Weed Farm Grow Lights Turn Sky Over Small Australian Town Bright Pink
Locals thought the glow might have been caused by an alien invasion or a nuclear meltdown, but the explanation turned out to be much less dramatic.
Published on July 22, 2022

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Residents of a small Australian town were terrified and dumbfounded earlier this week when they saw a mysterious pink glow appear in the sky. Fears of an alien invasion or nuclear meltdown crossed some locals’ minds, but it turned out that the glow was actually emanating from a secret medical cannabis facility.

The eerie glow appeared in the clouds over Mildura, a town in the northern part of Victoria, this Wednesday evening. Local resident Alexandra Talent and her family first noticed the glow while feeding their horses that evening. “The kids’ imaginations went wild and of course the topic of aliens was presented,” she told The Guardian. “My husband and I were a bit more optimistic.” 

“It was very bizarre,” said Tammy Szumowski, another Mildura resident who saw the unusual glow. “I was on the phone to my mum, and my dad was saying the world was ending.”

Overall, the reaction was more puzzled than frightened, and many residents chose to take advantage of this unique photo opportunity. “I pinched my wife’s phone and took a couple of pictures,” said Andrew Kynaston, resident of nearby Red Cliffs, to The Guardian. “It was around 6:30 when I saw it and thought maybe it was some kind of deflection at first... It looked pretty and strange.”

It wasn't until the following day that residents discovered the real reason for this mysterious phenomenon. Cann Group, a nearby medical cannabis facility, just received its federal license to cultivate and process medical pot at the beginning of the month. This week, the company started bathing its cannabis seedlings in red light to help them grow. But because the company hadn't installed blackout curtains yet, the red glow ended up reflecting off the dense clouds overhead.

“Cannabis plants require different spectrums of light in order to encourage their growth,” explained Rhys Cohen, senior communications manager at Cann Group Ltd., to The Guardian. “A red spectrum light is often used. Normally the facility would have blackout blinds that come down at night, and will in the future block that glow.”

Australia requires that medical cannabis companies keep their facilities hidden from the public, so most local residents had no idea that there was a weed farm in their midst. The country's medical marijuana program has been expanding ever since it was enacted in 2016, and the federal government has even opened its own government-run medical pot farm. Private companies are also able to apply to start their own cultivation sites, like the one in Mildura.

Dr. Anne Webster, a member of the Australian Parliament, also saw the strange glow while driving home from work. As a federal official, she had toured the Cann site before, so she did recognize that the light was coming from the facility. Even so, she told The Guardian that “it still was the first time I’ve seen that pink glow. It was quite strange.”

Despite the strangeness of the event, Dr. Webster is an avid supporter of the country's medical cannabis industry and hopes to see more cultivation facilities open in her district. “Propagation of cannabis is really interesting and the way they use lights … to increase the growth cycle and speed up the whole process is quite amazing,” she said. “I look forward to many other innovative producers coming to the region and bringing their glows with them.”

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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