Can a group of farmers change the world through sun-grown cannabis? I think so. The cannabis industry is in position, even in advance of national legalization, to learn from the past and help usher in a new form of farming that will feed, cool and heal the planet — not further decimate it. It’s time we change the way agriculture affects the environment, and vice versa.
After all, cannabis is an agricultural crop and agriculture — specifically, the practice of mass industrial agriculture — is one of the greatest perpetrators of climate change. Big Ag generates some of the highest amounts of carbon dioxide emissions of any industry.
Cannabis consumers, policymakers, regulators and industry leaders can and must commit to working together to set a new agricultural standard that truly nourish the earth.
Curiously, due to Prohibition, the cannabis industry already supports a robust alternative agricultural structure that, used more widely, would make Big Ag in California obsolete for cannabis and food crops alike. We need merely look to hundreds of sun-growing cannabis farmers based in the famed Emerald Triangle that supply my company, Flow Kana. They have adopted the same agricultural ecosystem — 100% free of harmful pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers — that pioneering companies in other industries, such as Dr. Bronner’s, Nutiva and Patagonia, have spent decades creating in their respective supply chains. Using rainwater and solar power and diversified and regenerative farming techniques, cannabis can be grown under the sun, alongside a rotation of organic herbs, fruits and veggies.
Like Airbnb, which owns none of the units rented on its platform, or Lyft, which owns none of the cars it employs, my company doesn’t own land for cultivation but rather enables a new agricultural economy by allowing the Emerald Triangle’s network of small, independent cannabis farmers to reach scale. And we recognize that these farmers don’t just grow cannabis; they’re food producers, too.
Wanting to support the full breadth of their production, we have worked for the past year with farmers in Mendocino, Humboldt and Lake counties to offer our California employees a monthly community- supported agriculture box of fruits and vegetables. We’re expanding this program to select dispensary partners and other supply chain collaborators.
The cannabis industry has an opportunity to build infrastructure that supports all kinds of localized, decentralized supply networks to usher in diversified and regenerative farming practices that promote environmentally responsible agriculture. We can offer a real alternative to the Big Ag models that are slowly encroaching on our amazing cannabis community in California.
But we can’t do it alone. Flow Kana is just one of many cannabis companies, and we only work with 200 of the region’s 53,000 farmers. We need policymakers and regulators to support and preserve these farmers’ way of life. We, as a cannabis industry at large, need to prioritize environmentally responsible practices and source from sustainable resources.
This fight requires everyone’s involvement and careful collaboration across many operators, distributors, retailers and brands working in tandem to preserve, protect and evolve our industry and world.
Margaret Mead famously declared, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
As we look to build a new agricultural infrastructure, let’s learn from the past and imagine an industry that in every sense of the phrase can change the world. Together, let’s build a cannabis industry of farmers, not industrial drones.
Michael Steinmetz is the CEO of Hopland-based Flow Kana, one of the largest distributors of sun-grown cannabis and cannabis products in California.