As New Zealand inevitably moves towards the legalisation and regulation of cannabis we should take the opportunity to incorporate the most sustainable and environmentally friendly model for the industry.
In the most sustainable model for all consumption, we should be “growing our own”. However, as society has become less rural this model has become less practical and realistic. Most people do not grow their own food anymore although many do have a few tomato plants and herbs outside their door. It is not unrealistic for some people to grow their own cannabis and so in the future it would be sustainable and desirable for people to be able to maintain their own personal gardens, whether it was in their backyard, on a balcony or even in a community garden.
New Zealand has a history going back generations to highly skilled and knowledgeable cannabis cultivators. Many of these farmers are seasonal outdoor but the majority grow indoors year round. Not all climates are conducive to outdoor cultivation but indoor has become the norm primarily due to prohibition.
Once prohibition is lifted cultivators will seek innovation and more cost effective methods. Solar/Sungrown farms and greenhouses with supplemental lighting will become popular, as will more attention to how farms impact water tables and power grids. The most ideal farms would have their own power source and a recycled watering system. Small farmers are the natural providers for dispensaries.
The wine and beer industry has developed in such a way over decades to what we see becoming more and more sustainable as the market demands. Marketing and an investment in the culture of sustainability has made craft brewers and small wineries highly successful for both artisans and consumers. There is no reason that cannabis cannot replicate these models immediately under a regulated regime.
The potential wealth distribution to local communities via employment and taxes will be a boon to many. Like wineries, “micro-groweries” could have the same signs on the highways directing travellers to small towns across New Zealand, bringing with them tourism dollars and prosperity. Small farmers are also the natural providers for dispensaries, catering to their local markets in the adjoining towns and cities
Ultimately it is the consumer who dictates the market and who will thrive. With good messaging and proactive sustainability marketing there is a the potential for many to succeed and thrive in the “growing economy”. It will be the competition of lower costs and ethical cultivation practises that should dictate the flow, but it will also be imperative that the most sustainable models are allowed for under government policy.
It is critical that we encourage and work with our policy makers and legislators to develop and implement the most sustainable model possible as we inevitably move towards a fully regulated cannabis industry.
It is our obligation to the plant and the planet.