1136 Yuma
Grape Gasoline S1, Miracle Alien Cookies
A Cut Above
Gelato 41, Malibu Mirage, Peach Crescendo #2, Sour Diesel, Unicorn Poop, Veritas Cookies
ANNA
Durban Kush #8, El Chivo #4, Sour Diesel, White 99
Best High
Veritas Cookies
Blue Heron
Cherry Punch, El Chivo #4, FUN, Forza Sans Souci #4, Grape Gasoline S1, Malibu Mirage, Super Lemon G, Veritas Cookies
Buku Loud
RUN, Sour Diesel
Canna Cabinet
Big Bubba Diesel, El Chivo #4, Gelato 41, Grape Gasoline S1, Macchiato Haze #8, Malibu Mirage, Peach Crescendo #2, RUN, Sour Diesel, Sour Rado, Super Lemon G, The Sauce
Cannabicare
El Chivo #4, White 99
Cherry Peak
Bananaghani, Big Bubba Diesel, Cake Pop, Cherry Punch, El Chivo #4, FUN, Forza Sans Souci #4, Gastro Pop #4, Gelato 41, Grape Gasoline S1, MIL, Malibu Mirage, Miracle Alien Cookies, Peach Crescendo #2, Sour Diesel, Sour Rado, Strawberry Shortcake, Sueno, Sunset Drive, Super Lemon G, Triangle OG, Unicorn Poop, Veritas Cookies, White 99
Colorado Harvest Company
Bananaghani, Black Amber, Cereal Barz, Cherry Punch, Colorado Cutthroat, Durban Kush #8, El Chivo #4, Frozen Dessert, Gastro Pop #4, Gelato 41, Grape Gasoline S1, Grape OZ, Lucky Charms, Macchiato Haze #8, Miracle Alien Cookies, RUN, Sour Diesel, Space Gello, Super Lemon G, Unicorn Poop, Veritas Cookies
Emerald Fields
Big Bubba Diesel, Cereal Barz, Miracle Alien Cookies
Euflora
Bananaghani, Big Bubba Diesel, Malibu Mirage
Green Dragon
Bananaghani, Black Amber, Lucky Charms, Macchiato Haze #8, Malibu Mirage, Miracle Alien Cookies, RUN, Sherb Crasher, Space Gello, The Sauce, Veritas Cookies, Wedding Crasher
Green World
Cherry Punch, Forza Sans Souci #4, Grape Gasoline S1, Super Lemon G
HERBS 4 YOU
Unicorn Poop
Herbal Healing
Big Bubba Diesel, Cake Pop, Forza Sans Souci #4, Gastro Pop #4, Miracle Alien Cookies, Sour Diesel, Triangle OG, Unicorn Poop, Veritas Cookies
Higher Grade
Cherry Punch, El Chivo #4, Forza Sans Souci #4, Grape Gasoline S1, Super Lemon G, White 99
Kika Kush
Bananaghani, Gelato 41, Sherb Crasher, Veritas Cookies
Kind Meds
Big Bubba Diesel, Malibu Mirage, Veritas Cookies
Livgreen
Cherry Punch, Durban Kush #8, El Chivo #4, FUN, Forza Sans Souci #4, Grape Gasoline S1, Miracle Alien Cookies, RUN, Sherb Crasher, Slurricane, Sour Diesel, Sour Rado, Super Lemon G, Super Sour Lemon, Triangle OG, Unicorn Poop, Veritas Cookies, Wedding Crasher, White 99
Magnolia Rd
Bananaghani, Cake Pop, El Chivo #4, Forza Sans Souci #4, Gastro Pop #4, MIL, Muffinz Breath #1, OZ Kush, Slurricane, Strawberries N Cream, Sueno, Super Sour Lemon, White 99
Magnolia Rd
Bananaghani, Big Bubba Diesel, Cake Pop, Cherry Punch, Durban Kush #8, El Chivo #4, FUN, Forza Sans Souci #4, Gastro Pop #4, Gelato 41, Grape Gasoline S1, Lava Breath #2, MIL, Malibu Mirage, Miracle Alien Cookies, Muffinz Breath #1, OZ Kush, Sherb Crasher, Slurricane, Strawberries N Cream, Sueno, Super Lemon G, Super Sour Lemon, Triangle OG, Veritas Cookies, WRZ, White 99, Yuk Mouth
Native Roots
Bananaghani, Big Bubba Diesel, Black Amber, Cake Pop, Cereal Barz, Cookies N Cream, Durban Kush #8, El Chivo #4, FUN, Forza Sans Souci #4, Frozen Dessert, Gastro Pop #4, Gelato 41, Grape Gasoline S1, Lava Breath #2, Malibu Mirage, Miracle Alien Cookies, OZ Kush, Peach Crescendo #2, Peking Duck #6, Sherb Crasher, Sour Diesel, Super Lemon G, Triangle OG, Unicorn Poop, Veritas Cookies, Wedding Crasher, White 99
RiNo Supply
Cereal Barz, Colorado Cutthroat, Forza Sans Souci #4, Grape Gasoline S1, Miracle Alien Cookies, Wedding Crasher
Ripple
Macchiato Haze #8, RUN, Space Gello, Veritas Cookies
Rocky Mountain Cannabis
Big Bubba Diesel, Malibu Mirage
Rocky Mountain Cannabis
Forza Sans Souci #4, Grape Gasoline S1, Super Lemon G
Rocky Road
Cherry Punch, El Chivo #4, Grape Gasoline S1, Strawberries N Cream, Super Lemon G, White 99
Rocky Road Remedies
Big Bubba Diesel, Cherry Punch, FUN, Super Lemon G
Roots RX
Peking Duck #6, Pineapple Blast, Unicorn Poop
Roots Rx
Bananaghani, Durban Kush #8, Miracle Alien Cookies, Pineapple Blast, Sherb Crasher, Sour Rado, Space Gello, Unicorn Poop
SMOKEY'S
Big Bubba Diesel, Cereal Barz, Miracle Alien Cookies
Skunked
Cherry Punch, FUN, Forza Sans Souci #4, Grape Gasoline S1, Super Lemon G
Smokey's
Cereal Barz, Colorado Cutthroat, Durban Kush #8, Super Sour Lemon, WRZ, Yuk Mouth
Solace Meds
Bananaghani, Sherb Crasher, Space Gello
Space Station
Big Bubba Diesel, Miracle Alien Cookies
Standing Akimbo
Apple Fritter, Bananaghani, Big Bubba Diesel, Black Amber, Cereal Barz, Cookies N Cream, FUN, Frozen Dessert, Lava Breath #2, MIL, Miracle Alien Cookies, Muffinz Breath #1, OZ Kush, Peach Crescendo #2, Peking Duck #6, Pineapple Blast, RUN, Sherb Crasher, Sour Rado, Strawberries N Cream, Super Lemon G, Super Sour Lemon, Triangle OG, Unicorn Poop, Veritas Cookies, Wedding Crasher
TGS
Bananaghani, Big Bubba Diesel, Cereal Barz, Cherry Punch, Durban Kush #8, El Chivo #4, Forza Sans Souci #4, Frozen Dessert, Gastro Pop #4, Grape Gasoline S1, Grape OZ, Malibu Mirage, Muffinz Breath #1, OZ Kush, Peking Duck #6, Pineapple Blast, Sherb Crasher, Sour Diesel, Sour Rado, Super Lemon G, Super Sour Lemon, Unicorn Poop, Veritas Cookies, WOF, Wedding Crasher, White 99, Yuk Mouth
THE GREEN SOLUTION
Cherry Punch, Forza Sans Souci #4, Grape Gasoline S1, Super Lemon G
The 404 Dispensary
Bananaghani, Cake Pop, El Chivo #4, Forza Sans Souci #4, Malibu Mirage, Muffinz Breath #1, White 99
The 64 Store
Cherry Punch, El Chivo #4, Grape Gasoline S1, Super Lemon G, White 99
The Dispo
Big Bubba Diesel, Cherry Punch, Durban Kush #8, El Chivo #4, FUN, Forza Sans Souci #4, Frozen Dessert, Grape Gasoline S1, Miracle Alien Cookies, OZ Kush, Pineapple Blast, Sour Diesel, Super Lemon G, Super Sour Lemon, Triangle OG, White 99
The Happy Camper
Bananaghani, Big Bubba Diesel, El Chivo #4, Grape Gasoline S1, Malibu Mirage, Peach Crescendo #2, Sour Diesel, Super Lemon G, Triangle OG, Veritas Cookies, White 99
Third Day Apothecary
Cherry Punch, Super Lemon G
Tumbleweed
Bananaghani, Big Bubba Diesel, Sour Diesel

July 24, 2023

Growing Green: Cannabis Farmers Tackle Sustainability

JUL 24, 2023

Gia Mora

With a burgeoning demand for marijuana, both legal and illegal operations face scrutiny over water issues, energy usage, and plastic pollution.

Lex Corwin inspects the plants inside the greenhouse at Stone Road Farms

Photography courtesy Stone Road Farms.

In 2016, when Lex Corwin opened his off-grid, biodynamic cannabis farm in Nevada City, California, he incorporated sustainability into every facet of the company. He powered the greenhouse with on-site solar panels, opted for natural pest control instead of synthetics and sold his products in recyclable, 99% plastic-free packaging. “It’s a very important political topic for a lot of people in our generation,” says the 30-year-old founder and CEO of Stone Road

Not only do Millennials and Gen Z-ers widely support marijuana legalization, but they also engage more with issues surrounding the climate crisis. With sales of legal cannabis expected to more than double by 2030, producers of the nation’s sixth-most valuable crop have a problem: Cannabis has a substantial environmental footprint. 

Research on the sustainability of cannabis cultivation, although nascent because of its illegal federal status, indicates an array of environmental impacts. Growing cannabis requires massive water and energy resources while contributing to air, land and water pollution and soil damage. Corwin is part of a small but growing group of farmers working to transform the least green parts of the industry into more sustainable and profitable practices.

Photography courtesy of Stone Road Farms.

Turning Grass Blue

Cannabis is a water-intensive crop. Grown indoors or in the wild, each plant requires between five  and six gallons of water per day—nearly twice that of other commodity crops. In California, irrigated agriculture already accounts for 70 percent to 80 percent of all water consumption. 

Inside Stone Road’s half-acre of greenhouses, says Corwin, the plants require much less than five gallons of water per week because they’re small, thanks to their two- to three-month lifecycle. The outdoor plants grown on his 57-acre outdoor farm, however, grow for four to six months and require much more water “because they’re massive.”

Unlike most cannabis operations, Stone Road doesn’t use municipal or stream water, instead irrigating its indoor and outdoor plants from two wells that draw from an underground aquifer. This geologically unique system preserves nearby aquatic ecosystems and ensures that Stone Road has ample supplies, even during droughts. 

Stone Road’s sustainable infrastructure stands in stark contrast to the water stolen by unlicensed cannabis operations across the Golden State. In San Bernadino County alone, a reported 4,000 acre-feet of water was stolen in 2021—enough to submerge 4,000 football stadiums in a foot of water.

Water woes aren’t just an issue for California farmers; Colorado cannabis growers face an even drier future. Home to the worst conditions in the West, more than half of the state is in some level of drought, with 86 percent of the water supply already dedicated to agriculture. 

Those numbers don’t concern Andrew Mahon, head of cultivation at Veritas in Denver. “We built our own irrigation system to fit the style of growing we do,” he says. Seasoned cultivation staff, not a digital sensor, determine the precise amount of moisture the plants need. 

Consequently, the 20,000 square feet of grow space at Veritas uses significantly less water than the average indoor cannabis farm—half to one gallon a day during flowering and just 100 to 200 millilitres a day during the vegetation stage, says Mahon. 

Water-conscious techniques like these don’t just prevent overwatering. They can also stem the flow of runoff, which can tax local water treatment systems. That’s because many cannabis operations apply insecticides, acaricides, fungicides and plant growth regulators that can disrupt habitats of fish, amphibians and rare carnivores. 

While Mahon could use EPA-registered pesticides, he says he primarily chooses minimum-risk pesticides “typically composed of essential oils like rosemary oil [and] thyme oil.” Corwin eschews chemicals altogether, instead opting for “an army of predator mites, ladybugs and beneficial fungi” to deter other pests, stave off mold and keep the farm’s water supply clean.

LED growlights at Veritas Fine Cannabis. Photography courtesy of Veritas.

Cooling Down Energy Use

Indoor grow houses allow farmers to govern the lifecycle of cannabis using artificial lighting and climate control, which enables rapid turnaround for sometimes dozens of harvests each year. But with that speed comes massive greenhouse gas emissions from lighting, heating, cooling and dehumidification—powered mostly by petrochemicals. 

“The elephant in the room,” says Mahon, “is LED lighting.” For years, the industry has relied on high-intensity discharge lamps such as metal halides and high-pressure sodium lights (HSPs), fixtures considered efficient by 1960s and 1970s standards. Compared to HSPs, light-emitting diodes provide more light, require very little energy to run and emit far less heat, substantially reducing the demand for cooling and the energy in general required to produce cannabis.

Dion Foley, chief of operations at Koala Green Development in Adelanto, California, prefers the new tech. “LEDs are insanely more energy efficient,” he says. Koala Green Development has been growing with LEDs since 2018, and its 15,000 square feet of grow space costs $20,000 per month to power. Similarly sized facilities not growing with LEDs, says Foley, spend between $50,000 and $60,000.

For some growers, the cutting edge of sustainability in cannabis has moved toward energy generation. At Stone Road, on-site solar panels provide enough power to run the supplemental LED lighting in the greenhouses. Because the sides can be opened manually to cool the plants and prevent mold, there’s no need for HVAC or dehumidifying, says Corwin. 

Growing under LEDs also allows for much higher yields each harvest, “meaning that grows will not have to be as large in the future and, therefore, the footprint of the industry will decrease over time,” says Mahon.

While Veritas has not fully switched to LEDs, Mahon says the company has plans to upgrade in the near future. In the meantime, more than a quarter of Colorado’s energy currently comes from wind and solar, and 2022 was the first year that renewables generated more energy than coal and nuclear power. As the grid continues to decarbonize and LEDs become the industry standard, the emissions of indoor cannabis cultivation will continue to shrink. 

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LED growlights at Koala Green Development. Photography courtesy of Koala Green Development.

Pot’s Pernicious Plastics

Zipper bags, rigid “doob tubes,” spent vape cartridges and other plastic pollution generated by marijuana packaging also contribute to the global plastic crisis, although it’s unclear how much of an impact cannabis packaging has on an already massive problem . A jaw-dropping 363 billion pounds of plastics choke the world’s oceans, eventually finding their way into the human food chain. Single-use plastics also take hundreds of years to decompose, releasing harmful methane and ethylene gasses as they do. 

A daily surfer, Corwin says he can’t imagine swimming into a piece of plastic packaging that his company had created, which is why Stone Road’s current packaging is made from 100% post-consumer recycled materials and will soon be 100% plastic-free.

Stone Road’s plastic-free packaging. Photography courtesy of Stone Road Farms

Yet plastic remains the most popular packaging material in the industry. Of the limited number of options that meet the child safety regulations, plastic is the most economically priced, says Foley. A glass jar, for example, can cost $1.50, whereas a Mylar bag can cost as little as $0.20.

When opting for plastic over glass, Foley says an established company could save between $10,000 and $75,000 a year, depending on the number of accounts. That might not seem like a lot of money in the context of a $37-billion industry; but, he says, “cannabis companies are operating on extremely tight margins in the current struggling cannabis market. 

“You’d charge a dispensary somewhere between $2.50 and $5 more per eighth (3.5 grams) for jarred cannabis,” he continues, with the cost of sustainable packaging passed on to consumers. That poses a problem for producers in a market increasingly flooded with product, driving down prices for both legal and illegal cannabis. Corwin says this has led consumers to prioritize “value over everything.”

Foley swore up and down he’d never sell cannabis in plastic until the price of doing business pushed his hand. Many farmers simply “can’t justify doing something that’s good for the environment when it costs more,” he says. 

Without financial incentives to encourage more eco-friendly practices, Foley fears many smaller-scale operations won’t have the working capital to make the sustainable switch. To survive the second decade of recreational legalization, cannabis farmers will have to be as resilient as the plants they cultivate.

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