Growing cannabis at home is legal in Colorado, but some of the weed we've seen harvested from basements should be outlawed. Seeds, pests, mold and larf are all common challenges faced by inexperienced cultivators, and can result in poor smell and taste, as well as waste a lot of time and money most of us don't have.
Tyler Morley and Jeremy Deale, two commercial cannabis cultivators in Colorado, believe they've created an online cannabis curriculum, the Chronic Method, that will help home growers avoid those costly, buzz-killing issues. Similar to the Three a Light method, the course gives growers step-by-step instructions from seed to harvest, and the duo makes pretty bold claims on the strategy's success rate.
We recently sat down with Morley and Deale to learn more about the Chronic Method, and how growers can maximize their yields.
Westword: How did you each end up becoming cannabis growers?
Tyler Morley: I'm from Virginia, and I grew up in agricultural areas; I was working at golf courses when I was fifteen. Then my cousin moved to Breckenridge in 2009. So I graduated high school, got my associate's and then got my agricultural degree from Virginia Tech. Two years later, I hit up my cousin to visit him for a ski trip, and that's where I met one of his colleagues, Nick. I struck up a good relationship with this guy through my cousin over the next few years.
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I kind of wanted to change my life, and didn't want to be in the golf industry anymore, but I still wanted to stay in agriculture. ... Right after Colorado went legal, Nick asked me to come out and work for him. I moved out here in 2015, started at a facility in Aurora that is now called Treehouse, and moved my way up the ladder there. Then I went to Super Farm and was a manager over there and helped their buildouts. I've built out and started up some initial facilities here in Denver, and was lucky enough to be on the ground floor. I've really loved it ever since.
Jeremy Deale: My introduction to cannabis was through my uncles, who were into a lot of things. But one of them actually grew his own crop in Fort Collins. I was, like, fourteen and on my way up to an Iron Maiden concert the first time I was ever around it. Fort Collins just seemed to be a hot environment in the ’80s and ’90s for cannabis. I played a lot of soccer, so I wasn't a big smoker, but I was always around it. And, like Tyler, my family is farmers. I grew up with my grandparents, and both of them were farmers.
So in the early 2000s, I'm remodeling kitchens, and one of the guys I'm working with is Pete Williams, the co-founder of Medicine Man. Long story short, my friend and I helped Pete get his start in the cannabis world.
My wife made me leave the industry for four or five years, so I was helping caregivers and home growers get set up around that time. I met Josh Haupt of Three a Light through a mutual friend, and they offered me a job at the beginning, based on my experience. Through my relationship with Pete Williams, I actually set Medicine Man and Three a Light up together [Morley worked there, too]. Then, after the merger, Tyler and I walked into work, and we didn't have jobs. That's why we started the Chronic Method.
What made you so confident about this growing process that you wanted to share it with others?
Deale: We know it works, because we worked it for over two years straight. It's the top production method on the planet right now.
Morley: Back when the black market was at its strongest, it was damaging the recreational market. Not even a year ago, indoor pounds were going for $650. People who don't grow the quantity nor the quality that Three a Light, Medicine Man, Super Farm or Pioneer — the largest producer of cannabis in the world — grows can't survive, because they don't have the methodology to produce those pounds for less than $600.
This methodology is going to save peoples' asses on the legal market, and it's going to save a lot of home growers from headaches and problems in their basements. Jeremy and I have had our hands in over 6,000 pounds of harvest during a 24-month period. When Sweet Leaf was at its full capacity, our 33,000-square-foot facility was outproducing their 100,000-square-foot facility by almost 30 percent. At the end of the day, it's all numbers, and if the market plummets again, some people might not survive it.
Deale: Most average growers can get a pound and a half to two pounds per light. This method is used to grow three, four or as high as five pounds per light, depending on environment. If you're not including trim — which is a sellable and usable product — I've still seen three or four pounds of flower per light. If you're trying to make your own medicine as a home grower, those extra pounds could save you from running cycles year-round. It's a little more expensive up front, but the production pays for itself tenfold.
A lot of reasons that a first-timer wouldn't try out growing is because they're afraid the crop will die, get attacked by bugs, or something dumb will happen that they can't react to. This is a crash course in cannabis that will eliminate those problems.
How does this technique differ if you're in a basement compared to a large-scale operation?
Deale: The only difference is really space and the number of plants. You can do it with one plant, two plants, 200 plants or 400 plants. The guidelines break it down so there's no interpretation.
Morley: There are five factors when growing any plant: light, water, air, nutrients and soil. As long as you hit those five things and do everything we say, you can be indoor, commercial, residential or even a greenhouse.
The method applies to outside, too. You'd get close to the same results in a greenhouse or outdoors, but you won't have the same light intensity. So the production would vary from crop to crop outside, but it's still the best yield you'd get outside.
In terms of difficulty, what would you compare growing cannabis to? Is it harder to grow than most vegetables or maintaining a small pet?
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Deale: If you're indoors, it'd be the same as growing cucumbers or tomatoes indoors. It does take some time and commitment to maintenance, but like anything else, you get in what you put out.
How much have cannabis growing techniques and equipment changed in the past five years?
Morley: The equipment just keeps getting better. Not a whole lot of methodology is changing, but the equipment really is. A lot of it has to do with lighting: A lot of people think that nutrients is the plant's food. And it is, but it's more of a supplement. Photosynthesis and light is how the plant gets real food. Trying to mimic the sun is hard to do, so we've seen a lot of lighting companies coming out with full-spectrum tech and the most efficient bulbs to get the most bang for your buck. The equipment is constantly evolving, and it's something to stay on top of.
Deale: The industry hasn't been legal long enough for us to really say anything definitive. You can't tell people that this person is a master grower, because no one has hit the ceiling yet. No one knows what the full potential is. There are some really, really good growers out there, no doubt. Josh Haupt, the Jungle Boys, Pioneer — those are all really good growers who can hit those high numbers.
But methodology is just part of it. Equipment and science keep getting better. We're looking at soil humidity and leaf surface temperature now. We're able to see bugs days before the physical eye can see them. The technology that's in this is changing so much, but I don't think the way people have grown agriculture overall has changed much. People still grow carrots the same way they did thousands of years ago. It's pretty much the same, but we just try to accentuate it and keep adding variables to make this equation the best. That's where our heads were at with the Chronic Method. It literally walks growers through this.