Cannabis and the Environment

Written by Alexandra Arnett

You may notice a lot of farms throwing around the term ‘sustainable farming’, but what does that actually mean? Sustainability is defined as the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance. But is sustainability really sustainable? The purpose of sustainability is to maintain. Maintaining what was already there is simply not enough when looking at the bigger picture. As hard as we may try to maintain, the biodiversity of the planet is still suffering from our actions, thus we must make efforts to restore this biodiversity. Methods such as regenerative farming include taking part in a diverse bioecological system and giving back to the earth. Practices include planting complementary plants alongside your cannabis, growing various crops in the offseason to protect the soil, composting, using natural soil and avoiding chemical additives. Some farms have even been successful in dry farming cannabis plants which means they don’t use supplemental irrigation systems for their plants. Now, in a place like Oregon, this may produce cannabis that ends up molding, but for drier climates, this practice does show some promise.

Regarding “organic” cannabis farming, the USDA actually does not certify any cannabis as organic as it is illegal under federal law. Hemp, on the other hand, can obtain a USDA Organic certification. In an effort to obtain similar “organic” certification for cannabis farms, various organizations have been established that helps to ensure farms follow specific “sustainable” standards. Some of these organizations that work with farms in Oregon include Dragonfly Earth Medicine, Certified-Kind, Sun+Earth Certified and Clean Green Certified. Each organization has different requirements for getting certified and some are more stringent than others in regard to certain farming practices. [The various rules for each are linked above.] There are also a number of farms that make claims about having “organic” practices, but the reality is that we can’t be certain. In addition, everyone has their own idea of what “organic cannabis” looks like. Farms should make an effort to practice regenerative farming methods in order to give back to the earth.

I know we would all like to think that growing cannabis does no harm to the planet. But the reality is that growing cannabis in a way that benefits the environment wholly takes much more effort than simply choosing to grow outdoors. There are three main environments in which cannabis is commercially grown: indoor, outdoor and light-deprivation greenhouse. Some farms just grow cannabis using one of these methods, others may implement multiple methods if accessible. Typically, cannabis plants are grown in soil, either directly in the ground or in a planter pot. However, indoor cannabis growing operations may often use a hydroponic method of growing. Hydroponic growing involves suspending the roots of the plants in buckets of water and a medium such as perlite or coconut fiber.

Out of all the growing methods, outdoor growing is the one that would require the least energy and water. Greenhouse growing methods are also another good choice if you may be dealing with inclement weather for growing cannabis. Indoor growing and hydroponic methods are the most wasteful, in both energy and water consumption, especially when the methods are combined. If you want to choose the best method for the environment, growing cannabis in the earth’s natural soil provides a number of benefits to the earth and uses the sun rather than artificial lighting and energy.

While there is an overall lack of research on the effect indoor cannabis cultivation may be having on the environment, in 2020, one researcher Evan Mills published an in-depth follow-up study to a 2012 paper on cannabis energy use and cost. According to his data, indoor cannabis cultivation produces up to 15 million metric tonnes of CO2 per year and can cost upwards of $6 million a year. To compare this, Oregonians produce around 20 million metric tonnes per year in transportation emissions. However, there are ways to mitigate some of the negative effects of indoor cannabis cultivation there are a few steps that can be taken. Implementing things such as renewable energy sources, LED lighting, reusing water through reverse osmosis and even collecting rainwater for use are all ways indoor cannabis cultivators can help lessen their impact on the environment. 

Let us not forget though that there can be negative effects to the consumer if cannabis is grown in less than ideal environmental conditions. Not only does cannabis pull toxins out of the soil it is grown in, when it is grown outdoors there is a chance for dirt and other allergens to contaminate the plant. Overall, knowing your grow is the most important thing you can do to ensure you are getting the most quality product on the market.

Leap Farms: Where the Plants are Happy and the People Are Too

words and photos by Emma Routley

While it may be a struggle for some companies to set themselves apart from the competition, Leap Farms knows exactly what makes them unique — and they’re not afraid to show it. Leap Farms is one of the finest organically operated cannabis producing companies in the Pacific Northwest. From the special ways they care for their plants to their business plan for the future, Leap Farms stands out in the spotlight of the recreational cannabis industry. They work endlessly to ensure their consumers receive the best quality products every time.

Leap Farms especially prides themselves on their 100 percent organic materials. They do not use pesticides or any other chemicals when growing, ensuring the process is all natural. “We don’t grow cannabis, we grow better better people and better soil. The plant and the flowers are just a reflection of our commitment to the other two,” said Beau Rillo, owner and founder.

Part of this process and what helps make Leap Farms unique is their use of Kangen water, along with other methods of integrated pest management, such as predatory mites and other beneficial insects.  Kangen water is an ionized health-based water that comes from a scientifically proven technology, allowing the user to adjust the pH balance (how acidic or alkaline) of the water. Leap Farms uses an alkaline pH of 11.5 to create conditions on the surface of plants where mold and bacteria cannot survive, and a low pH for poison-free pest control.

“We have more control over the water and what it does for the plants. We also keep it readily available as healthy drinking water for our people. What’s good for the plant is good for us and vice versa,” said Brittany Rillo, co-owner of Leap Farms.

Leap Farms began applying this innovative technology on their plants after Brittany discovered its value when adding it to her mother’s lifestyle diet after having been diagnosed with cancer.

“The basic idea is to keep your body at a healthy alkaline levels in order to better combat the basic day to day diseases we all fight while simultaneously battling cancer,Rillo said.

Leap applies this technology throughout the plant’s life cycle, according to Alex Roveda, Leap Farms nursery manager. This homegrown, family corporate structured company cares about what their customers are consuming, and consistency in their products is incredibly important to them. In fact, Leap Farms has never in its history failed a test. Another low-tech practice that Leap Farms swears by is to play exclusively happy, uplifting music on the farm. It isn’t unheard of for the owner to dismiss a grumpy “leaper” from the garden to gather themselves and focus their energies. This lighthearted, self-care focused standard ensures that the plants are around the most positive energy and music at all times.

In addition to their innovative and caring process, Leap Farms also provides the best products for consumers through collaboration with other leaders and like-minded companies in the industry. There was a time when companies were trying to hold up their place in the cannabis industry entirely independently: growing, managing a dispensary, running all the product lines, processing, wholesaling and more.  

Although this method is ambitious and inspiring for entrepreneurs in the industry, doing everything alone doesn’t always appear to be the best method of operation. Leap’s top-notch sales and marketing team came to the conclusion that collaboration within the cannabis industry is far better than trying to do everything by themselves. Through extensive industry outreach, Leap’s sales team has been able to partner up with other companies such as SugarTop Buddery, GreenStar Growing, Pineapple Society and Kumba Hills to name a few. This collaboration leads to the best possible output.

One of the reasons Leap Farms and SugarTop Buddery chose to work with each other is because they share the same values and family centric mentality. Leap Farms and SugarTop Buddery have many common goals, including giving the consumer the best quality products possible. According to Tyler Carpenter and Cory Eicher, sales and marketing directors for Leap Farms, the value of collaboration comes through teaming up with people that have mastered their craft. This is where SugarTop Buddery comes in: outstanding ability and packaging for the project, on top of being in the heart of Eugene.

Together, Leap Farms and SugarTop Buddery are combining forces to create high-quality products for the consumer, such as the Goodsmoke Multipacks.  This product replicates cigarettes visually, however each pack contains ten .5g joints. A single pack of ten prerolls costs $20, and the larger size packaging contains five packs of ten .5g joints costs $100. Leap Farms and SugarTop Buddery are proud of the amount of work they have poured into this product, right down to choosing the perfect rice paper to ensure best quality for taste and burning consistency to making sure every aspect about the product is geared towards giving the consumer their money’s worth.

“Pre-rolls are a consumer product, not a byproduct. I think we are one of the few who look at it that way. We’re trying to change the game,” says Brennan Anderson, SugarTop Buddery’s chief operating officer.

A single pack of ten prerolls costs $20, and the larger size packaging contains five packs of ten .5g joints costs $100.

The future of the cannabis industry also looks bright, and Leap Farms has big plans to keep up with the growth.  During the next five years Leap Farms hopes to evolve into a national distribution company, and within the next ten years they hope to have an international footprint using their foundations and ideals to bring rising nations cannabis and hemp. They also intend on continuing to innovate with new ideas, applied technologies and further develop Leap Farm’s true passion of cannabis and hemp genetics.  

“Leapers” are just as dedicated and devoted to Leap Farms, and describe the working environment in three words: loving, innovative and passionate. They love their jobs and their products, and they are proud of their constant search for new, groundbreaking ways to increase productivity and quality. Most of all, the family and staff at Leap Farms is proud to embody the balance between love and innovation, trailblazing the way to their success in the cannabis industry.  The doors of Leap Farms are always open for tours and information, and they encourage their consumers to get to know their grower and come on by!