While the herb is heralded as a natural solution for pain, anxiety and other ailments, conventional growing practices across the industry are far from earth friendly.
A coalition of more than 50 regenerative organic cannabis farmers and brands, partner dispensaries, allied businesses and nonprofit advocacy organizations have launched Weed Like Change — a consumer education campaign to advocate for regenerative organic cultivation of cannabis, and shift the industry toward environmentally responsible and ethically produced cannabis products.
Convened by the nonprofit Sun+Earth Certified, Weed Like Change aims to educate cannabis consumers at retail outlets, points of sale, online and through a series of educational events about the environmental impacts of conventionally grown products, the advantages of regenerative organic farming, and the health benefits of cannabis products produced to organic certification standards. The campaign is also designed to increase the financial viability of regenerative organic cannabis brands; improve market access for independent and small-scale legacy farmers; and raise consumer awareness about the role cannabis production plays in either contributing to, or helping to mitigate, the effects of climate change.
The cannabis industry has exploded in recent years as legalization has spread across the US. And while the versatile herb is considered a natural and viable alternative to pharmaceuticals for pain and anxiety management, among other uses, the environmental impacts of the blooming industry are far from earth-friendly: As cannabis giant Canopy Growth shared in its first ESG report (and one of the industry’s first, as well), released in January, its 2020 emissions were equivalent to burning more than 65 million pounds of coal.
With the UN estimating that conventional agriculture practices (primarily food) account for roughly a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, the growing regenerative ag movement has come to be seen as a potential solution for future-proofing farming and the myriad industries that rely on it, by mitigating its impacts on climate change. As more major cannabis players begin to account for and share their carbon footprint data, the industry at large can begin to nip its climate impacts in the bud (so to speak) — Weed Like Change aims to enlist conscious consumers to drive awareness and demand for products that are cultivated more responsibly.
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"By amplifying farmer and consumer voices, and making the connection between cannabis cultivation and climate change, Weed Like Change is educating the public on the most pressing cannabis industry issues of our time," said Casey O'Neill, regenerative organic cannabis farmer and Sun+Earth Certified Board President. "The corporatization and mass production of cannabis in indoor, energy-intensive warehouses is not sustainable and has a disproportionally high carbon footprint; and we'd like to shift the industry toward more regenerative and socially just production models. This effort seeks to help consumers understand how uplifting farmers is a key priority if we are to protect and revitalize our local cannabis economies.”
Studies show that consumers support and want access to healthy, environmentally friendly cannabis products, but they need to know these products exist and where to find them. According to a recent consumer survey by the US Cannabis Council, more than 1,000 respondents chose "health" and "the environment" as the most relevant factors guiding their cannabis purchases.
As part of the campaign, scores of retail workers will be trained to engage with consumers on the benefits of regenerative organic cannabis. Each campaign partner will also be supplied with educational materials including informative point-of-sale displays and QR Code stickers that enable consumers to learn more about regenerative organic cannabis. Dr. Bronner's — a longtime advocate of both regenerative ag practices and psychedelic-assisted therapy and medicines — is producing limited-edition versions of its Pure-Castile 4oz soap bottles with a special campaign label in support of the Weed Like Change campaign, which will be available at campaign education events.
Founded in 2019 by cannabis industry leaders, experts and advocates with a common commitment to regenerative organic agriculture, farmworker protections and community engagement, Sun+Earth — which has certified over 60 regenerative organic farms and manufacturers in California, Michigan, Oregon and Washington.— is also asking consumers to sign a pledge in support of regenerative organic cannabis, and to urge their local dispensaries to carry better-grown products.
The Weed Like Change campaign will launch throughout California and Oregon on April 11 and continue through July 11, 2022. By April 20, 2022, Earth’s atmospheric carbon concentration is expected to reach 420 parts per million for the first time in human history. An event held in Venice, California that day will raise awareness about the large carbon footprint of industrial indoor cannabis production and the solutions that regenerative organic farming practices hold for the planet.