Cannabis is indigenous to the steppes of Central Asia. It evolved naturally in areas like Mongolia and southern Siberia, where plants and animals alike flourished as hunter-gatherers settled into civilizations. China was a major producer and user of both hemp and psychoactive marijuana, and the Chinese coastal farmers spread the plant to Korea, Japan and the islands of Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, other groups took weed south and westward. The tropical Indian Subcontinent and the fertile Mediterranean both saw cannabis flourish and develop a reputation for relieving stress, pain and other negative sensations.
Be sure to check out our articles on cannabis history to see how landraces of cannabis strains got started!
Today, marijuana is everywhere, and it grows almost everywhere, too — including the U.S. Because marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug under the federal law, retailers within the United States cannot import weed grown in other countries, and even distribution across state lines can be tricky. Thus, there are marijuana farms across America, and the biggest ones are located in the following regions:
The Golden State has long been the country’s biggest producer of the good green, even before recreational marijuana was made legal across California in 2016. On one hand, marijuana fields number highly in Cali because California is such a large state; there is plenty of land available for greenhouses and even open-air growing, which can’t necessarily be said of other states. On the other hand, California boasts a near-ideal climate for the crop, which prefers dry air, warm temperatures and lots of sunshine.
These days, California has one of the most relaxed growing laws, so that anyone over 21 can cultivate a small crop of cannabis and there is plenty of opportunity to gain a cultivation license for larger-scale growing operations. It’s safe to say that many states’ dispensaries, and especially online weed stores, are packed with varieties unique to California, like the cherry pie strain, sour diesel or granddaddy purple.
Washington and Oregon
Marijuana plants don’t like to be too cold or too hot, too wet or too dry, so the entire West Coast offers close to ideal growing conditions for weed crops. Both Washington state and Oregon were among the first to legalize recreational marijuana use and open up growing regulations, and with their ideal location on the West Coast, it stands to reason that these states remain popular growing locales today. Yet, because of the high levels of rain in the Pacific Northwest, indoor growing is all but necessary in these states, which can increase the costs of these strains.
Like California, Nevada has a warm, dry climate that facilitates marijuana growth; however, Nevada boasts a climate that is a bit warmer and dryer because most of the state exists in the Great Basin, an arid territory that is relatively low in altitude. Fortunately, Nevada is particularly well-known for its indica strains, which prefer the climate even warmer and dryer than sativa and hybrid strains.
Thanks to Reno and Las Vegas, not to mention Burning Man, Nevada has a reputation for being a party state that is loose on regulations for a variety of substance use. The truth is that Nevada, like every other state that has permitted medical and recreational use of marijuana, has relatively straightforward rules for its use and cultivation, and breaking those rules will land one in legal trouble. It pays to know the law and act within it, especially in relatively these early days of legal marijuana use.
Generally, the East Coast is darker, wetter and colder than the West Coast, so bud that comes from the eastern edge of the country is notoriously low-quality — unless it hails from Maine. This most-northern state of the contiguous 48 offers warm summers, exceedingly fresh water and delectably nutrient-rich soils, which counteract the sometimes-detrimental effects of humidity and a brief spring and fall. Early-harvesting strains, especially hybrids, grow well in this state, which is one of only a handful of states East of the Mississippi to legalize marijuana growing.
Kentucky and Tennessee
Here’s the rub: In both Kentucky and Tennessee, marijuana of any scope is illegal. Residents of either state cannot partake in the good herb, even for medical reasons, and it should go without saying that cultivation is off the table. Still, thanks to these Southern states’ rugged landscapes, shrouded in dense forest land with wholesome soil, ideal water conditions and plenty of coverage from drug-hunting cops, growers have found some success in outdoor cultivation. Few legal dispensaries source from these states because it is strictly against regulation to sell illegally grown bud, but that doesn’t prevent Kentucky and Tennessee from being some of the biggest producers of marijuana in the U.S. The truth is that there is at least one marijuana plant in every state of the Union — but some states offer laws and climates that simply make cultivation so much easier. Currently, most of the U.S.’s marijuana crop is located in the West, but that could change as more Southern states open up their weed regulations.