How will medical marijuana be grown?
Here are details from medical cannabis advocate Russ Cersosimo Jr., director of strategic alliances for the Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society, on what to expect from Pennsylvania's budding medical marijuana crops.
- Expect “growing rooms that are designed to maintain constant environmental conditions” like temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide, and “closed-loop systems” that lessen the potential for contaminants like pests and mold spores, he said.
- Expect UV lighting and filters to reduce the potential for mold, bacteria, mildew and fungal outbreaks and carbon filters to be used for odor control: “As the industry has matured, we have seen the introduction of greenhouses.”
- The cultivation process begins with propagation, also known as cloning. Cuttings are taken from a “mother” plant and inserted into a material such as rock wool.
- Once the cuttings are completely rooted, the plants are repotted for the vegetative stage. This stage requires the plant to be under a cycle of 18 hours of lights on and six hours of lights off.
- Next, the plants are re-potted for an additional stage of vegetative growth. During this stage, the plant is prepared for the flowering cycle.
- The flower phase is when the plant transitions to a cycle of 12 hours of lights on and 12 hours of lights off. The flowering phase is when the plant produces medicine for patients, Cersosimo said.
- Once the flowering plants have fully matured, they can be harvested, trimmed, dried, cured and packaged.
- The average time frame for growing is anywhere from five months to six months, Cersosimo said.
- He expects the marijuana to be processed in large, commercial-grade machines costing anywhere from $100,000 up to $700,000.
- Once the plants are harvested, equipment such as “Supercritical Fluid Extraction Systems” are used to extract chemical compounds, using supercritical carbon dioxide instead of an organic solvent. This process involves manipulating the temperature and pressure to extract oils found within the plant, explained Ron Smalley, a partner with Cersosimo in the Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society.
The marijuana will be sold only at dispensaries in the form of pills, oil, topical treatment or a liquid form that can be vaporized and inhaled, officials have said.