It is believed that most of the cannabis used recreationally in the USA is cultivated in California. There are a number of reasons for this, which we shall look at in this article. Before we talk about that, it’s worth looking at a brief history of cannabis cultivation in America.
Hemp was first grown in the USA by the English settlers of Jamestown, who were instructed to grow it for export by King James I of England. Since then, it has been grown – as have many other strains of the cannabis plant family – almost continually in various parts of the USA.
In California, the first crops of cannabis are known to have been grown in or around 1795, and production reached 220,000 pounds of hemp by as soon as 1810. Why was California such a popular place to grow cannabis?
Climate and Environment
Back then, the discovery that the Californian climate was perfect for growing cannabis out of doors was a major boost to the hemp industry. Cannabis plants enjoy a Mediterranean climate. This requires warm or hot summers and mild falls, which are found on the West Coast of the USA in California, Oregon and parts of Washington. These areas have traditionally been the home of cannabis production in the USA.
A boost to the industry was also brought about by California deciding to decriminalize possession of cannabis in 1975, being the first state to do so. This is not to be confused with legalizing it, which has only happened very recently. It meant that small possession of small amounts was now treated as a civil offence, the punishment being a relatively small fine.
A further boost to the cannabis growing industry in the state came about in 1996, when California again took the first step in the USA and legalized the use of medical marijuana. At first it could be prescribed only by a physician, but it was not long before patients with certain conditions were permitted to cultivate their own plants.
The Emerald Triangle
California’s reputation as the leading producer of cannabis in the USA began in the 1960’s – think of the hippie movement and the legendary ‘Summer of Love’ in San Francisco in 1967 – and very soon came the emergence of what is now known as The Emerald Triangle. This is a region consisting of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity Counties, and it is where most of the Californian cannabis is cultivated.
Once the growing of medical cannabis was legalized, business in the Emerald Triangle boomed, and it became the region’s main industry. It remains so today, so much so that local people consider cannabis very much part of their lives. It was here that a major change in the cultivation of cannabis was perfected, and it’s one that drives the industry today.
During the 1960’s, some Californian growers had developed a new method of growing cannabis. This they named ‘sinsemilla’ – it means ‘without seeds’ – and it changed the industry for good. The method involves removing the male plants before they can pollinate the females. The result of this is cannabis that is far more powerful than if the male plants had been left in place. This method was perfected in the Emerald Triangle in around 1975 – who originally thought of it is unknown – and led to a major boom in the popularity and reputation of the region’s cannabis.
California and Cannabis Today
Such is the scale of cannabis production in California that it was reckoned, in 2010, that around 80% of the cannabis consumed across the USA came from Californian growers. With the recent spate of legalization in various states – and with more set to follow as laws are relaxed in more places – the demand for cannabis will likely rise. This is a bonus to the growers in the Emerald Triangle, and elsewhere in California.
It remains the perfect state in which to grow cannabis outdoors – and there are many indoor production centers too – thanks to the continued perfect climate and suitable all-round environment. One thing that will be of concern to growers, however, is that California laws now allow for anyone to cultivate up to six plants at a time in their own home. How many will choose to do so when the product is now available to buy legally remains to be seen.