In my last blog, I wrote about hemp and how it could be used to help us with our environmental woes. Wanting to continue that environmental focus, it's time to shine the light on a problem very few in the cannabis industry are admitting — the cannabis industry is not as green as one would think.
Through my experience with the industry, I've met people all over the spectrum. Some are organic growers with a focus on sustainability. They're aware of the industry's impact and they're working hard to resolve it. Then there are those who care only about the money and don't even want to begin the conversation. At the very least, academics and other experts are looking into the issue. Colorado State University published a study this year in March called, ”The greenhouse gas emissions of indoor cannabis production in the United States.” It examines cannabis cultivation and its impact on the climate — so it's at least a step in the right direction.
Let's get down to hard facts though. It's fairly obvious to anyone that huge indoor grows use a lot of electricity and have a large carbon footprint but. There are other industry aspects that are more insidious. For example, the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Public Health, in conjunction with the University of Colorado at Boulder, recently conducted a study that found terpenes like those found in cannabis are a VOC (volatile organic compound) that can contribute to climate change.
Terpenes and other VOCs create ozone (an unstable toxic gas) and VOCs caused by cannabis cultivation can produce more than 2,000 metric tons of ozone per year — and from the legal cannabis market alone. You add in the environmental impact of the industry's water consumption, energy consumption and the amount of waste produced in the process of making these products. It begins to make your head spin.
There's no easy fix. But if the federal government were to take the cannabis industry out of the shadows and legitimize it; this would be a first step toward setting up regulations to focus on these issues. And more importantly, it's up to us as responsible cannabis consumers to demand the industry step up to the plate, take more responsibility and make our favorite green product even greener.