Coffeeshop Rip-offs, Part 3: Bio, Hydro, Organic or what?

Before the Dutch started their own homegrown cannabis industry, most marijuana and hashish was imported from various third-world sources. Many growers in these very poor countries can't even afford fertilizer, and unless they have some livestock around to generate some, the cannabis is grown without any enhancements. Therefore, in the early days of coffeeshops, most of the marijuana was grown organically without chemicals.

With the advent of Dutch marijuana horticulture, the game changed. Now it was possible to control not just the genetics of cannabis, but the way it is grown to maximize such important things as yield, pest-resistance, and potency. Unfortunately the short growing season, lack of direct sunshine, cool temperatures and mold convinced the Dutch it would be smarter to grow indoors or in huge greenhouses.

Always on top of the latest technology, and even pioneering new breakthrus, the Dutch set high standards for breeding and growing indoors. With Europe's ever growing demand for marijuana, it was a challenge to increase yields, yet not run afoul of the ever changing Dutch laws on growing and possession of cannabis.

So the Dutch settled on growing either bio or hydro weed. Hydro weed is grown hydroponically, which means it never touches soil. Water and nutrients are fed through tubes into an artificial soil. Artificial light is provided, and a constant temperature is maintained through environmental controls. These systems can be so complex and highly automated that the grower can watch and maintain a growroom(s) from the otherside of the world via cellphone or the internet!

So basically Hydro weed is grown under completely artificial conditions (often using "sea of green" techniques) and fed a specially balanced nutrient cocktail to maximize growth. There is little that is "natural" about hydro weed. But as anyone can tell you, it can be very, very potent! That is if it hasn't been "shaken" several times before you get it (see Part 2 in our series on Coffeeshop Rip-offs).

Then there's bio weed. Technically, anything sold in Holland with the term "bio" is supposed to be grown organically. This is true for produce or packaged products purchased in the market. But for weed that doesn't apply. Bio simply means it was grown in real soil, as opposed to using hydroponics techniques. It doesn't even mean it was grown outdoors, as you might hope. It might even have gotten it's start as young sprout in rockwool, which some people detest, but is now the norm for all starts.

The label hydro or bio gives no indication about the use of chemicals in the growing process. It doesn't tell you whether the plant was fertilized with organic matter or a chemical stew. It doesn't indicate whether the plant was treated with pesticides, or some natural form of control like predators. For all you know that bag of bud you purchased could've been treated with a melange of chemicals that could really affect you in unpredictable ways.

In fact there's always been stories that a lot of cannabis gets coated with hairspray after harvest and before sale to make it seem fresher and more sticky/resinous. I can't really confirm or deny whether this is current practice, although in the past I've smoked Nederwiet* that sure tasted like it'd been sprayed with some kind of chemicals (it could've been pesticides).

So where does that leave someone who likes to consume organic weed, without chemicals having been used in the growing? Good luck! A few coffeeshops, notably the Greenhouse, have advertised no pesticides in the pot they sell. Whether this is true or not is open to speculation. Unless they have complete control over every variety of weed they sell, it's unlikely they can guarantee anything. The Greenhouse does grow much of it's own weed and has it's own seed company, so they have one of the best reputations. However they don't claim all their weed is totally organic. So although no pesticides were used, chemicals may have been used in the fertilizer to enhance growth.

So unless you know the grower yourself, you're likely to be consuming a chemical cocktail with your cannabis. This is because Dutch weed is often attacked by predators and mold and must be treated at several points in the growth cycle.

The easy and cheap way, especially if you're growing a lot is to use chemicals. Ideally these chemicals should be flushed out of the plant with a minimum of several days of extra watering (flushing) before harvesting. But in the rush for profits this is rarely done properly anymore.

Indeed, the Dutch refuse to cure their pot, selling it still wet, which makes for good rolling in tobacco laced joints, but making it impossible for pure cannabis joints to hold a light. And of course selling uncured pot means it's heavier, thus again making it more profitable for both coffeeshops and growers.

I can state that there are some growers out there who specialize in organic weed. But finding such natural cannabis is very difficult as the demand outstrips the supply. And very little makes it to the coffeeshops. You can ask for it, but again there's no guarantee as the Dutch themselves don't seem to think it makes much of a difference. It's primarily tourists and expats who want organic marijuana.

So my advice is to ask for organic pot if that is your preference. If you can't get it go somewhere else. Let them know you prefer organic, and if enough people request it, perhaps the Dutch will get the message. Until then caveat emptor! Buyer beware!

* Although I refer to the fresh cannabis sold in coffeeshops as Nederwiet (the Dutch term), much of it is no longer grown in the Netherlands, but rather in Switerland or Spain! The Dutch have cracked down on big grow operations in the Netherlands, and it may actually be a good thing since the Swiss and the Spanish grow more marijuana outdoors in real soil and sunshine. So I hereby christen cannabis of uncertain European origin, "Europot!"

Note: A lot of confusion exists as to whether any given sample of marijuana is bio, hydro or organically grown. Here's what those terms mean in practice and how to tell the difference.

Coffeeshop Rip-offs, Part 3: Bio, Hydro, Organic or what?
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