Organic Weed? Marijuana Growers Go Green

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Organic Weed? Marijuana Growers Go Green An industry long haunted by negative connotations and a lack of sound research finds new opportunities in sustainability.

In the U.S., one square foot of indoor marijuana cultivation uses four times more energy than the same space in a hospital, eight times more energy than a commercial building, and 20 times more energy than a center for religious worship, according to a study by Lewis and Clark College.

But a rising number of people in the fast-growing cannabis industry are trying to reduce their environmental footprint, from energy to water to pesticides. Still, a lack of research and regulation has left an industry that is on track to post $20.2 billion in sales by 2021 in a tough position. (Learn about the science of weed.)

In National Geographic magazine’s June 2015 edition, Editor-In-Chief Susan Goldberg wrote about the growing number of states that had legalized marijuana for medicinal and recreational use. At the time, less than half of the states in the U.S. had legalized the substance for medical use. Now, medical marijuana use is legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia.

Despite that expansion, this line by Goldberg still remains relevant: “The disconnect between the willingness of some states to regulate, sell, and tax marijuana and the federal reluctance to allow research to progress leaves an increasing number of people without the knowledge to make informed, science-based choices.”

This lack of information is evident in the relatively lax process of cannabis testing, compared to prescription drugs or foods. Marijuana growers are testing less than 0.01% of their product for potency and microbial growth. Few facilities choose to test more often, seeing it as an unneeded expense.

In cannabis-friendly Colorado, the rule of “process validation” means that a facility is able to check their growing process by taking just one sample from six harvest batches, each one week apart. Then they are not required to test for a full year.

Revalidation is necessary only if the facility makes changes to their growing process, such as adding a new nutrient, or replacing a less efficient light.

“Currently, there are labs that will manipulate the samples in order to inflate the THC concentrations,” says a laboratory owner who asked not to be named.

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