Cannabis Regulation — And How It Changes When Cultivation Moves Indoors

It’s been said before that the cannabis industry is a sort of wild West — replete with questionable growing techniques, plenty of legal loopholes, and an even larger amount of unregulated products


But that couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to pharmaceutical-grade cannabis. This type of cannabis is more closely regulated, more heavily tested, and much more likely to be grown indoors.


Here’s a closer look at how cannabis regulations change when cultivation moves inside.

Conventional vs. pharmaceutical-grade cannabis cultivation

Humans have cultivated cannabis for eons. Some ethnobotanists suspect that cannabis was the very first plant the human race interfered with! [1]


For most of history cannabis’s use blurred the line between recreational and medicinal. It blurred the line between physical and spiritual, too. People took cannabis to connect with God and with their higher selves.


Fast forward to the present day, and cannabis use is decidedly more fragmented. Cannabis cultivation techniques are more tightly categorized, too. The more medicinal a cannabis product aims to be, the more rigorous its production process needs to be. Pharmaceutical-grade cannabis is typically grown indoors and produced from highly stabilized ‘strains.’


Some experts say that cannabis’s therapeutic versatility means it should be more heavily utilized by the pharmaceutical industry. [2] But this requires far higher production standards, as we’ll dive into next.


Why pharmaceutical-grade cannabis is held to a higher standard

Pharmaceutical-grade cannabis products are typically given to medical patients. In addition to having highly sensitive general health, these patients typically use conventional pharmaceuticals that can potentiate cannabis’s normal dose-dependent effects. In other words, quality and quantity are of utmost importance when it comes to a good patient experience.


Medical-grade cannabis is typically grown indoors at research facilities. Among the many techniques these facilities leverage are controlled environment agriculture (CEA), non-invasive pest management, and photoperiod manipulation.

4 benefits of growing indoors

Indoor cannabis cultivation may require more precision than outdoor growing, but it also has the potential to be far more rewarding. Here are four top benefits associated with growing indoors.

More consistent cannabinoid content

Indoor cannabis grows are often able to keep their cultivars in a narrower, more desirable range. This holds true of a plant’s height, yield, bud development, terpene content, and, yes — cannabinoid content. While any given cannabis strain’s genetics predispose it to produce a certain range of cannabinoids and terpenes, indoor cultivation allows growers to optimize their plants’ genetic expression.


Some of the growing controls indoor cultivators use include:


  • Control over growing and flowering cycles
  • Control over mold and fungal contamination
  • Control over the environment, including temperature, lighting, humidity, circulation, and sterility
  • Control over pests and predatory plants/insects
  • Control over plant maturation and yield
  • Control over end-products



Heirloom cannabis strains

Indoor cannabis cultivation allows for the development — and preservation — of heirloom strains. Research organizations like the Israeli Government Agriculture Research Organization (ARO/VULCANI) have built huge databases of various cannabis strain genetics, allowing for targeted science-backed breeding. Indoor cultivators have the power to keep heirloom strains completely original, or point them in a new direction.

More comprehensive testing protocols

Indoor-grown cannabis is generally easier to analyze. Pharmaceutical-grade cannabis is often grown in close proximity to cannabis testing facilities (if not in the facilities themselves), which provides easy access to chromatography, mass spectrometry, and NMR spectroscopy. These technologies make it possible to test each batch of cannabis for its cannabinoid, terpene, flavonoid, and fatty acid content. [3]


Some indoor-grown cannabis cultivars have been clinically shown to alleviate the symptoms of:


  • Autism
  • Anxiety/PTSD
  • Digestive disorders
  • Pain and inflammation
  • Certain types of cancers

Cannabis regulation: closing thoughts

Growing cannabis indoors may be exacting, but it also offers a degree of specificity that just can’t be matched by outdoor cannabis. It’s safe to say that indoor-grown cannabis is the most suitable type of cannabis for medical patients or pharmaceutical formulations. Indoor cultivation lends itself to more frequent scientific breakthroughs, too.