1. Which beneficial insects can help cannabis growers manage pests?
Cannabis growers have a wealth of options to biologically control pests, including predatory insects, beneficial nematodes, predatory mites, parasitic wasps and microorganisms. Depending on the pest infestation, growers can choose generalist (non-selective) predators or specialist (targeted) predators. Generalists include assassin bugs (Zelus renardii), green lacewings (Chrysoperla rufilabris) and minute pirate bugs (Orius insidiosus). Specialist predators include mite predators (Phytoseiulus persimilis), aphid wasps (Aphidius colemani) and fungus gnat predators (Stratiolaelaps scimitus). Customers who need assistance can call ARBICO Organics for a consultation.
2. Does the growing environment affect which beneficial insects can and should be used?
Environment is very important. In order for beneficial insects to perform at their best, some have environmental “requirements.” Specific temperatures and relative humidity affect consumption of pests, reproduction, development and lifespan. In some cases, light hours can force diapause (a period of arrested development) in beneficial insects. Outdoor growers are limited to the predators suitable for their conditions. Indoor growers have the option to modify their conditions for optimum insect performance.
3. How should growers prepare before releasing beneficial insects?
Monitor the grow environment. Before releasing beneficial insects, the grower should scout the infested area thoroughly, identify the pest affecting their plants and quantify how severe the infestation is. If certain plants or areas are more highly infested, it will be necessary to either quarantine those plants or remove them altogether. If the pest pressure is overwhelming, beneficials alone may not be enough; if the entire growing area is highly infested, growers may need to perform a knockdown. It is also important to choose the species and quantity of predators necessary to outcompete the pest. Continuity is key.
4. Why is continuity important?
A single application of predatory insects will not provide the rate of consumption necessary to compete with rapid pest reproduction rates. Repeated applications on a schedule allow for introduction of additional predators while others transition through their life stages. Specialist insects often require additional lead times, so planning ahead is a necessity.
5. I want to use predatory insects, but I need to spray. What should I consider?
Timing is everything. Applying compatible or soft sprays can help reduce pest populations to a level in which predator introductions can thrive. Make sure sprays have no residual effects that will harm predators. Many biological sprays can be used in conjunction with predators and cause no harm to their populations. Some labs are testing for foreign matter and ARBICO Organics cannot guarantee that leaving insects, in whatever capacity, on the plant will not prevent a result of failing.
When the novel coronavirus first necessitated business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders to prevent its spread in the U.S. this past March, it was unclear exactly what the ramifications would be for those working on promising state legalization efforts. Priorities, understandably, turned to mitigating the pandemic. However, in most states, cannabis cultivators and dispensaries were deemed essential and, with new regulations and social distancing measures, allowed to remain open.
Four months later, there is some progress to note. As this issue goes to press, advocates in Arkansas and Nebraska are approaching their early July deadlines to gather enough signatures for ballot initiatives that, if passed, would legalize adult-use cannabis consumption and sales in Arkansas and a medical program in Nebraska. (Editor's Note: Arkansas did not collect enough signatures; Nebraska surpassed its goal.) Arizona advocates have enough signatures but continue to collect more to ensure that the about 238,000 needed are verified to qualify for an adult-use legalization initiative voters will decide on this fall.
A campaign in Montana met its signature requirement to get two adult-use cannabis legalization initiatives on the November ballot, one that legalizes the plant and establishes a system to regulate and tax products, and another that sets the legal age minimum to purchase and consume cannabis to 21.
In New Jersey, voters will consider an adult-use legalization measure—put on hold in 2019—while NJ CAN 2020, comprising a group of cannabis advocates, is working to complement the state’s tax and regulation language by expanding on how the system would operate and prioritizing social equity programs.
States are also continuing to approve measures to improve access for patients and customers while keeping them safe during the pandemic. Some Maryland patients can apply for and renew certifications via telehealth services, and dispensaries across the U.S. could (and in some cases, were mandated) to move to delivery and curbside pickup during the early weeks of shutdowns, convenient services that continue. Additionally, New Jersey approved home delivery for its medical program in late June.
Some state tax revenues are looking grim as a result of widespread business shutdowns and lost income, and tax revenues from the essential cannabis industry looks all the more appealing. At the same time, protests over police killings continue across the country and have placed an urgent focus on racial injustice and social equity; and with expungements, pardons and social equity programs major components of legalization programs throughout the country, reform efforts to decriminalize and/or legalize cannabis are being seen by many in a new light. In June, for example, Nevada officials passed a resolution to pardon low-level cannabis convictions, and the New Jersey Assembly passed a decriminalization and expungement process bill that, as of press time, has moved to the state Senate for consideration.
Legalization offers the opportunities to create jobs, jump-start decimated economies, replenish depleted state tax coffers and begin to rectify ineffective laws criminalizing possession that were unequally applied.
As long as voters and lawmakers remember that, there is much to be hopeful for in the November elections and beyond.
Since legalizing medical cannabis in June 2018, Oklahoma regulators have taken a hands-off approach that lets the free market naturally decide the optimum number of operational businesses, while other new markets, such as Illinois, are attempting to create a closely controlled market.
This lax attitude extends beyond business licensing into patient applications. More than 7% of Oklahoma's population is enrolled in the medical program due to a lack of state-approved qualifying conditions. Patients only need a doctor's recommendation to join the state’s registry.
By comparison, Illinois has seen marginal growth since launching adult-use sales in January, in part due to market restrictions enacted by the legislation the governor signed. Even though adult-use legalization has made products available to Midwestern residents this year, the Illinois market’s total sales are only just matching those from Oklahoma's medical-only program, according to research from Brightfield Group.
Major limitations on Illinois' medical-market enrollment, including a restrictive qualifying conditions list and a fingerprint requirement, constrained participation in Illinois’ program until 2019 changes were implemented (e.g., Gov. J.B. Pritzker repealed the fingerprint requirement). At the same time, Illinois has granted roughly 40 times fewer dispensary licenses than Oklahoma as of June 12. Illinois’ medical program was designed to be highly regulated, depressing patient participation—less than 1% of the state's population is currently enrolled. As the state implemented adult use, regulators delayed allocating additional licenses until well after the program's inception. These licensing decisions stunted Illinois' growth by not allowing the supply to grow to meet demand.
As a result, Oklahoma's medical program sales are only slightly behind Illinois' totals despite only having a third of the population. Product selection in Illinois is lacking, and products are generally twice as expensive as they would be in Oklahoma due to supply constraints (~$65 for an eighth of flower in Illinois compared to ~$30 in Oklahoma). A bulk of Oklahoma's 9,266 business licenses are held by small local companies, while Illinois has a higher relative level of multi-state operator (MSO) presence.
Oklahoma has some of the lowest barriers to entry for dispensaries and producers (the state requires a $2,500 application fee, a fraction of the cost in other states) and lacks a vertical integration requirement, which sets up a boom for industry firms. The low barrier to entry has allowed interested residents with little capital to jump in.
With its plethora of licensed businesses, the Oklahoma market is encouraging greater competition, and Brightfield Group research shows the state has successfully driven down prices for customers and continues to attract new license applicants. Oklahoma might be a good case study for regulators weighing the impacts on local and state revenue against the creation of a sustainable marketplace.
Andy Seeger is the cannabis research manager for Brightfield Group, where he performs quantitative and qualitative analyses of the U.S. medical and adult-use markets.