A leading environmental group wants to help you use marijuana sustainably and safely.
The Sierra Club, which has not dealt with cannabis issues in the past, released a guide last week that contains a number of recommendations on how to source marijuana in healthy and environmentally friendly ways.
They said that in the absence of regulations from federal agencies like the Food and Drug Administration or the U.S. Department of Agriculture, consumers remain in the dark when it comes to best practices. And the 129-year-old environmental nonprofit is here to help.
“The majority of Americans now live in states where they can legally consume medicinal or recreational cannabis,” reads the new guide published in the Sierra Club’s print magazine this month. “The more opportunities to legally participate, the more confusing the decisions can be.”
The medical and recreational cannabis industry is opaque and changing in many ways. Here are some best practices for safe and sustainable consumption: https://t.co/0BYXguLoME via @Sierra_Magazine
– Sierra Club (@SierraClub) January 4, 2021
The article lists five tips for marijuana enthusiasts at a time when more and more government-approved markets are going online.
– –Buy organic – or “bio-ish”. With marijuana continuing to be illegal nationwide, cannabis companies have no way of getting standard organic certification. However, consumers should look for a Clean Green or Sun + Earth label, as these third-party suppliers also adhere to strict standards and help companies obtain formal certification.
– –Buy marijuana from the outdoors. The carbon footprint for cannabis grown indoors can be significant as the process relies heavily on electronic lighting. This is not the case with flowers grown outdoors. Sierra Club said, “Producing one kilogram of cannabis indoors creates 4,600 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of driving the United States 11 times from coast to coast.”
– –Get to know the marijuana producer. The illegal market does not go away when a state opens a legal cannabis market. And because illegal vendors are not regulated, they may use harmful pesticides or grow their produce in public areas in ways that can harm surrounding wildlife. However, a 2019 study found that illegal cultivation in national forests declined after legalization in Oregon and Washington state.
The guide also notes that certain states are encouraging cannabis companies to participate in energy saving programs. Colorado has gone one step further. The governor announced last year that the state was launching pilot programs to encourage sustainable cooperation between the cannabis and alcohol markets by using carbon dioxide from the brewing process to stimulate the growth of marijuana plants.
– –Look for a certificate of analysis. This is easier said than done in states where marijuana continues to be banned, but it’s an important component for consumers in constitutional states because the products have been tested for heavy metals, mold, and other potentially dangerous substances.
– –Be careful with the packaging. As in other industries, plastics and packaging are an environmental problem. According to Sierra Club, finding products with low-waste packaging can help solve this problem. For example, there are some companies that use recycled plastics that have been extracted from the ocean. Alternatively, consumers could try to find hemp-based packaging.
The guide also offers tips for specific types of cannabis products.
For example, when it comes to groceries, consumers should look for vegan treats. Aside from the arguments that a plant-based diet is a humane alternative, animal husbandry is also overly polluting and resource-intensive.
For smoking, the group says that glass pipes are “naturally more environmentally friendly” than roll paper because they reduce waste and production. The environmentally conscious cannabis consumer should also buy flowers in jars instead of individual pre-rolls “to reduce the need for single-use packaging”.
When it comes to vaping, Sierra Club recommends spending your money with companies that offer recycling programs for used cartridges.
Meanwhile, activists in Montana see a connection between environmental protection and marijuana. A voter-approved initiative to legalize cannabis in the state requires that a significant portion of tax revenue from marijuana sales be used for conservation programs.
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Photo by David Ragusa on Unsplash.
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