adventure in the greenhouse and you really have to appreciate the hard work that the grow team puts to perfect their craft. It’s hard to find cultivars that we really like and are happy in the greenhouse, lots of trials that unfortunately don’t work out. But when it does you can bring resin and terpene production to another level as you can see with our Animal Face.
Indoor growing for me is such a pleasure. The ability to dial in every aspect of my grow room allows me to steer my crop exactly the way I want it to. There is no limit on the cultivars I can use, and the addition of CO2 in my rooms makes a significant difference on my yields. Every day is a perfect day in my indoor garden, and this makes my life as a grower a little bit brighter.”
Drew: Master Grower, at Carmel
“Indoor growing is a perfect day everyday. Plants love consistency and indoor growing delivers that. Set a button and forget it. You will have consistent results every time. Set up cost and electricity cost is more indoors but you have less pest and pathogen pressure.
Sungrown flower is growing on advanced level because you are dealing with the external weather everyday that will affect your growing environment indoors. The benefit to growing in a greenhouse is generally your cost of production is cheaper and you are playing with a full deck of cards, meaning you have the full spectrum of the sun. Any artificial light whether it’s hps or LED will not deliver anything close to the full spectrum of the sun. Sungrown flower is cheaper to setup and operate but is way more challenging with environment and pest/pathogen pressure.”
I’m not here to sell you on weed – if you’re reading this you’re probably already pretty convinced of its greatness. Instead I am here to sell you on growing weed the way nature intended: under the sun, in soil. Growing outside is superior to growing inside. Both the data and the vibes support this.
In terms of data: A recent study showed that outdoor grown cannabis tends to have higher levels of terpenes and minor cannabinoids than an identical plant grown indoors. Additionally, the outdoor sample degraded slower, meaning it had a longer shelf-life. What does that mean for quality? Well, a separate study, published by High Times, showed that a wider range of cannabinoids contributes to a more potent and longer lasting high than a product that contains only THC.
As for the vibes, growing outside just feels more natural. This might be something you have to experience firsthand to understand…When you walk into an indoor grow you’re assaulted by artificial light and an orchestra of mechanical noises from HVAC, dehumidification, and irrigation systems. The air often feels thick and damp. The plants may be quite pretty, but they lack a certain vigour that can only come from a life out in the elements.
In contrast, outdoor grows feel like sacred ground. Lush canopies of green complemented by the sounds of a light breeze, if you’re lucky maybe there’s a hawk soaring overhead or some deer on the edge of the field. Morning dew glistens as the first sunlight of the day hits the plants and… wait, sorry, I was reminiscing. You get the point though.
Growing outside has a much better impact on the environment than growing inside. An outdoor grow can potentially have a negative or neutral carbon footprint, while indoor grows create substantial emissions from powering lights and HVAC.
And then there’s the cost. Unsurprisingly, playing God is expensive. Cutting off the sun to then power up lights is a bit insane and will run your power bill up quickly. On top of that, you’ll also have to control the temperature and humidity. The equipment alone can cost thousands of dollars for even a small scale grow operation. Meanwhile, the sun exists and is 100% free.
If you love cannabis you should definitely grow your own sometime in your life. It’s a beautiful experience – peaceful and meditative. There’s lots of places to learn how to grow, including growweedeasy.com and Ben Owens’ The Hobbyy Grow. Indoor, outdoor, doesn’t matter – give it a shot. But know that there’s lots of ways to complicate growing, while the simplest way is to put a seed in some dirt outside and water it when it’s thirsty.
Cannabis is a unique and amazing plant because it comes in so many shapes, sizes, and grades. Unlike most fruit or vegetables, cannabis is a high-value crop, and because of the cost, most people expect a good quality or a large harvest, if not both. Thankfully, we have more than one available path for us to take. As much as I would like to say it’s one vs. the other, it’s not because they both fulfil different needs.
In my experience, most growers start with outdoor cultivation to get the concept down and understand the plant, but quickly come to realize that too much is out of their control. However, outdoor cultivation has a much lower cost than indoor because Mother Nature provides most of what’s needed. It also has more risks or factors that can go wrong, such as mould, pests, bad weather, or even pollination.
Indoor cultivation is a trade-off of issues or challenges to overcome, and that control tends to come at a cost, including factors like lighting, ventilation, grow area, and more of our time. However, it often provides a better-quality experience.
As a grower, there is no right or wrong, just the way that works best and safest for you. So, weigh the pros and cons and make your best choice. Regardless of your choice between indoor or outdoor, selecting a cultivar that will meet your desires is the first step.
Psyche! There may never be a final verdict or answer to the question of ‘what’s best indoor or outdoor weed?’. It’s a bit like asking ‘what’s the best cannabis strain or consumption method?’. One of the beautiful things about cannabis and her consumers is that we all can have a very different experience from the plant. When it comes to the question of indoor vs outdoor vs sungrown (aka greenhouse) there are strong arguments for each approach. It’s really up to the grower and the consumer to decide for themselves.
During the month of Croptober we’ve covered When to Harvest Weed, a guide on how to get the most out of your home grow. We’ve also shared professional advice on What To Do With Your Trim and how you can transform plant “waste” into delicious edibles and concentrates. We’d love to keep this series going and we’ll probably pop up with more growing advice from the pros closer to springtime. Is there anything you’d like to see us cover?
In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the fruits of your Croptober harvest and that if you need anything from accessories to fire weed, you’ll stop by one of our 4 Stok’d locations in Southwestern Ontario.