AUG 12, 2021 9:10 AM PDT

Cannabis Cultivation Negatively Impacts the Environment

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Cannabis cultivation may have several damaging effects on the environment. The corresponding study was published in the Journal of Cannabis Research by researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Illinois State University. 

While outdoor cultivation of cannabis is the traditional, low-cost method for growing cannabis, it is subject to variability in natural resources. Improper soil and water conditions as well as pests, for example, could interfere with yields. 

Although indoor cultivation via greenhouses enables full control over all aspects of the plants, it is subject to higher costs, more energy demands, and environmental implications. 

Despite the rise in cannabis cultivation in recent years from legislation and increasing medical research, there has been comparably little information on the environmental impact of cannabis cultivation and best practices to ensure it is sustainable 

In the current paper, researchers conducted a review of available literature on the evironmental impacts of cannabis cultivation.

They included 63 papers in their review on topics including marijuana cultivation, cannabis emissions, and environmental impacts. In doing so, they found that cannabis cultivation affects many aspects of the environment. 

Both indoor and outdoor cannabis cultivation were shown to be water-intensive, with the ability to lead to water pollution and diversion, negatively impacting surrounding ecosystems. They also found that cannabis plants emit significant amounts of biogenic volatile organic compounds, which could reduce indoor air quality.

Besides these two factors, the high energy consumption of indoor cultivation- mainly from heating, air conditioning, ventilation, and lighting- leads to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Cannabis cultivation was also linked to soil erosion. 

On the positive side, however, the researchers noted that cannabis plants can absorb and store heavy metals, meaning that, if cultivated properly, they may have some positive impacts on some environments. 

“We strive to build a better understanding of the environmental impacts induced by cannabis cultivation,” wrote the researchers in their paper, “This improved understanding can benefit communities, including policymakers, cannabis industry stakeholders, agricultural engineers, ecologists, and environmental scientists.”

“This review covers the environmental effects on water, air, and soil. Energy consumption and carbon footprint are included as well. Possible research directions are also put forward,” they added. 

 

Sources: Journal of Cannabis Research

About the Author
  • Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
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