Legal medical cannabis is available in 39 of the 50 US states, and the pressure is growing in the states where it is not yet legal to get on board with this trend. Unfortunately, there are still far too many illegal growers that are filling gaps in the market at this time. There are many reasons to be concerned about this fact, and one of those reasons is because it is virtually impossible to determine the scope of the environmental damage that illegal operations may do to the Earth.
Known Environmental Damages
Virtually all businesses have a negative environmental impact. They consume resources, and those resources may be exceedingly difficult to replenish. The same is true of the cannabis business:
Both sides of the cannabis business — the legal and illegal markets — are responsible for environmental damage to varying degrees, experts say, potentially contributing to pressures on Earth’s “safe operating space.” Among the concerns are the impacts on freshwater supplies, threats to biodiversity, changes in land use, and potentially vast emissions of CO2, adding to ever-worsening climate change.
That said, there are greater concerns about the illegal side of the business because that side is unregulated and largely unstudied. The people operating on that side of the business are actively trying to evade authorities, and this means that they will do whatever it takes to cover up their tracks. This means that it is exceedingly difficult to know what kind of practices they are or are not engaged in at this time. Environmental activists are now starting to sound the alarm that there may be some deeply negative consequences to an unchecked illegal cannabis business running amok throughout the country.
The Illegal Side of the Business Has No Regard for Regulation
The legal side of the cannabis business is doing its best to stay on the right side of the law. Having only recently received the green light to operate in the United States, much of the legal side of the business is happy to do whatever it needs to in order to remain in the good graces of the government at this time. However, the illegal side of the business is not so concerned with these factors. In fact, the illegal side of the business will disregard all regulations that might otherwise be placed upon it.
The scary fact is that while legal cannabis production is booming and is expected to generate $43 billion in sales in 2025, the illegal side is already putting up numbers that are higher than that at $65 billion in 2020 alone. This means that the illegal side is using up many more resources than the legal side to generate that kind of return. It is hardly any wonder why so many environmental activists are so worried about what the future may hold when they see numbers like this. Clearly, something needs to change dramatically to bring the industry back into its proper set of checks and balances. Until that time, it will remain like the Wild West out there.
Everyone has a part to play in keeping themselves in check as far as their environmental impact is concerned. It is critically important that we do not lose sight of that fact, and it is also important that we all do what we can to promote the legal side of this business. Otherwise, it is quickly going to turn into a situation that no one wants to see. Environmental activists are right to sound the alarm on practices like this that could be doing significant amounts of damage to the environment.
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