As more people find cannabis to be a suitable therapeutic alternative in their quest for better qualities of life, cultivation efforts will continue to grow. The sheer scale of the global industry is monumental, and couldn’t come at a better time. But the thing is, our Earth has already undergone damaging climatic changes and pollution, and we need to do our best to mitigate further planetary stress.
Several traditional industries also are extreme polluters, including energy, transportation, agriculture, and fashion sectors. Scientists and innovators around the globe are currently looking for ways to ameliorate the detrimental effects these industries have had on our planet. From synthetic dye runoff that spills into natural water sources, to “forever chemicals” like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) that have poisoned nearly all of us, to ever rising carbon dioxide levels, it’s a very sobering question to ask how much more our Earth can take?
And now, world governments are repealing decades worth of Reefer Madness lunacy, granting us this opportunity for the cannabis industry to progress. As conscientious as so many are in this industry, we can do our planet great justice by finding every possible angle to be sustainable and to leave the earth better than we found it.
To that end, I recently spoke with Dylan Ball, CEO and founder of Crescendo Farms. At the height of Dylan’s amateur professional ski career at 19 years old, he became extremely ill. Dylan was diagnosed with a rare systemic disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis, causing extreme deterioration of his joints and spine. Doctors utilized traditional pharmaceuticals to treat him, to no avail. One of those pharmaceuticals, called methotrexate, was an oral chemotherapy agent and immune system suppressant. Debilitating pain, extreme inflammation, immune response suppression, and an inability to eat made him realize these pharmaceuticals were rapidly killing him. Extensive research while working at a medical dispensary led Dylan to cannabis and the endocannabinoid system. Inspired by what he was seeing in the medical dispensary, he started growing his own cannabis and ingesting the full-spectrum extract through a bioavailable oil each morning. After two months, his pain was manageable, inflammation throughout his body was decreased drastically, he regained full physical function, and was able to eat again. Given that Dylan grew up in agriculture and a town that produces 75% of the nation’s hops and 90% of the world’s apples, Dylan is now on a mission to become the main wholesale supplier of premium quality cannabis at a low-cost.
Jason S. Lupoi, Ph.D.: What does cannabis mean to you on a personal level?
Dylan Ball: Cannabis means everything to me. Personally, having such an in-depth medical experience with cannabis, I feel extremely passionate about this plant and feel it is my moral obligation to make the highest quality cannabis available to the masses at a reasonable cost.
The three things that form the foundation of my dedication to cannabis are simple: equitable access to health, environmental innovation, and conscious living. The introduction of cannabis as a medical option paves the way toward equitable access to healthy living for generations to come. Discovery of the endocannabinoid system has uncovered a potential lock and key system for our overall health. Second, cannabis has played a huge role in pushing for more environmental innovation like regenerative cultivation, which is key to maintaining quality and sustainability. Finally, and put very simply, this plant has the ability to provide a different, more positive perspective that leads to the practice of living consciously.
JSL: With so much cannabis needed to help the multitudes of people who can benefit from the plant, how important is it to our planet that we practice sustainable cannabis cultivation?
DB: It is incredibly important that cannabis cultivation be as sustainable as possible. Our focus on regenerative agriculture reduces our reliance on outside inputs such as nutrients, pesticides, and beneficial insects while producing some of the highest quality product on the market.
JSL: What are some of the main cultivation practices that would enable a cannabis farm to be considered as “sustainable”?
DB: This is a tough one because it really is a multitude of practices that come together to create the regenerative ecosystem. Some of the general practices include taking soil tests and addressing the soil instead of the plant itself. If the soil is well balanced, nurtured, and sustained through cover crops, the plant will have everything it needs. On top of this, maintaining specific cover crops like oats and clover as well as native plants in your area help provide a home for the beneficial insects which reduce integrated pest management sprays. This allows us to work with nature and not harm the local beneficial insects that work with our crop. For instance, we work with an entomologist from Washington State University who has helped us identify the native beneficial insects for our area (Galendromus and Fallacis). We also work around the specific native weeds in our area that harbor 95% of the local beneficials allowing us to create a beneficial oasis before planting.
JSL: How expensive is it to implement sustainable cultivation practices?
DB: The funny thing is, with regenerative cultivation, your cost of production drops drastically. Conventional farming over-fertilizes the soil or general media pushing synthetic nutrients down into the groundwater that eventually end up in the ocean, which plays a large role in global warming.
JSL: How low can the price of wholesale cannabis be driven?
DB: That is honestly a great question. With the heavy competition and as the industry consolidates and commoditizes, I would imagine the price of cannabis can drop drastically from where it is now (approximately $500/lb) and that it will continue to do so over the next few years.
JSL: What are some of the main challenges that cannabis farmers face, and how do those challenges augment with increased scale?
DB: Some of the main challenges farmers face are reducing their cost of production and maintaining quality. As you scale, you will find areas that need to be focused on that previously did not need attention. It’s funny how a solution to a problem will most likely generate a new problem in another area. Scaling is not easy and takes a lot of experience, strategy, forethought, and adaptability. For example, when cultivating at a small scale, you may be able to deleaf plants or water by hand. When scaling, deleafing becomes scarce and large-scale irrigation systems are a must.
JSL: With large cannabis corporations gobbling up many of the smaller entities, how do you think this will change the cannabis landscape in the future? How can a cannabis farm best differentiate themselves from the masses?
DB: I believe it is inevitable… the market will be flooded with a middle-quality product that will drop the overall average price of cannabis per pound. Just like any other commodity, the price drops over time and will stabilize at the new “normal”. I think the best way to differentiate yourself is to grow the highest quality product you can possibly produce. There is an extremely interesting connoisseur in the cannabis industry who is always seeking out the highest quality cannabis in the world. As they say, “quality always sells.”