Emerald Valley Gardens, a small cannabis gardening store near Springfield, is packed with shoppers. At the register, owner Madeline Thomas answers questions about where to find the right pots or brands to buy for novice growers. The shelves are lined with nutrients and soil, and draped with leafy creeping plants.
Thomas has worked in the cannabis industry for over 10 years and says she loves the business. Over the past two years, she says, her clientele has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic because people had more free time.
“It was so cool,” she says. “We have seen people who have never grown a cannabis plant or who have never had a vegetable garden come here, which is great. They are our favorite customers because they are super enthusiastic.
According to the medical journal Journal of addictive diseases, the use of medicinal cannabis has increased by 91% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some cannabis users in Eugene have taken to cultivating themselves while being stuck at home, which is a greener alternative to buying from a large-scale dispensary.
Cannabis consumes a lot of water and energy. Thomas says lighting is one of the most important elements when growing cannabis, as the goal is to replicate an outdoor environment in a controlled grow room. Growing indoor marijuana requires complex, high-power lighting systems that require an abundance of energy to use – which equates to 300 million vehicles in motion each year, or a total of 1% of consumption. national energy company in the United States.
But growing outdoors isn’t much better. A mature cannabis plant requires 22.7 liters of water per day compared to 12.64 liters for a wine grape plant. However, the Oregon Cannabis Environmental Best Practices Task Force also states that cannabis is just another crop and its water use practices may be more efficient.
Red Cuer, an Emerald Valley Gardens employee who also started an independent cannabis irrigation business, explains that the best way for a grower to adapt to more environmentally friendly cannabis cultivation is to give the priority to a soil with a good water retention so that the plant has access to water. for longer. As with any garden, Cuer says independent cannabis growers learn how the plant was grown and what types of nutrients it receives.
“There’s a lot going on in cannabis, especially when it comes to growing indoors, just the right amount of electricity and power consumption. It has a pretty heavy impact, I would say, ”Cuer says. “Trying to focus a little more on sustainability would be something that I personally would like to see the cannabis industry take hold of in some way.”
Jeffrey Steiner, associate director of the Global Hemp Innovation Center at Oregon State University, says there aren’t many studies yet on how to mass-produce cannabis, especially hemp, in a sustainable manner. Hemp and marijuana are both derived from the cannabis species, according to Steiner, but they have different levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Hemp and marijuana grown for cannabinoids, THC, and CBD, are similar in that growers want to optimize flower production where these cannabinoids are concentrated. Hemp has much lower THC levels.
He says the idea of finding solutions to some of these problems is imperative as cannabis use rises nationwide.
Steiner says the innovation center is testing methods to make cannabis production both profitable and sustainable, and that hemp could be a crop of interest as the climate emergency demands drastic changes in the use of l energy and water.
“We really need to think about how to incorporate hemp in a sustainable way,” he says. “It will take a lot more thought, investment, creativity and innovation to make this work, but it’s worth continuing. “
Abundance is also proving to be an issue for large-scale farms where cannabis is widely cultivated. In 2019, Oregon was producing twice as much cannabis as people were consuming.
On a small scale, independent cultivation could alleviate the overuse of cannabis resources that mass production farms often cause now, especially in Oregon. Instead of clearing fields for cannabis production or covering them with single-use plastic, people can use their own backyards, gardens and homes.
Thomas says people who cultivate their own gardens generally care about cultivating them in a way that doesn’t require an abundance of water, energy, or fertilizer filled with pesticides.
“If you want to grow your plants, you will probably have less of an impact in every way,” says Thomas. “There is a pretty deep emotional connection with cannabis plants. People often put a lot of love and attention into it.
Creating an independent garden of any kind benefits the planet by reducing long-distance transportation for cannabis or food, which is the largest source of fossil fuel emissions in the world at 29%. In addition, gardeners can choose to omit the use of pesticides or synthetic chemicals in produce grown on site.
“I think people grow their own cannabis because they like to garden,” she says. “This is how I think the cannabis industry can change. It would be great if a lot more things were made locally.