Chart of the Week: Cannabis Cultivation Methods in Oregon vs. National Breakdown

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By Becky Olson

Outdoor and greenhouse cannabis cultivation is four times more prevalent in Oregon than in the marijuana industry at large, according to data from the state and the Marijuana Business Factbook.

The difference highlights how marijuana growing methods are influenced not only by regulations, but also by other factors including geography, climate and preference.

In Oregon, 30% of the medical cannabis sold by licensed businesses is grown outdoors or in greenhouses, with the rest cultivated indoors, according to a recent survey by the state liquor control board of 180 wholesale growers, dispensaries and processors. Nationally, just 7% of commercially grown cannabis is cultivated outdoors or in greenhouses, according to the Factbook.

It’s not necessarily surprising that Oregon has a heavier concentration of cannabis grown outdoors than the national average, as many other states with medical or recreational laws only allow indoor cultivation.

The figures, however, provide a glimpse of what the breakdown might look like if more states permit outdoor grows. They also show how cultivation methods can vary significantly within a state depending on the region and highlight how a fair share of cannabis growers still prefer to grow indoors if given the choice.

Proximity to dispensaries, which are more numerous in urban areas where outdoor growing isn’t usually an option, is one of the top reasons for this preference. Additionally, indoor growing provides a lot more control over environmental conditions, can help boost the number of annual harvests and is generally believed to produce higher quality flowers.

Climate and soil conditions in the southwestern part of the state are highly conducive to outdoor cultivation, according to growers in the area. For example, the survey results show a full 32% of marijuana sold specifically in the Medford regional area of the state was grown outdoors, compared to the national average of only 6% for outdoor cultivation.

Oregon’s biggest divergence from national averages is the amount of cannabis cultivated in greenhouses, where up to 18% of cannabis sold in the Bend regional area in the eastern part of the state was cultivated with this method. The conditions there are cooler and much more desert-like where greenhouses are needed to help regulate those conditions, according to local experts.

Outdoor and greenhouse cultivation – especially “sealed greenhouses,” where conditions can be regulated but sunlight is used when available – are going to become more prevalent as environmental considerations become more important.

“In the past, people didn’t want to build huge greenhouses that could be seen from a distance,” Shane McKee, owner of Shango, a Portland dispensary. That’s changing, he said, as the state’s market matures and regulations are better defined.

Becky Olson can be reached at