MAY 13, 2022 8:00 AM PDT

Is cannabis good or bad for the environment?

WRITTEN BY: Helaine Krysik

As the cannabis industry matures and expands, how large is its carbon footprint?

Given all the grow & production facilities, packaging, and logistics involved in the seed to sale process, and as a result, the waste and greenhouse gas emissions created, we know there's a significant impact on the environment.

Additionally, a large number of illegal grows add to the negative environmental impact. Black market grows are not subject to any regulations, so illegal producers use banned insecticides and other chemicals to shield their crops from pests.

But the situation is complicated – not all the impact is negative.

Cannabis provides some ecofriendly opportunities, such as those in the usage of hemp bioplastics. Additionally, the use of closed-loop ecosystems such as Green Relief’s, which helps to feed the hungry, are prototypes that can be built upon to boost sustainability in the industry.

Then there is the use of hydroponics, which involves cannabis plants grown using a nutrient-water solution and an inert growing medium rather than nutrient-rich soil. Additionally, vertical growth layouts have become increasingly popular, especially in smaller quarters in which space is at a premium.

As a result, there is a lot of controversy as to whether the weed business good or bad for the environment, and in turn, climate change.

So, while there is a clearly a negative environmental impact that needs to be addressed, there is potential for an ecofriendly upside as well. The challenge is in scaling these solutions that make a positive impact on the environment. And as with so many other solutions, it all comes to the economics and figuring out how to make that all work. The cannabis industry is no exception, but hopefully that will change, and the industry grows and matures.


Sources: Journal of Cannabis Research, Smithsonian Magazine, NY Times, CannabisTech, Leafly, Cannabis Business Times

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Helaine is a cannabis industry writer and marketing consultant. She has been active in the Illinois cannabis industry since 2020, and writes for a variety of national publications.
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