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Cannabusiness: Market Forces Can Be Good for the Environment

Recently in Humboldt County, a team of inspectors from various agencies—the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), local water-quality control boards, the county Sheriff’s Office and others—surprised more than a dozen active ganja-growing operations along Sproul Creek in the Eel River watershed. Over three days, the inspectors found evidence of the usual environmental no-nos: waste discharge of nasty pesticides and fertilizers, the diversion and storage of stream water to irrigate crops and a hell of a lot of garbage.

However, there is some good news to report. These growers will have a chance to fix these bad practices and begin to comply with environmental regulations to protect this ecosystem. And it seems the local enforcers of environmental regulations are genuinely interested in working with growers, not against them.

“Voluntary compliance with the law is the best-case scenario, and we expect to see an increase in the number of permit applications following these inspections,” DeWayne Little of the CDFW said in a statement.

Of particular concern in the region are the five endangered salmonid species, especially coho salmon. When a number of streams dried up last year, ganja grows (along with the persistent drought conditions in California) were to blame.

“We do have the authority to serve search warrants, cite those who are damaging the environment and confiscate crops,” Little continued. “We hope to not have to resort to those measures, but it is imperative that we take every precaution to avoid the loss of the coho run for a second year in a row.”

The U.S. Forest Service documented much worse environmental degradation in California in a short film titled “Marijuana Grows and Restoration,” which screened earlier this year at the 2015 Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Tahoe National Forest in Nevada City, CA.

Happily, there are signs that consumers might be the ones to drive the bad guys off public lands and to make sure that responsible growers do things the right way. There appears to be an increasing demand for organically grown, eco-friendly products.

Clean Green Certified monitors grow operations to make sure they use environmentally sound, sustainable methods. Based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program, Clean Green “inspects all inputs, from seed or clone selection, soil, nutrients, pesticides, mold treatments, dust control, and source of electricity, to methods of harvesting and processing.”

We’re proud to say that a number of High Times Cannabis Cup winners have Clean Green’s imprimatur, such as Santa Cruz Mountain Naturals, purveyor of a fine medical sativa, Cracker Jack.

Even uncertified outlets are touting green credentials. A popular dispensary in the Bay Area, the non-profit San Francisco Patient Resource Center, for example, promises its new line of outdoor-grown herb uses only organic nutrients and no pesticides.

Expect to see more branding along these lines as long as consumers demand it. Such market forces can be good for ganja—and good for the planet.

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