Growing Marijuana From Seed Outdoors

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Growing cannabis outdoors can be a rewarding. Read on so that you can enjoy homegrown bud, even if this is your very first gardening experience! Growing marijuana outdoors has many advantages! We've asked the experts and here are reasons why you should consider growing weed outside. With many states legalizing it, backyard gardeners are starting to cultivate plants outdoors. Here are helpful tips for how to grow marijuana.

How to Grow Weed Outdoors, A Beginner’s Guide

Growing cannabis outdoors can be a rewarding, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly experience. Read on so that you can enjoy homegrown bud, even if this is your very first gardening experience.

Is Growing Marijuana Legal?

If medical marijuana is legal in your state, your medical marijuana card may authorize you to grow cannabis. However, there are a handful of medical marijuana states that do not authorize home grows. The same variance exists in states that have legalized cannabis for recreational use. Legal cannabis doesn’t necessarily mean legal home grows. If your state does allow you to grow your own weed, you’ll have to make sure your outdoor grow is hidden from public view. Building a fence around your cannabis garden is a good way to comply with that requirement. It also protects your plant from animals and thieves.

Choosing a Strain

The strain you grow depends on your environment. Generally speaking, sativas are ideal for tropical climates with longer growing seasons. Indicas are a good fit for regions with shorter growing seasons and temperature variance. However, there are many hybrids bred to thrive in specific conditions. As you peruse different strains, choose one that the outdoor climate you live in can accommodate. Another aspect to consider is whether you want to grow an auto-flowering or photoperiod strain. Autoflowering strains flower only a few weeks after they germinate regardless of the light cycle. Photoperiod strains flower when days become shorter than nights. Autoflowering strains tend to be smaller and produce fewer yields because they don’t have as much time to develop as photoperiod strains. Autoflowering strains are more popular with novice growers because they require no light manipulation whereas photoperiod strains sometimes do.

The Cannabis Growing Season

The dates of your growing season depending on your climate. Most cannabis plants will take about 70 – 150 days to grow from seed to harvest. Knowing that range and the length of the strain’s vegetative stage can help you determine when to start growing outdoors. Cannabis needs lots of sun during the vegetative stage. They shift to the flowering phase once the light cycle provides more uninterrupted darkness than light. This starts happening after the summer solstice. The vegetative stage can last anywhere from 3 to 11 weeks depending on the strain. Count back from the summer solstice the length of your strain’s vegetative stage for an idea of when to start your seeds. If your cannabis plant’s vegetative stage lasts 11 weeks, for example, you should start your seeds in early April. If you live in a cooler climate, it might be too cold outside for you to start your seeds outdoors that early in the spring. In that case, you can start your seeds indoors and then transplant them outside once the temperatures are consistently warm enough.

Seeds vs Clones

Clones are cuttings of existing cannabis plants. Plants grown from seed are generally healthier and hardier because they’ve experienced less stress than clones. However, seeds are less predictable than clones. If your clone comes from a female cannabis plant with an ideal phenotype, you know exactly what kind of bud it will produce. On the other hand, seeds might be male. Male plants do not produce flowers. If you buy feminized seeds, you shouldn’t have to worry about growing male plants. If you do grow a male, make sure to keep it separated from females. If a male pollinates a female, the female plant will prioritize seed over potent flower production.

Ideal Outdoor Climate

The ideal temperature for growing cannabis plants hovers around 70 degrees F. Temperatures above 85 degrees will stunt cannabis growth while temperatures below 55 degrees F will kill the plants. Cannabis plants also like about 50-55% humidity. More than that can lead to mold growth. Too little humidity can dry out the plants more quickly than they can rehydrate from their roots. Your plants will thrive if they get at least 7 hours of direct sunlight light each day. Keep this in mind as you decide where to place them. Mild wind is good for your plants. It strengthens their stems and dries off excess moisture. However, high winds can be damaging. If you live in a region subject to occasional volatile winds, consider placing your plants near windbreakers like trees, bushes, walls, or fences.

Containers vs Inground

Whether you plant inground or in a container depends on the quality of your inground soil. If you have great soil, planting weed inground gives your plants plenty of room to grow. It also exposes them to beneficial microbial life and the best soil companions of all—worms. However, if your soil quality is low or you have limited outdoor space, planting cannabis in a container is a great way to grow cannabis outdoors. Grow bags are pots made with cloth. These containers provide excellent drainage, don’t get too hot, and tend to last longer than plastic pots. Smaller plants will do well in a 5-gallon pot, but the more space you can provide, the more room for roots. A 10-gallon container should provide plenty of space for one plant.

The Best Soil for Weed

Like most plants, cannabis likes fertilized, well-draining soil. Cannabis roots use water to uptake nutrients through their root system. Those nutrients are used to help the plant grow. Soil that can’t hold on to water will make it difficult for plants to get the nutrients they need. Soil that holds on to too much water can smother the roots and lead to root rot. The growing medium you use should be crumbly and contain a good mixture of silt, sand, and organic matter like wood chips and compost. It can contain aerating material like peat moss, coco coir, vermiculite, and perlite. Cannabis plants thrive in soils with an acidity range of 5.5-6.5 PH. The growing medium should contain nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium (NPK). During the vegetative stage, you will need more nitrogen. During the flowering stage, you will need more phosphorous and potassium. When growing cannabis outdoors, the sky’s the limit. Your plants will have much more room to get as bountiful as their root systems allow. Here’s everything you need to know to keep your outdoor cannabis plants alive.

Germination and the Seedling Phase

If you live in a warmer climate, you may be able to start your seeds directly outdoors. However, seedlings do not have the strength to resist volatile winds, temperature shocks, and diseases. Starting seeds indoors can protect them from these elements. If you live in a region with night temperatures dropping lower than 55 degrees, you will need to start your seeds indoors. Colder temperatures will kill seedlings. To plant the seeds, poke a hole into the soil or potting mix about an inch deep. Place one seed in each hole. Cover the hole with soil, tamp it down, and water. Seeds need moisture to germinate, so keep the soil evenly damp. The seeds should germinate in 5-10 days. Once the seedlings have popped through the soil, carefully monitor your watering. Water the seedling when the topsoil looks dry. Too much water will kill a seedling either through root rot or by encouraging mold and fungal growth. When seedlings sprout through the soil, they quickly unfurl two leaves with smooth edges. These are called seed leaves. They don’t look anything like the serrated, multi-bladed fan leaves weed is famous for. Those leaves are considered true leaves. Cannabis seedlings do not need nutrients until they’ve grown 3-4 sets of true leaves. Keep seedlings under a grow light for about 18 hours each day. You can also keep them on a sunny windowsill.

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Transplant Cannabis Seedlings Outdoors

Once night-time temperatures are consistently above 55 degrees F, you can transplant your seedlings outdoors in a location that will receive at least 8 hours of direct light, and 18 hours of light in general. Ideally, your plants will be nearing the end of the seedling phase (about 2-3 weeks after germination) by the time you are ready to transplant them. About a week leading up to transplant, you should harden your seedlings to prepare them for life outdoors. Place them in a shaded area for a few hours each day. Then bring them back indoors. After a couple of days of doing this, place them in direct sun for an hour. The next day, increase the time in direct sun to two hours. Then three hours. By the end of the week, your plants should be hardened and ready for transplant. Whether you’re transplanting your seedlings to a raised garden bed, the ground, or a large pot, you need to prepare the soil. One 10-gallon pot per plant is a safe size, but the bigger the pot, the bigger the plant. Mix the fertilizer into the soil and then soak the soil with water. Before you remove the seedling from its small container for the transplant, lightly water the soil. This will keep the roots from drying out during the transplant process. It’s beneficial for the cannabis plant’s root system to bury the seedlings up to the first node—the point on the stem where a set of serrated leaves grows. Roots will grow out of the stem where it is buried in soil.

Fertilizing and Watering Your Plant

Cannabis needs nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium (NPK) and micronutrients to grow and flower. Nitrogen is especially important during the vegetative phase while potassium and phosphorous are important for flowering. There are plenty of organic fertilizer options that will provide these nutrients. Cannabis roots can absorb these nutrients best if the growing medium is at an acidity level of 5.5-6.5 pH. Yellowing, stunted plants may be nutrient deficient. Cannabis leaves with brown edges may have nitrogen burn—an excess of nutrients. As with nutrients, you will have to monitor your cannabis plants daily to determine how much water they need. When it gets hot outside, you may need to water your plants up to two times a day. In more temperate climates, watering them once a day or even once a week may be enough. If you stick your finger about an inch deep into the soil and it comes out dry, you should water your plants. Likewise, if you notice algae growth or an infestation of fungus gnats, you may need to decrease the water. Water your plants from the bottom. Wet flowers and leaves encourage mold and pathogens. You can cover your plants with plastic tents to shield them from excessive rain.

Pruning Your Cannabis Plants

It’s a good idea to prune leaves that are touching or close to touching the soil. These leaves are susceptible to diseases that can spread throughout the plant. Pruning yellowing, dead, or infected leaves allows the plant to divert energy and nutrients to its healthiest parts. Topping is another pruning strategy you can use to optimize your harvest and control your plant’s height. Once your plant has developed 4-5 nodes, you can make a clean cut to the top of the cannabis plant. This encourages the development of side shoots, which you can top again in about 2 weeks. These side shoots will become new colas, which means a greater flower yield. Do not top during the flowering phase.

Common Cannabis Pests and How to Stop Them

There are all kinds of insects and animals that like to eat parts of the cannabis plant when growing outdoors. Spider mites, aphids, caterpillars, fungus gnats, rats, mice, deer, cats, and rabbits enjoy the occasional nibble of weed. You can protect your plants from larger pests by keeping them enclosed in fences. Small statues of owls, eagles, or other birds of prey might deter mice and rabbits from your garden. Mint and lavender plants deter rodents and other insects. Certain companion plants like dill, yarrow, and chamomile can attract beneficial insects like ladybugs, beetles, and wasps. These bugs will kill cannabis-eating insects for you. As will spiders, an insect that needs no invitation to show up. The most important thing you can do to protect your cannabis plant is keep it properly watered and fed. A healthy cannabis plant can tolerate a few bug bites. Remember, cannabis has survived outdoors for thousands of years. Give your plant the best environment possible, and let nature do its thing.

Author
Dianna Benjamin

Dianna Benjamin specializes in writing health-related cannabis articles for Wikileaf. She is a freelance writer, teacher, wife, and mom, horrified and fascinated by social justice and our inability–yet constant pursuit–to get it right.

Why you should grow marijuana outdoors (and how)

It may seem that growing marijuana outdoors is fraught with challenges and risks which is why some growers prefer to grow indoors. But with some preparation and effort, outdoor growing can be more rewarding and satisfying.

Information about growing marijuana outdoors

While it may seem like growing indoors is more private, this is not necessarily true. The same goes for the yield you can expect from grow rooms. Sometimes, even when a grower can control all the variables, it’s still difficult to get a bountiful harvest. So, even though indoor growing sounds convenient, it still has its drawbacks.

Outdoor growing, on the other hand, has many unexpected advantages. Here are some reasons why you should consider growing weed outside.

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The benefits of growing marijuana outdoors

Despite the increased control on the growing variables in an indoor setup, growing marijuana outdoors still has many advantages – to the environment, the plant, and the grower.

Reasons to grow marijuana outdoors

There are many reasons to grow marijuana outdoors, here are five of them.

Environment-friendly

With the popularity of indoor growing comes the excessive consumption of energy. Grow rooms require lights, ventilation systems, and other equipment that eat up a lot of electricity.

In California, estimates show that a single household uses up as much as 8% of energy growing marijuana. That’s roughly using 200 pounds of coal to produce a pound of weed.

In contrast, outdoor growing needs only the sun, air, and water to thrive. It does not produce any carbon footprint, and it even contributes to the dynamics of the ecosystem. So, if we want to save the planet, the outdoor option is the better choice.

High-quality buds

Blessed by the sun, natural soil, and fresh air, outdoor cannabis develops a distinct flavor. It is often nothing like the ones grown indoors. As such, some weed enthusiasts even swear that they can taste the earthy essence in strains grown outdoors.

Buds are marijuana grower’s prized possesion. Curious how to maximize buds? Just read “How to grow huge marijuana buds“

Aside from its pleasant aroma, a home grower knows they are producing top-notch buds merely because they are the ones tending it. Poor quality weed is harsh to smoke and may give a bad headache instead of a good high. Therefore, it’s way better to plant our own vibrant green buds that are safer and provide more satisfaction.

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Incredibly cheap and effortless

One of the obvious benefits of growing weed outdoors is the free sun. The plants get unlimited sunshine that is many times better than grow lights. Also free are the infinite supply of fresh air, carbon dioxide, and rainwater. As we know, these are all the elements that the hardy marijuana plant needs to flourish.

Growing outdoors also doesn’t require that much expertise. You only need good seeds and the proper care to germinate them. Once they sprout, they can technically grow by themselves, but, of course, you’re going to do more than that. Even with the least amount of effort, however, you’re going to get something.

Larger cannabis yields

Growing outdoors will most definitely lead to huge buds and an overall higher yield. With the help of the sun and carbon dioxide, the plants will grow extra-large leaves. This, in turn, will help accumulate more energy to produce huge buds.

Assuming that we have a secure location, a plant can grow larger than 180 cm. With this size, it can potentially produce around 500 g of dried buds. With just 5 to 7 plants that are this size, you have a year’s worth of supply of high-quality weed. For patients who use marijuana for medication, this type of yield is especially useful. Obviously, growing plants that are this enormous would be impossible indoors.

Safer for the grower

As we know, security is the main issue when growing cannabis outdoors. Again, this is the primary reason why cannabis cultivation shifted indoors. However, a suitable outdoor location can be even more secure than keeping the plants inside our homes.

Why is this the case? Ownership of an outdoor garden is tougher to trace than an indoor one. You can always deny it if caught, preventing the worry of being charged with a crime. You cannot do that as easily when growing indoors.

These reasons show how growing outdoors is better for both the plant and the growers. If being cheaper, more relaxing, and safer isn’t enough to convince you, being incredibly easier might. Just like any other gardening skill, you need patience and knowledge to be successful, but once you do, growing outdoors can be a walk in the park.

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Getting started growing outdoors

Now that you know why you should grow marijuana outdoors, it’s time to learn how to get started.

Depending on where you live, you can plant marijuana outside in the late spring all the way through to the middle of July. Planting earlier basically ensures a much bigger plant. Starting late can prevent plants from getting too large before flowering begins.

Factors to consider when growing cannabis outdoors

When growing marijuana outdoors, you must account for the impact of latitude on day length. There are also ways you can try to maximize plant growth and yield.

The plants can be grown directly in the ground where they generally do very well, or they can be grown in five- to twenty-gallon containers. Plants growing in larger containers will naturally produce more bud.

The lengthening nights of the late summer trigger the plant’s flowering stage. Some varieties will cease growing vegetatively almost instantly, but others could continue growing and quadruple in size.

It generally takes between 55 and 70 days for the buds to mature after the plants have started flowering.

When the plant starts flowering, switch the fertilizer to a bloom formula so that the plants will acquire nutrients needed for larger buds.

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Marijuana plants switch to flowering when the uninterrupted dark period passes the minimum amount of time. This period varies by variety and is usually between 8 and 11 hours. If your plants respond to a shorter dark period, they are early season varieties. Plants that respond to a longer dark period are, of course, late-season varieties. Outdoor plants with a short dark period are best suited to higher latitudes.

The effect of latitude

When growing marijuana, you must account for the impact of latitude on day length. For example, June 21 is the longest day and shortest night of the year. As you can see, Boston’s night length is 1 hour and 12 minutes shorter than San Diego’s.

San Diego St. Louis Boston
Dusk to dawn lasts 8 hours and 44 minutes. Dusk to dawn lasts 8 hours and 3 minutes. Dusk to dawn lasts 7 hours and 32 minutes.

Early season varieties growing at lower latitudes (such as San Diego) will be induced to flower early in the season and will remain small even during the maturation process. The generally shorter nights during the summer at high latitudes (such as Boston) give the plants a chance to grow before they flower. A late-season variety growing in the north might trigger late in the season but won’t get a chance to develop mature buds. It will not trigger during the early summer in low latitudes, but it will flower earlier as a result of the longer nights and milder climate.

Marijuana’s different flowering habits and the varieties that produce them have led to many strategies for growing. In northern areas, short-season varieties are needed to ensure that plants mature before the weather turns.

By contrast, gardeners in the south grow long season varieties during the summer that ripen in the fall. Certain short-season varieties will start to flower soon (a month or so after the summer solstice) and will be ready for harvest in early autumn.

If short-season varieties are not provided with extended exposure to daylight, they will not grow large enough to produce much of a yield. Long season varieties can be planted in the fall to mature a few months after planting.

In areas that tend to stay warm throughout the year, sativas and sativa-indica varieties can be planted in the fall. They will continue growing into the winter as they flower and will be ready in about 70 to 80 days after planting.

Understanding what you should grow in your climate is one way to enjoy the higher yield potentials of outside grows. Here are some more tips to help you successfully grow outdoors:

Pruning

Pruning is sometimes needed to keep marijuana plants at a manageable size. When the main stem is cut, the lower branches increase in size, and the plant grows several other strong branches.

When these are pruned, the plant becomes bushier and puts less emphasis on growing taller. Plants with the main stem clipped will produce greater yields than unclipped plants.

Cannabis fertilizer

Fertilize the plant with vegetable fertilizer mix or liquid, or use a hydroponic, vegetative formula to maximize plant growth and yield. Follow directions precisely or use less fertilizer than suggested. Never use more than the recommended amount as it can throw chemical balances out of order.

How to Grow Marijuana Outdoors

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical or legal advice. While the cultivation, possession, distribution, and use of marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes may be legal in certain areas, growing marijuana is illegal under U.S. federal law and in certain states and countries. Readers should consult the local and federal laws in their jurisdiction and qualified medical and legal professionals. Marijuana use can be harmful to certain individuals, including minors and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Cannabis was grown as any other kitchen garden plant when Humboldt farmers first started to cultivate it as part of the back-to-the-land movement of the ‘70s. California’s progression toward legalization over the last decade has made it easier for cannabis farmers to share their knowledge of how to grow marijuana with you today.

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Growing marijuana is “a short-term commitment with a very big promise at the end,” Scott Davies, owner of Winterbourne Farms, says. “It requires some nurturing and attentiveness, but it’s a pretty resilient and eventually rewarding plant. I know that if I grow it well, I can use the plant to alter my state, to use it to relax at the end of the day.”

Davies is a second-generation cannabis farmer, currently based in Humboldt County. He’s a co-founder of Humboldt Legends, a benefit corporation of about 30 farms in Humboldt County who have pioneered organic methods for growing cannabis outdoors.

Below, Davies shares his best practices for how to grow marijuana and incorporating cannabis plants in your garden.

Scott Buttfield / Humboldt Legends

What to Know Before Growing Marijuana

    . There could be regulations down to the block you live on. Local ordinances may ban cultivation outdoors. Currently, California and Colorado residents can grow up to six plants per household whether for recreational or medicinal use. In Oregon, the limit is four. In Nevada, the limit is TWELVE.
  • Cannabis is dioecious; that is, the plants have distinct genders: male, female, and hermaphrodite. You only use the female plant for its flower, but you still use male plants for pollinating / reproducing. Separate select males and keep them far away from the female plants. If you keep male and hermaphrodite plants near your females, your yield will still be fully flowered, yet rife with seeds. (While a seed-filled yield is useful for breeding future harvests, seedy bud isn’t a desired outcome for consumption; users pick the seeds out before smoking or processing the flower for edibles or concentrates.)
  • Each plant can yield one to ten pounds of flower and trim. The plant can grow up to 15 feet tall depending on the strain and the maintenance of the plant.
  • It’s better not to start the plant’s life at the beginning of the year. Most of the farms working with Humboldt Legends plant in March and harvest by mid-October.
  • Research each strain to understand its unique growing needs as well as how to yield its greatest potential and understand its effects. Indica, sativa, hybrids, and strong-CBD strains have different growing considerations depending on climate, elevation, and other natural factors. If you want to know how to grow marijuana strains that you prefer, our former garden editor Johanna Silver has a book on the topic.

What to Plant

Choosing whether to plant seeds or clones is a big decision for the course of your plant’s life. Seeds can be shipped to you, are discreet, and are easy to store. Your emerging plant comes pesticide- and microbe-free. You can also hybridize seeds to create new cross-strains to tailor the plant’s effects on you.

One drawback of seeds is that you won’t know the plant’s gender until it flowers; to stack the deck in your favor, seek out feminized seeds. If you do wind up with male or hermaphrodite plants, you can compost them and put them back into the soil eventually (or cook the leaf into butter).

Clones are usually taken from adult female plants, so you know exactly what you’re getting. They’re relatively easy to procure; as of now, can be purchased commercially in most places where cultivation has been legalized.

However, if your clone comes with mildew or mites, it won’t be immediately obvious. Even in its early stages, mildew presents itself with telltale white fuzz growing on the fan leaves. Mites come in a variety of species (spider, broad, etc.) and they are harder to spot than mildew. More readily noticeable are the signs of damage they wreak: yellowing or spotted leaves or drooping, lackluster structure. In more advanced stages, spider mites will leave webs all over the flowers.

Planting

Plant in full sun at the north edge of your garden. Chose a spot with well-drained soil. Make sure the plant has plenty of room to grow as plants can grow an inch to an inch-and-a-half a day. We have more tips on growing marijuana as a landscaping plant.

Fertilizing

All of the plant’s energy goes into growing bigger. Start fertilizing at the vegetative stage of the plant (i.e. when stems and leaves are growing, but before the plant begins to flower) with nitrogen-rich fertilizer, which enables stems to be strong enough to hold the weight of heavy buds. Switch to phosphorous-heavy fertilizer when the plant starts flowering, usually six to eight weeks into the growth of your plant.

A warning about the use of pesticides, fungicides or harmful chemicals: Whatever you feed the cannabis plant, you wind up ingesting once the plant is harvested. Refrain from using any harmful chemicals that would be toxic upon igniting or baking.

Scott Buttfield/Humboldt Legends

Staking and Trellising

You’ll know it’s a flowering female by the appearance of pistils, small hairs that turn to denser nodes. The colors of the pistils change from white to red, green, and purple. Pistils don’t tell you anything about the potency or taste of the future flower, but they add a nice ornamental element to your garden.

The flower can get so heavy that when it rains, its branches break. Two to three weeks in, stake with 4-foot bamboo stalk (you can start with a strong center stake, but it isn’t imperative). Once the plant is much bigger, keep the stakes in place to maintain central support. You can also use trellis netting attached to a central stake to keep flowers up.

Watching out for Pests & Diseases

Botritis (bud rot) is especially worrisome as it destroys flowers from the inside out, leaving a rotten area that turns brown or gray and mushy. Good air circulation, arid conditions, and regular spraying with an organic fungicide will prevent or limit the damage. Other pests such as cucumber beetles will nibble on the fan leaves but leave the flowers alone. Calling a truce with these tolerable pests tends to be easier than fighting them off.

Deleafing (Trimming)

If your buds are blooming then the plant’s interior area is shaded, reducing the plant’s much-needed exposure to the sun. When your plant starts to flower, be aggressive in pruning the big yellow and brown fan leaves to reduce the chemical intervention of pesticides, fungicides, or other chemicals later on and to reduce pressure from powdery mildew and any kinds of molds.

Gracie Malley/Cannabis Now

When to Harvest

Start cutting in mid-October. More than half of the pistils should have turned colors by now, which signals when the buds are ready be harvested. On average, the home gardener can yield two to five harvests from each plant.

Hang your cuts in a dry, warm place with good air circulation for five to seven days. It need not be totally dark, but minimizing direct sunlight is important as it will degrade the plant’s effects more readily and fade or bleach the color of the flowers. You can use a dehumidifier on flowers that have a little bit of moisture to them. Stems should snap and not bend.

Trim and Separate

Finally, the reward for growing marijuana. Trim leaves, but not too close to the bud. Davies recommends separating big and small buds. The smalls buds’ trim and stems can be used to create tinctures, concentrates, and edibles.

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