[Editor’s Note: What you do matters. Your support of cannabis businesses practicing sustainability, makes the whole industry better. Read on to find out more.]
We often think about the marijuana industry as this sleeping giant, but it’s really just a baby.
This space so many of us have chosen is still in its infancy, and the choices we make today — as consumers and as cannabis professionals — have the power to impact the future of this still-growing economy, especially as it relates to the future sustainability of legal marijuana.
Sure, sometimes we feel powerless and insignificant, as if our individual actions aren’t enough to counter the seemingly insurmountable tide of “progress” and commercialization. But because legal and regulated cannabis has yet to even celebrate its fifth birthday, the opposite is actually true.
What you do matters. An entrepreneur’s intentional and thoughtful choices on difficult sustainability decisions are meaningful, and a customer’s discerning approach to the brands he or she is loyal to creates a vote-with-your-dollars relationship that rewards the most responsible businesses.
Also, while we need to remember that we have a voice, we also need to stay aware and educate our policymakers on how they can implement policies that will guide the industry in an environmentally friendly direction.
Here are two things that need to change right now for industry pioneers and consumers who want to make conscious decisions that will collectively make for a more sustainable cannabis industry in the years to come.
Alternatives to Modern Cultivation & Packaging
Let’s start with the obvious. Any conversation about cannabis sustainability in 2018 is incomplete without talking about cultivation and packaging, in that order.
For the most part, we are growing cannabis indoors out of necessity. Marijuana cultivators were driven indoors throughout prohibition, and now many regulated markets mandate indoor cultivation for “security” and “safety” reasons.
But because marijuana is a plant and a commodity crop and more aligned with traditional agriculture than pharmaceuticals — and because cannabis kills 0 (that’s zero) Americans each year, while alcohol kills 90,000 and nicotine kills nearly 500,000 Americans annually — most cannabis of the future will be grown outdoors, sans the misguided concerns about it being a safety or security concern.
Like it already does in California, Washington, Oregon and extremely limited parts of Colorado, marijuana will eventually grow under the sun, not under the High Intensity Discharge grow lights that have become so common in Denver and Oakland warehouses. This will lighten power grids’ loads and widen cultivators’ margins, and it will make the industry more sustainable.
Of course, legal markets are also hamstrung on the issue of packaging, as most consumers already know. The child-proof containers and exit bags required by law aren’t known for their earth-friendliness or recyclability, but that’s starting to change with design-minded entrepreneurs who are readying packaging alternatives that will keep cannabis out of children’s hands — and product packaging out of landfills.
Mass Adoption of Corporate Social Responsibility
Here’s what I tell friends and colleagues at least once a week, and most of them agree with me: “If you’re making money and not giving back, you’re doing it wrong.”
Outside of a few shining stars like Bloom Farms in California and The Clinic in Colorado, corporate social responsibility has not yet fully infiltrated the cannabis space. And this is a problem.
Mind you, the idea of “corporate social responsibility” and sustainability are not the same thing. But I would argue that a business with a thoughtful CSR program is inevitably a more sustainable business.
I’m particularly fond of how the International Organization for Standardization defines CSR: “responsibility of an organization for the impacts of its decisions and activities on society and the environment through transparent and ethical behavior.”
These are questions all entrepreneurs should be asking themselves: How is my business impacting my environment? My community? And what can I do to offset or even out that impact?
Cannabis needs to go that extra mile and donate that pinpoint-targeted extra dollar to show the world that we’re serious about not only creating successful businesses, but also about bolstering the communities and the world around us. Perhaps more importantly, this spirit of sustainable giving fits nicely in with the sharing-is-caring spirit of cannabis itself.
How to Best Practice Sustainability in Modern Cannabis was posted on Cannabis Now.
For legal states, the days of furtive alleyway exchanges of cash and dime bags, followed by an all-too-often realization that the weed was dirt – not to mention that the bag was light and the dealer had vanished like a vape puff – are finally fading fast in the rearview mirror.
Fortunately, legalization has brought with it the legitimization of commercial enterprise. As I write this, self-regulatory organizations such as the nonprofit. ASTM International, the National Association of Cannabis Businesses and the Foundation of Cannabis Unified Standards (to name a few) are addressing standards and best practices for this fledgling industry. These issues include things like quality, consistency, safety, organic certification, processing, testing, labeling, packaging, ethical labor practices, security and much, much more.
While “best practices” is typically a phrase reserved for industries trying to set universal standards for doing business, I propose that we as the thoughtful cannabis-consuming public also develop a canon of our own best practices, our own personal code of conduct.
It simply makes good sense, but it also speaks to long-term success. Just as best practices from a business standpoint will improve the industry’s image and an individual company’s bottom line, so too will our sharing responsibly and being as informed as possible go a long way toward improving public perception and putting the onus on cannabis-related ventures to offer the highest-quality product possible.
Here are a few ways we all can be a positive part of this important endeavor:
1) Know Before You Buy
Ask your friendly neighborhood budtender all of the questions in your head, like how your flower was grown and what, if any, pesticides or additives were applied. Question what is known about the strain you’re considering, such as what terpenes it contains, whether it also offers CBD and at what percentages.
Also, find out what extraction process was used to concoct the edibles and concentrates you’re considering. Try to determine if the producer of these consumables knows what strains they contain, or if it’s just a mishmash. All of these things can affect your health and reactions to the product and are worth figuring out.
2) Communicate Effectively With Fellow Consumers
In the early days of legalization, some friends and I took a package of commercially made edibles on a river rafting trip. Because the label information was confusing, we all wound up ingesting about four times as much THC as we should have (or would ever want to). Needless to say, although it ended well, it was an extremely unpleasant experience of heart-racing, paranoia and lethargy that lasted for about 8 hours.
Since then, I’ve attended multiple industry parties where homemade and commercially infused products were shared widely with attendees, and the people who were sharing them weren’t disclosing the THC content or anything about what was in them. In a legal, educated era, that’s wildly inappropriate.
If you made the edibles, calculate how much THC is in them and share that information so that the people who eat your edibles know what the potential potency is and can make an informed decision about dosage and portions. This disclosure goes for flower, too. For some, THC percentages could mean the difference between a fun evening and an anxiety-ridden early departure.
3) Be a Standup Representative of the Community
Hitting a vape pen in the single-stall bathroom at Starbucks barely leaves behind a scent, but lighting up a joint or a pipe there is something else entirely. For one, the next person using the restroom might not enjoy the lingering smell, and for another, the smell could also only add fuel to the false-impression fire that people who imbibe cannabis are irresponsible.
If you long for normalization and a universal acceptance of cannabis as a regular part of our lives, treat it like the regulated and serious commodity that it is.
4) Be Proactively Involved
If you’re in a legal state, it’s a good idea to remember that the majority of people in this country — let alone the world — still don’t have access.
Be as aware as you can of what’s happening in the new era of marijuana and get as involved as possible. Find causes that are meaningful to you and jump in to help. For instance, groups such as Students for Sensible Drug Policy are always looking for knowledgeable and committed legalization advocates.
That’s just one example of the hundreds of organizations out there working to make this a better weed world. There’s bound to be one that speaks to you and could use your help right now.
5) Share Information Responsibly
Don’t mindlessly repost a story just because it has a catchy headline you agree with. Search around for corroboration of the facts and the reporting, and only give it your stamp of approval if you feel 100 percent certain that it has bona fide origins. Fake news can only hurt the cannabis community at large in the long run, so just say no to passing it along to others.
Originally published in Issue 31 of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE
TELL US, what are your best practices as a cannabis consumer?
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5 Best Practices for Cannabis Consumers was posted on Cannabis Now.