I get asked this question a lot and there is no easy or 100% correct answer. As much of any grow whether indoors or outdoors has to do with the grower and strain for the sake of argument let’s assume the grower is competent and knows the basic fundamentals of growing marijuana and has been successful doing so.
In debating the pros and cons of each one must logically deduce what the most important aspect of growing medical quality marijuana in the first place. Is it quantity or quality? This should be a no-brainer as quality is the most important aspect.
I will try and be the most objective that I can as I have grown in both and used the same strains as a comparison.
So let’s list out the pros and cons of both. First we have outdoor growing.
Pros – Higher yields. Lower costs because of using the sun.
Cons – Security. Bugs and pests. Dust and other contaminants. Less quality. Weather and mold issues and also could lead to having to harvest earlier if temps drop too low meaning harvesting immature plants which have not reached full maturity.
So now let’s do the list of pros and cons for indoor growing.
Pros – Higher quality due to being able to control all aspects of the plants environment. This means harvesting when plants are fully mature and trichomes have reached the perfect balance of 1/3 amber, 1/3 milky and 1/3 clear. Better security and stealth versus outdoors.
Cons – Lower yields. High energy costs for lighting, equipment etc.
Now some will argue these points specifically the lower quality issue when growing outdoors. As I pointed out I have tested this using the same strain to see what the results would be and my analysis of both was validated by what I have stated. I did this first test some 6 years ago. While I got larger yields growing outdoors I had to harvest a few weeks earlier than I would have liked due to drops in the temperature and rain and the likelihood of mold if the plant was not harvested. I could not control these conditions outside and was at the mercy of mother nature. I also noticed that plant and buds were leafier and not as compact and with far less trichomes than grown indoors. As trichomes are where the THC is predominantly, this is a major factor.
I dried both the indoor and outdoor the same and then cured for a minimum of 1 month before smoking. I found the outdoor to be a harsher smoke and not as effective to the indoor grown. To validate this I sent samples of both to be lab tested and my initial thoughts were validated. The outdoor was tested at 17% THC while the indoor tested at 22%. It also came back that there were more contaminates on the outdoor grown (bugs, dust, other plant fibers, etc.).
I did this same test a year later and was benefited by being able to harvest the outdoor plant 2 weeks later than the first test when full mature to see if the results would be different. After sending to the lab the results were actually worse. The outdoor tested at 15% while the indoor tested at the same 22%. The outdoor was still a bit harsher as well and still had the contaminant issues. After about 3 months of curing the harshness was not as bad however and so my thoughts are that the plant grown outdoors maybe had build ups of more chlorophyll than the indoor grown but I have no way to validate that.
My thoughts after doing much research on the THC issue being lower with outdoor may be due to degradation of the trichomes themselves because of light which is much more intense from the sun than any indoor lights and the sun degraded more of the THC than what occurs in an indoor grow.
I see that there is great value if involved in the retail aspect of growing outdoors due to the cost implications and when in “business” the profit margins are the most important aspect. When it comes to medical quality marijuana however then quality trumps quantity everyday. Add to the fact that patients do not need to be ingesting the contaminants like dust, bugs and dust and other foreign plant particles.
To me, all things being considered equal, indoors is far superior than outdoor grown marijuana.
I do not want this post to infer that growing outdoors is bad but in my estimation it is just not on par with the quality that medical marijuana patients need. But if that is all you can do then it is better to have than to not have even if lower in quality. You will just have to medicate yourself more with the outdoor grown.