Questions? Cannabis Cultivation, Explained

From federal and regional rules and regulations to growing pains and challenges, deciphering what’s needed to cultivate medical marijuana can be a cumbersome task. To help, read through my answers to some common questions.

  • Personnel
  • Growth
  • Production
  • Investment


Plan on 25 employees for every 100,000 ft2 of cultivation.

A Master Grower is a must, along with Section Growers, Plant Technicians, and an excellent Post-Harvest Manager.

Definitely not. Have one or two experienced growers lead your cultivation program, but fill the rest of the team with interested locals that can demonstrate a great work ethic and a history of learning new skills successfully.

An appreciation for the importance of timing, and high attention to detail.

Unfortunately, no. But, I will draw upon my 23 years in horticulture and intimate experience in cannabis cultivation to help source the right person for you.


This really depends on two primary factors. First, you’ll want to consider your regional and federal regulations. Some countries have strict legislation in place that dictates how finished product is cultivated. Second, if regulations allow, then you’ll want to consider the quality of your starting material. It is important to know the source of the original mother plant in order to uphold the integrity of your own cannabis production.

I always advise clients to consider this once you have an established operation. If you are a start-up, you’re at the mercy of time as this can often take between 18-24 months to produce.

Cannabis cultivation can absolutely happen outdoors; however, you’ll want to consider a few key variables. First, know your climate. Although cannabis is highly adaptable to varying conditions, it is susceptible to extreme weather and does require several hours of direct sunlight per day. Second, understand your soil composition. Specifically, cannabis plants need slightly acidic soil that is rich with organic matter to thrive.

Approximately 1,500 gallons per week for every 1,000 ft2 of dedicated cultivation area.

Aside from any type of geography restrictions (i.e. sunlight requirements), this may ultimately come down to personal preference. There are both pros and cons to each that can make a compelling case; however, my post about growing outdoors helps illuminate the benefits of outdoor cultivation.


In contrast to the 18-24 months to breed your own strains, a normal production cycle from seed or clone to harvest can be approximately 4 months. This is ideal for start-ups as it allows for a quicker entry to market.

This really depends on your production goals and initial investment. For a rough snap-shot, you can crunch the numbers on my handy Cultivation Calculator.

Approximately 250 amps for every 1,000 square feet.

Start-ups should generate a minimum of 30 grams of dry flower per square foot, per harvest.  Experienced operations typically yield double that number.

If you are drying whole plants, branches and flowers using traditional methods, plan on 7-10 days for drying in a space that is equivalent to 15% of your cultivation area. Alternatively, there are emerging technologies that can dry several hundred pounds of fresh cannabis in one hour, using a much smaller footprint.


The cost for an indoor facility is roughly $200 per square foot and the cost for a greenhouse facility is roughly $80 per square foot. Please keep in mind that these estimates will vary depending on your location.

As I note in my post about hiring the right team, finding the proper Master Grower is vital to the success of your cultivation operation. You should expect to pay between $70-90K for entry-level credentials, $120-150K for proficient credentials and $250-300K for expert credentials per year ($USD).

Africa and South America will prove to be dominant growers in the global cannabis market, but for the time being, investor interest is turned towards the U.S. and Europe.

The easiest way is through the purchase of publicly-traded cannabis stocks.

By actually building and operating a cultivation site. A license and a plot of land are much less attractive than a functioning greenhouse where investors can actually see (and smell) real progress.