Can Germany combine cannabis legalization with its Green Revolution?

  • Yes, by choosing sustainable open-field growing practices over in-door greenhouse cultivation
  • Food quality systems already in place guarantee safe, high-quality products

Cannabis legalization, the double green revolution?

This may seem like a weird question when talking about the massive news last week that the upcoming coalition for the German government is set to legalize cannabis for adult recreational use. However, Becanex GmbH, Germany’s premier cannabis extraction company, believes that with the decision to legalize Germany now stands at a crossroad when it comes to sustainability and its cannabis industry. With this document we want to highlight the ‘green’ possibilities that cannabis offers, not just in terms of broader access, but especially in terms of sustainability.

The background

In their coalition agreement the leaders of the incoming governing parties (SPD, FPD and the Greens) announced that they have a formal agreement to legalize cannabis and promote broader drug policy harm reduction measures when they take power. The legalization of adult-use recreational cannabis would aim to ensure quality control, prevent the distribution of contaminated products, and guarantee the protection of minors.

“We are introducing the controlled supply of cannabis to adults for consumption in licensed stores,” reads the coalition agreement of the parties. “This controls the quality [of cannabis], prevents the transfer of contaminated substances and guarantees the protection of minors.” Becanex strongly supports and warmly welcomes this decision as we believe everyone should have safe and legal access to all sorts of cannabis products.

Sustainability of the cannabis industry

Although it is not yet clear whether the coalition wants to legalize the domestic cultivation of cannabis, we believe to achieve a sustainable industry, the whole supply chain should be legalized. Becanex is very much concerned about the sustainability of the cannabis industry. The cannabis industry stands at the crossroads in terms of sustainability. On the one hand there is the sustainable open field growth of hemp. No pesticides are required, and the hemp plant is great for rejuvenating soil and even has potential as a carbon capture material. On the other hand, there is indoor growth in greenhouses. Greenhouses come with a massive carbon footprint due to heating and electricity. According to Bloomberg, legal cannabis cultivation in the United States annually consumes enough electricity to power almost 100.000 American homes—and the number is growing as the industry expands. Indoor cannabis cultivation uses over 250 times as much energy as aluminum production. The Netherlands has wide-spread use of greenhouses, where the glasshouse region is the most lit place on the entire planet. This highlights the energy waste that occurs during indoor growth, especially for a plant so capable of growing outdoors all over Europe such as hemp.

Outdoor growth and availability

By limiting production to indoor growth through restrictive measures, such as requiring pharmaceutical GMP, Germany would not only limit availability, but it would also be devastating for Germany’s green and sustainable ambitions for the next decades. Becanex believes the legalization and distribution of cannabis via licensed shops substantially improves the availability and affordability of cannabis-based products for adult consumers, both recreational and medical. Such high availability and affordability can only be achieved by using sustainable, open field growing practices. In addition, ensuring high quality and offering fair prices through licensed shops can eventually shrink the market share of the black market and protect consumers from its downsides. This system of licensed shops has already proven to be highly effective in both the US and the Netherlands. Upon legalization, cannabis products will become a commodity like many other herbal-based preparations. As different herbal products (tea bags, extracts, etc.) are available in various standards (food, cosmetic, pharma) as different stores (drugstores and pharmacies) cannabis products shouldn’t be handled differently.

Safety of outdoor growth and benefits for all

Outdoor growing practices would be a much more sustainable approach for the huge demand of recreational use. Growing outdoors allows cannabis farmers to increase energy efficiency through the sun’s natural power. In doing so, farmers could reduce both carbon emissions and operating costs. Regenerative farming practices can also compound the impact on the sustainability of our planet. Legalization will turn cannabis products into a commodity. Only indoor cultivation would not result in a sustainable practice. For recreational cannabis products, pharmaceutical GMP certifications should not be a requirement. Recreational cannabis is a ‘Genussmittel’, just like chocolate, beer, or wines. The European and German regulations for open field growth have proven over decades to be able to deliver safe, high-quality food. We don’t hesitate to buy herbs, vegetables, and staples such as flour at supermarkets that are produced under these quality systems. This should not be any different for cannabis products. The standard quality control systems already in place for food and food supplements are perfectly able to guarantee consumers have access to safe, high quality cannabis products. By regulating adult cannabis use, including sustainable, open field growth Germany can turn its cannabis legalization policies into a double, effective Green Revolution.