There are very few things that are a given these days; in an age of cynicism we cling to the few things that still make sense. One of those things we take for granted or just assume is that cannabis users are all environmentally friendly, and that those that grow cannabis try to stay as “green” as possible when growing it. So imagine the average person’s confusion when Paul Cure, of Cure Organic Farms, began fighting the construction of four 4,000-plus square-foot marijuana greenhouses and a 5,040 square-foot plant warehouse in his local area of Boulder, Colorado, in May 2014.
Since marijuana cultivation is still such a hot button issue, it would be easy to assume Cure was simply anti-pot and anti commerce, but Cure say it is about something much more complicated. “This is not about pot,” Cure said to Thomas Mitchell, a writer for Denver Westword. Cure also added, “Our concerns are very multi-dimensional. First and foremost, the air and water quality would be seriously jeopardized. This is a 21,000 square-foot footprint that our whole neighborhood is affected by.” According to Cure, his land will border the proposed grow operations, leading Cure to worry about the safety of his organic farm certification.
In order to be certified as an organic farm, the farmer has to pay thousands of dollars in licenses, fees, taxes and certifications; all of which hinge of some very specific guidelines. If one thing on his farm is polluted, like soil being contaminated from pesticides, he loses everything that him and his family have worked towards for the last decade. Currently, the battle remains at the county level, but Cure says he’s prepared for a lengthier court battle if need be.
This issue illustrates a broader issue that you will start to see popping up in the coming years as cannabis becomes more mainstream. On June 1, CBS Sacramento covered a new study released by wildlife officials in California that reported, “some drought-stricken rivers and streams in Northern California’s coastal forests are being polluted and sucked dry by water-guzzling medical marijuana farms.” While we would like to think all cannabis cultivation is green, don’t be surprised to see more and more land and water disputes in the future.
One of the tough questions cannabis cultivators will have to start asking themselves is whether or not their business practices are good for the environment. While operating under the shroud of illegality, there wasn’t much responsibility expected or taken for environmental damage done while growing; however, now that cannabis is fully legal in at least two states, environmental expectations are increasing.
What many marijuana growers don’t realize is that people vote with their wallets and their vote is determined by expectations. People expect marijuana to be environmentally friendly, regardless of whether or not it is. In the black market, it is easy to ignore how and where your cannabis is grown, but in the free market people want to know from where their products originate. It may be easy for customers to buy an iPhone knowing it was built by impoverished children, but that is because they don’t expect Apple to act ethically 100 percent of the time. Those that think cannabis users don’t care about the environmental impact of the weed they smoke have a fundamental misunderstanding of the market.
Many people already assume that cannabis and environmentalism go hand and hand; if cannabis entrepreneurs hope to capture and maintain a lucrative market, they are going to have to change. This means moving away from things like poisonous pesticides, toxic plastics and harmful fertilizers. This means working with the local community to ensure the cultivation process is not harmful to residents. This means being more mindful of business practices and how it affects those around you. In order to ensure future success, cannabis entrepreneurs need to go green.