Why the legalization of marijuana may be good for agriculture
Pot growers have traditionally had a negative impact on the environment — but that may be about to change.
Wed, Nov 13, 2013 at 04:04 PM
The growing availability of legalized (and semi-legalized) marijuana may have implications for all of us — from a massive increase in tax revenues to new employment opportunities. Take sustainable farming, for instance.
Traditionally, covert marijuana growers have earned themselves a bad rap, at least environmentally speaking. From indoor growers' massive consumption of electricity to deforestation and agricultural pollution, a lack of regulation — combined with the promise of massive cash rewards — have led to an "anything goes" mentality, which has resulted in significant harm in the past. But growers have also learned to be resourceful, and The Guardian reports that their use of energy-efficient LED grow lights in particular is getting attention from mainstream farmers:
Cary Mitchell, a professor of horticulture at Purdue University, thinks the marijuana industry's work with LED technology might have practical applications in mainstream commercial agriculture. [...] "They've undoubtedly been doing this for years and years," Mitchell says about the cannabis growers' use of LEDs. "Since they don't publish their research, we don't really know how far they've taken the optimization. They probably are ahead of the specialty crop commercial production industry."
Energy-efficiency isn't the only benefit that may come with legalization. From better management of irrigation to monitoring of fertilizer runoff, bringing the industry out in the open has the potential to greatly mitigate the harmful impacts of cultivation. As I've speculated before, marijuana growing may also provide a gateway for some young people into horticulture as a profession.
And just in case you aren't sure how geeky pot growers can get, here's an example of the kind of in-depth discussion that's been going on in the industry. Who knows, maybe our tomato growers could learn a thing or two?
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