Can growing indoor cannabis be sustainable?

Growing commercial cannabis outdoors requires a few specific things: open land, ample water, and a fertile terroir. Southern California lacks most of these features, which is a big reason why the cities and counties in the region that have approved cannabis cultivation require it to be done indoors. That's made SoCal the epicenter for legal indoor cannabis cultivation in California. 

Growing, selling, manufacturing, and distributing cannabis is legal in the city of LA, but it's not yet in LA County. That's about to change, though. Last year, the LA County Board of Supervisors approved a motion to open up unincorporated LA County to legal cannabis businesses. 

The county is still figuring out how to make that work. As part of that effort, the board tasked the head of the county's Office of Cannabis Management, Hyunhye Seo, to investigate the environmental impacts of the legal weed industry. She and her team determined that outdoor cultivation was too water-intensive and that it would be harmful to the surrounding community. As such, Seo says the new LA County regulations will only allow for indoor and solid-structure greenhouse cultivation. 

As of now, all outdoor grows in Southern California are illegal operations. Seo says they've caused a lot of problems. "Water theft, trespassing, pesticide and waste runoff, and increased criminal activity. We're just trying to move in good faith with these communities who are very upset, understandably so; build better trust with both the industry and the community members; and just really show progress and steps that we're taking towards promoting responsible businesses."


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