Sustainable cannabis cultivation: the organic grass situation

Being a crop with some great potential, cannabis saw a global breakthrough in the hippie culture of the late '60s. Since then, the plant has always been accompanied by a sustainable and nature-loving ethos. But the average eco-balance in commercial cannabis cultivation is anything but green. About eight times more energy per square meter is being used as in the same area of any industrial building. With more and more powerful lamp systems and synthetic fertilizers, nothing is being left to chance. The newly germinated US cannabis industry is expected to result in a $20 billion profit by 2021. Nevertheless, it is still in a difficult situation due to lack of research and regulations.

Sustainability in cannabis cultivation
However, these problems not only stem from the fact that heaps of beginners have entered the cultivation business after the waves of legalization in the US. For decades, a large part of these farms was already in operation, though hidden as not to alert law enforcement. However, since the legalization, the consumer-side demands on quantity, but above all the quality, are increasing exorbitantly. And in order to honor these demands, more and more cannabis farms are striving for sustainable cultivation concepts, using organic fertilizer and pest control methods, instead of relying on industrial chemical lobes.

Trust is good, control is better
Nonetheless, organic farming also has its pitfalls, mainly in quality control. American cannabis producers test far less than 0.01 percent of their plants for potency and germination. Few institutions voluntarily opt for more extensive tests, which they consider to be an unnecessary financial expense. A lack of regulations continues to fuel this behavior. Sometimes the production site and the test laboratory can be traced back to the same owner, which effectively invalidates the test results.

Ancient legal clutter
This legal debacle is based on old laws from the 70's, in which cannabis is still classified as a "Schedule I Drug", which puts it among illegal drugs like heroin and MDMA. It is precisely this legal mess that makes it so complicated for universities and research institutes to obtain approval for extensive testing with cannabis. It also leaves producers and consumers in the lurch.

German organic hemp
Even when the German hemp industry, growing hemp for its fibers and seeds, is still a niche culture, it is ahead of the gigantic US market in terms of sustainability. Of the approximately 1600 hectares of hemp grown in this country, more than half are managed organically.
Compare this to wheat, that scarcely has 2% of the fields under organic cultivation. In some cases, the reason for this is that as hemp products are either worn on the body or taken as food, organic products get a special added value in the market.

Furthermore, the undemanding cannabis plant is ideal for organic and pesticide-free cultivation due to its robust nature. Should the global wave of legalization also spill over into the German-speaking legal area, there would at least be a more leveled path for a trend-setting, sustainable cannabis cultivation.


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