24 September 2020

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How hemp production is destroying the planet

Hemp production has been growing rapidly around the world in recent years. Experts say hemp is causing great damage to the environment and its production needs strict supervision.

Wildfires off the west coast of the United States of America (USA) are serious, the Thwaite glacier in Antarctica is slowly melting before our eyes, and Extinction Rebellion continues to protest the destruction of the world’s ecosystem. The question asked at this point is: is growing weeds good or bad for the environment?

The UK is the largest producer and exporter of medical and scientific cannabis in the world, according to data from the International Narcotics Control Board. However, there is little debate about the UK’s carbon emissions in relation to cannabis production.

The debate over legalising or decriminalising cannabis in the UK has been going on for many years. To some, it is only a matter of time before Britain follows in the footsteps of Canada, California, the Netherlands and others.

What’s the greenest way to grow hemp?
Different methods are used in hemp cultivation all over the world. But three methods come to the fore.

The first is to grow hemp outdoors, where it benefits from natural sunlight and rainwater.

This method is often seen as the least harmful to the environment, but it depends on whether chemical pesticides and rodent-killing drugs are used to protect these plants. Growing outdoors can also mean a lower quality crop as a result.

The second method is to grow hemp in greenhouses using sunlight or artificial light.

The environmental impact of this method varies depending on whether artificial light is used because electricity is taken into account. In addition, how advanced the greenhouse is affects production.

Thirdly, hemp can be grown indoors using artificial lighting, heating, ventilation and dehumidifiers. Nowadays, this means a better quality crop. It is generally considered the most popular method because multiple harvests can be done.

Indoor cultivation contributes to carbon emissions due to the large amount of electricity used and is considered the most damaging method to the environment. You also need plenty of water to keep the plants alive throughout the farming process.

“Energy consumption is decidedly the biggest problem, and this can be solved by growing in greenhouses rather than indoors,” said Jouke Piepenbrink, marketing manager at Dutch passion, an Amsterdam-based cannabis seed company. If hemp is grown outdoors or in greenhouses without artificial light, its impact on the environment is very low,” he says.

Illegal hemp growers often use the indoor farming method to maintain a low profile, sometimes even turning to diesel or gasoline generators to avoid using power from the grid.

Should hemp be legalised?

The question of whether to ban cannabis harming the planet is a matter that the UK should consider in the first place.

He is an environmental sociologist and faculty member at the Humboldt interdisciplinary Hemp Research Institute (HIIMR). Silvaggio points out that developing a polluting industry to combat the climate crisis is problematic: “these effects are a result of hemp not being regulated, but none of these effects would have occurred if it had not been banned. Prohibition is the main cause of the environmental impacts of hemp farming. Industrial farming for hemp is bad for the environment. The earth can’t take it anymore.”

Cannabis market grew by 50 per cent during coronavirus era
The popularity of hemp products increased during the Coronavirus outbreak. May-Sunday Research by Alphagreen, the UK’s largest market for Cannabis Sativa (CBD) products, showed that 8 million people bought CBD products from the start of the year to May. The £ 150m acquisition revealed 50 per cent growth in the market compared to 2019.

The growth of the cannabis industry in Europe is also steadily increasing. This includes products that fill the market in countries where tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound in hemp, is banned.

Piepenbrink, marketing manager of Dutch Passion, notes that the cannabis market has undergone rapid changes in the last 3 years and has been steadily growing in the last 33 years. “In many countries around the world, we see the market opening up in some way, sometimes they start with a medical program, the domestic Sunday opening up, or they let companies produce marijuana products for recreational use,” Piepenbrink says.

The growth of the cannabis industry in the UK may be an indication that possible legalisation or decriminalisation can be done, but some researchers are concerned that legalisation will not help the environmental crisis. According to them, in order for any meaningful changes to be made, economic policy must first consider the “Yesil agenda”.

Dr Dominic Corva, co-director of hiimr, points out the importance of legislating in line with the framework’s environmental policy: “I have seen enormous warehouses full of hemp that shouldn’t be, especially when I have seen big rivers run dry months before their normal time. Many of my colleagues have seen banned pesticides and rodent drugs used in public spaces. “

Dry agriculture and complementary October

Dr Corva says there are techniques that can be used to help hemp farmers improve their carbon impact. These are dry farming and complementary October.

Dry farming is about growing crops in a dry climate, without water or without an irrigation system. This method is better for the environment, because in areas where water is scarce, especially during drought, valuable water reserves are not consumed.

Complementary October means planting different crops together that complement each other and mutually benefit from each other. Beans and corn, for example. Beans like to climb long corn stalks, and corn likes the nitrogen that the beans provide.

Another example is chives and lettuce, as chives remove insects that come naturally to leafy greens. This method of growth usually means that the quality of the crop can be higher, but more importantly, since some plants naturally remove insects that eat the plants that accompany them, there is no need for the use of pesticides.

As a result, Dr Corva concludes that the only way to combat the environmental crisis is to ban large-scale cannabis cultivation altogether. According to him, the harmful methods used are destroying our soil.

Until now, the ecological impact of hemp farming has not yet been fully understood in the UK market; but we should think about it now, not later. Experts point out that with a stronger emphasis on Yesil policies and potential legalization, environmental destruction could be significantly limited.