Cannabis prohibition is one of the most harmful public policies in United States history.
In addition to harming millions of people’s lives and wasting an enormous amount of tax dollars, cannabis prohibition also hurts the environment.
One of the biggest arguments in favor of legalizing cannabis is that it would help address environmental issues.
Reducing the negative human impact on the environment is a very important issue and legalizing cannabis can help contribute to fixing the problem.
Below are five ways that cannabis prohibition hurts the environment, issues that cannabis legalization and regulation would directly address.
1. Cartels wreak havoc on public lands
As long as cannabis is illegal in the United States illegal gardens run by drug cartels will continue to be located on public lands in the U.S.
Cartel gardens are often extremely large in size and cause an enormous amount of damage to the ecosystem in which they are located.
These types of gardens require a tremendous amount of water which often results in the garden operators diverting water from any sources they can find in the area.
Garbage builds up as the garden operators live on the land. Huge acreage is cut down and/or trampled leaving wildlife scrambling to leave the area in search of more suitable environments.
Legalization and regulation would allow consumers to purchase cannabis that is grown in much more sustainable ways instead of pushing consumers towards unregulated cannabis.
2. Prohibition prevents hemp from being used for soil remediation
Hemp is one of the most versatile plants on the entire earth. It can be made into many things from fabric to medicine.
One thing that hemp is really good at is removing toxins from soil via a process known as environmental remediation.
As the Green Flower team has pointed out before, hemp plants are being used to help decontaminate Europe’s largest steel plant site.
The hemp pulls contaminants from the soil as it grows and after it is harvested it can be safely used in many ways.
Unfortunately, due to prohibition hemp is often not used for this purpose and the environment suffers as a result.
3. Proper disposal is not followed out of fear
In a perfect world, cannabis would be grown outdoors in the sun, and in a way that was 100% organic and sustainable.
However, that’s not the case. Often times growers use herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides that can be harmful to the environment, especially when not properly disposed of.
In a legalized and regulated market growers that decide to still use non-organic methods can dispose of these products in a way that reduces the impact on the environment.
But when cannabis is prohibited a lot of these products get flushed down drains or poured out for fear that law enforcement might discover them and seek prosecution.
4. Would-be outdoor growers are pushed indoors
Sungrown cannabis has a much smaller carbon footprint compared to cannabis that is cultivated indoors.
This is obviously due to the fact that indoor cannabis cultivation requires a significant amount of lighting, air flow, and other things that require electricity.
Many cannabis growers that would love to cultivate outdoors instead keep their operations inside to reduce the chances of getting caught.
Even in legal cannabis states, outdoor cannabis cultivation is prohibited in some areas which translate to an increased impact on the environment.
That’s why cannabis advocates need to ensure that outdoor cultivation bans are fought against by all legal, reasonable means necessary at all times.
5. Cannabis prohibition prevents energy efficiency grants from going to cannabis industry members
In an effort to help the environment many states have energy efficiency programs that award grants to businesses that want to reduce their carbon footprints.
Grants are often awarded for solar panel installations and the use of other energy-saving technologies.
Sadly, as was seen in Maine recently, cannabis entities are prevented from receiving such grants because of federal prohibition.
Maine legalized cannabis for adult-use in 2016, but it will be awhile before cannabis businesses can receive grants from the state’s energy efficiency program due to federal prohibition.
All the while the environment will suffer as a result, which is ridiculous on many levels.