Here is a hard fact that many stoners don’t want to face: Marijuana isn’t inherently good for the Earth. Though weed requires less processing than other drugs — which typically means it includes less potentially dangerous chemicals both in the final product and as waste — it still requires resources to cultivate, harvest, process and ship. As the cannabis industry grows, so does the incentive to grow more bud at lower costs to capitalize on the boom, which often occurs at the Earth’s expense.
A significant amount of marijuana is grown inside greenhouses, which keeps the plants safer from the elements while enhancing the development of delicious THC and CBD. However, greenhouses are not eco-friendly; they tend to draw huge amounts of energy to provide electric light, ventilation and irrigation to their crops. Unfortunately, outdoor growing is equally fraught with unsustainable practices, like pesticide use. In many cases, the final product is wrapped up in plastic packaging that ends up in landfills or oceans, killing wildlife. You can read more about these issues here:
If you want to enjoy your drug of choice without green guilt, here are a few ways to overcome these earth-harming issues in your purchasing practices.
Increasingly, it is the user’s responsibility to research the products and companies operating within their market. In the cannabis industry, particularly, there isn’t as much regulation on product quality as many consumers would like; states that oversee legal or medical marijuana programs tend to care more about controlling access to weed products than ensuring that products are safe for the body and the environment. As a result, if you want to invest only in marijuana that has been sustainably farmed without the use of hazardous chemicals, the onus is on you to find them.
Fortunately, cannabis companies that invest energy and resources in organic, sustainable cultivation are typically more than happy to talk about it. It doesn’t take much effort to find the right buzzwords on packaging or on company websites. Some important indications that ganja goods are environmentally green are as follows:
Local. The global transportation of goods is responsible for almost a third of all greenhouse gas emissions, and cutting down these emissions is critical for getting climate change under control. Fortunately, interstate marijuana trade is rare because the federal government controls drugs at state borders. Still, you should verify that products you buy are made from locally grown cannabis and processed nearby — and you should always avoid purchasing bud off the black market, which is often grown in far-flung countries and shipped to the U.S. in addition to other ills.
Organic. It is common for farmers to rely on chemicals to improve the growth rate, strength and quality of their crop. Cannabis growers, too, use fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and more — but those chemicals can linger in the bud after harvesting, processing and packaging. Cannabis is naturally fast-growing and pest-resistant (thanks to its cannabinoids) so it is possible to grow marijuana without toxic chemicals. It is best to avoid products with claims of being “natural” in favor of those that advertise themselves as “organic.”
Eco packaging. Millions upon millions of tons of plastic packaging end up in natural environments every year. Because plastic doesn’t biodegrade, it doesn’t make for an eco-friendly packaging option. Some states have packaging regulations, but if you can find marijuana products packaged in paper, cardboard, glass or another reusable or recyclable material, you should invest in those. You should steer clear of “biodegradable” or “compostable” plastics, which could be even worse for the environment, as you can read about here:
It can be exhausting and frustrating to research every potential pot product before you purchase. You might be able to reduce your research demands by finding dispensaries that do this due diligence for you. In many progressive parts of the country, like Portland, there are eco-focused weed stores that source responsibly. You might find some here:
Reduce, Recycle and Reuse
In truth, there is no way to reduce your environmental impact to zero, even in a supposedly green realm like cannabis use. You can grow your own cannabis crop at home and process the bud minimally yourself (if your state allows it), but you will need to go to excessive lengths to ensure that your soil, containers, water usage, processing methods and more don’t have negative effects on the surrounding environment.
While committing to sustainable weed is commendable, you should also devote energy toward efforts that will make a difference, like talking to your local, state and national representatives about regulating industries responsible for pollution and inciting your community to demand solutions from major corporations. When everyone is working to end climate change and protect the environment, you won’t have to work so hard to keep your cannabis clean.