Plants and animals have evolved together for millions of years and still continue to be a source of companionship and pleasure. The industrialization of cannabis cultivation for the production of non-medical and medicinal purposes has led to habitat loss, wildlife displacement, and environmental destruction. In recent decades, countless species have been negatively impacted by industrial cannabis cultivation, including:
The cannabis industry is constantly growing, and as the weed market expands so does the need for more room to grow. The Ag-Gag bill, which is an attempt to ban the release of photos and videos of industrial hemp cultivation, is one example of how cannabis is becoming more mainstream and regulated. This has led to an increase for large-scale cannabis cultivation operations.
Earth Day has just passed and once again our planet has been the victim of all sorts of terrible disasters caused by mankind. Opponents of the legalization of cannabis like to point out the environmental impact of cannabis cultivation and legalization. They point to the amount of waste generated by cannabis packaging, as well as the impact of rising electricity prices and the runoff of nutrients and chemicals used in cannabis cultivation. I started researching the topic and the article that came out on top was about the environmental effects of cannabis terpenes. This scientific article points out that a team of researchers has concluded that cannabis has the potential to double the current levels of volatile organic compounds in our atmosphere. The team came to this conclusion by growing four cannabis varieties for 90 days in a closed environment and measuring the amount of terpenes released. I thought it was strange from the start, because hemp grows very differently outside than inside. Yes, it’s all about light, water and nutrients, but anyone who has ever grown plants indoors and outdoors will tell you that there is a difference. When they talk about the need for further research, I think they mean that more specific research is needed. In theory, one could blame the US federal government for the environmental impact of cannabis.
Growing plants indoors pollutes the environment
Decades of cannabis prohibition have put millions of Americans on the underground market. People who grow cannabis illegally do so indoors or outdoors. We’ve all seen the news images of landscapes littered with trash and debris where cannabis has been grown. Sometimes trees are cut down and excess nutrients and pesticide leaching are released into the environment. By forcing people to grow plants indoors, we have also caused a huge increase in utility costs. This increases the pressure on energy companies and on the precious natural resources of our planet.
We don’t grow oranges in every state, why cannabis?
If cannabis had not been banned and placed on the federal list, things might have turned out differently. Only Texas and California can grow enough cannabis to supply the entire United States. Instead of a few small businesses scattered across the country, these states could run larger businesses. There is a misconception that hemp is of poor quality when grown outdoors. One of the best cannabis products in the world is grown outdoors under the right conditions. Texas and California have these conditions. However, current federal restrictions on cannabis prevent the plant and people from having the freedoms they both deserve. This freedom means that one can travel openly to any part of America without fear of persecution, while carrying a natural plant.
Mining equipment damaging to environment
Cannabis cultivation is not the only concern regarding the environmental impact of the cannabis sector. The raw materials industry is also in the spotlight. Upstream companies often use methods involving solvents such as butane, propane or CO2. These companies have equipment that also consumes electricity during this process. Many of these companies are taking productive steps to not only control supply costs, but also to reduce the environmental impact of the cannabis industry through methods such as operating facilities during off-peak hours, using energy-efficient equipment, and using technologies and methods that prove conservative in their products.
Cannabis cultivation is water intensive
Water is another problem when growing just about anything, and cannabis is no exception. Opponents of cannabis legalization and those who insist on strict rules and regulations often use this method. They point out that it is known that the cultivation of cannabis requires large amounts of water, which is taken from the irrigation systems used in agriculture and also has a negative impact on the ecosystem. Before you point the finger at hemp, remember that there are many other agricultural goals to point the finger at as well. Almonds, for example, are the cause of many environmental problems in the state of California. The almond industry is a multi-billion dollar industry in California that consumes huge amounts of water. You’ve never heard people complain about tonsils on the news, have you? A little research has taught me that it takes about three and a half gallons of water to produce one almond. This is insane! Imagine the United States if we had a federal ban on almonds. The world is crazy, so anything is possible, but for now the federal government seems quite content to maintain its draconian stance on federal cannabis prohibition. In the United States of America, cannabis remains a Schedule 1 drug. As long as these fossil policies remain in place, it will be difficult to truly and accurately measure the true impact of the cannabis industry on the environment. Personally, I can say that I grow both indoors and outdoors. When I grow plants outside, I rarely have to water them because the rain takes care of that. Only in very dry periods should the hose be pulled out. I guess I don’t see the water usage they are complaining about. To all those who work in the cannabis industry to improve the environment by growing a medicine that many people love and need to live, I want to say thank you! Ashley Priest is a patient, mother, entrepreneur and activist fighting for the abolition of drug prohibition around the world, for a better future for all. Ashley is passionate about sharing knowledge about the divine plant that is cannabis. She believes that one seed can make all the difference and that together, through education, we can end the stigma that prevents cannabis from reaching its full potential worldwide.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is cannabis environmentally friendly?
In 2006, the UN International Drug Control Programme estimated that approximately half of the world’s cannabis production was used for the supply of illicit drugs (34). Cannabis cultivation consumes enormous amounts of water, energy and soil, and thus has a negative environmental impact. Cannabis is the most widely cultivated crop in the world, and it has been used for medicinal and recreational purposes for thousands of years. While its use is still controversial in the United States, there is evidence that cannabis may be helpful in many cases. Many of these benefits have to do with its psychoactive properties. Its chemical components, the cannabinoids, bind to receptors in the brain and body, causing a variety of changes in the body. These changes may help with pain, inflammation, nausea, and other problems.
What are negative environmental impacts of hemp?
Cultivation of industrial hemp has the potential to contribute to a clean energy economy. In this essay, we explore the many ways that industrial hemp can be used to sequester carbon in a way that is beneficial to the environment, while providing a sustainable source of energy for the world. If you’re into growing or using cannabis, you probably already know that cannabis cultivation is one of the most environmentally-damaging industries. Aside from the fact that marijuana plants require a lot of time, space and resources, the farmland used to grow marijuana also has a negative effect on the environment. And there are other negative environmental impacts in the process of making hemp products.
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