How To Be A ‘Greener’ Cannabis Customer: Unleashing Your Environmental Purchasing Power

By NisonCo’s Marissa Smith.

Perhaps you’ve seen a troubling string of recent headlines outlining the environmental impact of growing cannabis — Smithsonian Magazine’s “The Cannabis Industry Is Not as Green as You’d Think” is a great example. But how much is cannabis negatively affecting the earth? What can you do about it?

As a cannabis consumer, you may have some concerns around the effects your own consumption may have on the planet, or are simply looking for more information on the topic. We at NisonCo have compiled this succinct guide around the major environmental issues the cannabis industry faces, possible industry solutions and more importantly, the ways you as a consumer can use your purchasing power to be efficaciously conscientious. 

The Problem: Illicit Growing

Sources from The New York Times to NPR have covered the devastating effects illicit growing operations have had on the ecosystems of many California public forests. The gist of the situation is that insecticides, pesticides and other often-illicit chemicals are present in huge amounts at many discovered illegal grow operations. These chemicals cause disruptions in water tables and biospheres, and negatively impact populations of various species long-term. Other issues caused by illegal growing include increased violence in the region and deterioration of preserved ecosystems. 

The Consumer-Based Solution

  • Buy Legally. When you purchase cannabis from a licensed dispensary, you’re paying for consumer protection and assurance that the product was procured through legal channels. Non-legal sales may save you a few bucks, but may be costing the planet in exchange. Also support legalization efforts in non-legal states. There have been studies that strongly correlate legalization with a decrease in illegal grow sites in national forests.
  • See also: How To Boost Hemp Farmers During The Pandemic Without A Taxpayer Bailout: Regulate CBD
  • Support Your Parks. In public forests across the country, rangers and park enforcement agents are swamped with the work of eradicating illegal cannabis grows. While the work piles on, support does not: Headwater Economics’ recent analysis showed that visitation to US Forest Service and BLM land is up 15%, but budgets are down about the same amount. Parks need financial support and volunteerism now more than ever! Forget going to the mall — take yourself to a public forest and show Mother Nature some love. 

The Problem: Water Scarcity

In a handful of US states — Colorado and California among them — water scarcity is a serious concern. Global warming is exacerbating the problem, and not going away any time soon. While some state programs, like California’s State Water Board’s Cannabis Cultivation Program seek to nip water issues around household growth in the bud, most states don’t have such stringent measures. 

Depending on the grower, water use isn’t often very high compared to other popular crops in the region. Environmental scientists at University of California Berkeley put the range as low as 2 liters and as …

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