We would love to see a future in which cannabis can be grown outdoors; however, this is not always feasible given the current regulatory structure, nor will it ever be 100% possible. While many will claim that food production is done outdoors, and thus commercial cannabis production should be done in the same way, there are a few factors that make cannabis production different than food production.
While this restriction will be removed someday, cannabis cannot currently legally cross state lines. This means that cannabis must be produced in the same state it is sold in. While there are some areas of the country that are ideal for outdoor cannabis production, other areas are less than ideal, requiring cultivators to move production indoors if they want to have consistent, year-round crops. No other crop is required to be grown in the same state it is consumed in, allowing food producers to grow large quantities in locations that are ideal and ship them to the rest of the country, practically eliminating the need for indoor growing.
With other agricultural products, cleaning the final product and getting it ready for distribution is as simple as washing it. Even tobacco leaves can be washed to remove all the contaminants that naturally occur during outdoor growth, including dead insects, bird poop and garden contaminants. However, cannabis buds cannot be washed without ruining them. This means that any pesticides used, or other residues that build up, are present in the end product customers receive. Growing in a sealed environment is an easy way to limit contamination and remove the need for pesticides.
Cannabis is Medicine
Finally, for cannabis to be used as medicine, it is important that it meet strict requirements as to quality and purity. Other medicines are created in clean-room environments, assuring they are of consistent quality and free of contaminants. These standards cannot be met unless cannabis is grown indoors under strict quality control.
We love using the sun and finding ways to be energy efficient, yet growing outdoors is not a viable solution for all cannabis cultivation. Cannabis is not a food product, and cannot be treated the same, requiring special considerations when growing cannabis commercially. When growing outdoors is not feasible for one of the above reasons, or any number of others, take the time to learn what your options are and research the most energy efficient solutions possible for your needs.