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  • Post Time Posted September 12, 2019
Commercial cannabis cultivation is an energy-intensive enterprise. As companies around the world establish massive indoor production facilities, the electricity consumption associated with growing cannabis is astronomical. As one example, a 2014 survey found the electricity consumption of the average 5,000-square-foot facility in Boulder County, Colorado, was 41,808-kilowatt hours. Meanwhile, the average house in that county used about 630-kilowatt hours in the same period.1 

Exploring the Topic of Organic Cannabis
In Canada, where commercial growers of various sizes are now competing for market share of the nascent recreational industry, the issue is twofold. First, the environmental impact that is inherent to cannabis cultivation could, in time, reflect that of other taxing industries like mining, manufacturing and construction. The other concern is that cannabis companies will continue to have to express profit expectations that consider the high energy costs. Needless to say, this one variable can represent the difference between success and failure in the cannabis industry.2

Mostly grown underground for the last 100 years, cannabis has, since the 1990s, become a commercially viable product that borders medical and recreational use. Demand for cannabis has continued to accelerate over the last 20 years and results of recent studies in California reveal that water demand for cannabis cultivation has a real potential to divert substantial volumes of streamflow and cause an estimated reduction of 23 percent.3

In Northern California – an area that has served as the mecca for illegal production of cannabis for decades – it reportedly took the death of a rare member of the weasel family, a Pacific fisher, to finally draw the community’s attention to the environmental issues left in the wake of unbridled cultivation practices. Scientists at the University of California also found that two endangered spotted owls tested positive for d-Con, the same anti-coagulant rat poison that killed the Pacific fisher.4 

While many of the realities of these issues are brought about by irresponsible and outright illicit cultivation practices and operations, almost all contemporary cannabis facilities have to deal with other issues like feeds and fertilizers, managing hydroponics systems, and establishing standard operating procedures for sterilization. These variables all contribute to potential risks associated with purchasing cannabis.

In this sense, cannabis has certainly come to reflect other consumer goods and, perhaps for this reason, some growers have decided to readjust their cultivation techniques and get back to the earth. Enter the world of organic cannabis, where questions like, ‘was this grown without pesticides? And has it been flushed properly?’ needn’t necessarily be answered. Grown using an all-natural technique, organic cannabis is said to have both environmental and personal benefits.

Organic cannabis is a way of gardening with natural plant nutrients that are derived from a variety of compounds like dead leaves, compost, liquid fish, bat guano or seaweed, among other ingredients. The baseline for organic cannabis is that none of the compounds used to grow the plants have been conceived in a laboratory. By most accounts, this method is considered the safest and most healthy means of producing cannabis.5

Purists argue that the benefits of growing organic crops are far superior to those attributed to conventional plants. These include, but the list is not limited to, less chance of contamination to toxins and heavy metals; minimal environmental impact; superior flavor and a robust flavonoid and terpene profile. Natural soil amendments and a basic flushing process are also said to stand as positive attributes of growing organic cannabis.6

Because of the intensive nature of commercial cannabis production, and the growing demand for cannabis products, a call to action to improve the environmental footprint of the space is something that should ultimately be considered. One solution, migrating cultivation techniques to incorporate sustainable, organic practices, is one step in the right direction. When it comes to the environmental footprint of the ever-evolving cannabis industry, a simple mantra should no doubt be applied: less is more. 

References:
  1. "Canadian cannabis is addicted to energy, but it doesn’t have to be." https://dailyhive.com/grow/canadian-cannabis-energy-consumption-2019
  2. "Canadian cannabis power issue." https://www.aprenergy.com/canadian-cannabis-power-issue-blog-article/
  3. "Impacts of surface water diversions…" https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0120016&type=printable
  4. "Marijuana crops in California threaten forests and wildlife." https://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/21/us/marijuana-crops-in-california-threaten-forests-and-wildlife.html?pagewanted=all&_r=2&
  5. "How to grow marijuana: the ultimate organic guide." https://honestmarijuana.com/how-to-grow-marijuana/
  6. "Why organic’s better: The benefits of organic cannabis." https://www.blueskyorganics.com/growing-science/benefits-of-organic-cannabis/

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