Cannabis economy has growing impact on society


Beginning in October of last year, “medical marijuana” users in states where the herb has been declared medicine were told they no longer had to fear prosecution from employees of the federal government.  Prohibitionists cursed the day, but it was inevitable after the recent demise of our economy.  Not to mention the widespread and growing use of the herb as medicine in certain states.

Since then, there has been extensive growth in a number of industries associated with “medical marijuana” in the fifteen (and counting) states which have enacted laws protecting the use of cannabis (marijuana) as medicine.  Some have likened it to a gold rush, while others at the DEA (and elsewhere, such as the Oval Office) still seems to treat it as a joke.

Yet, more and more people are signing up for cards in states where the herb is now protected.  In states where the herb is not protected, people are signing up in droves to get it put on the ballot.  The “medical marijuana” movement has been so successful, in fact, that it has become the new model for addressing problems with federal laws that defy logic and wreak havoc on local communities.  The lesson is that we can actually get government to do what the people want, if we approach it from a state and local level.  And are persistent as hell.

Granted, the medical cannabis movement has taken a long time and a lot of effort from a huge number of people in order to get it to this point; but the repercussions of the cannabis economy have only begun to be felt.  Legislators have once again begun to associate the cannabis plant with industry and prosperity instead of ‘evil drugs’.  In certain states, including my own, there is also a large revenue stream which has begun flowing into state coffers rather than into the hands of criminal and terrorist organizations.  That stream has the potential to get a whole lot bigger very quickly, but only if legislators can come to a (seemingly very simple) agreement and declare prohibition a failure–again.

Regardless of how long it takes state and/or federal legislators to pull their heads out of the sand and deal with this issue properly, there is now a notable amount of economic growth occurring in all industries associated with “medical marijuana.”

These industries include a wide range of the medical community, grow supply manufacturers, local retailers, government bureaucrats and individuals or groups of people designated as “caretakers.”  The impacts across each of these industries are worthy of a lengthy discussion in and of themselves.  Therefore, the focus of this article will be on the industries directly related to growing the controversial herb–as it is these industries which show the greatest amount of potential to positively benefit society, both immediately and in the long run.

The sky is a beautiful limit

One of the biggest changes in the cannabis world lately has been an increasing proliferation of small, indoor growing operations.  This can partly be attributed to increased acceptance and resulting cultivation of “medical marijuana” plants, however the largest impact has undoubtedly been on the black market where the ‘drug’ can still demand insanely high prices–especially for the high-grade bud which is now much easier to grow, thanks to advances in technology and the expansion of all industries associated with the indoor cultivation of plants.

LED lighting has not yet gained mainstream acceptance, due to its relatively high upfront costs and somewhat unproven results; but an increasing number of people are reporting great results (and huge energy savings) from using the LEDs in conjunction with T5 florescents, metal halide and/or high-pressure sodium lamps.  There are also many claiming success using LED technology alone, although there is a great deal of contention about which precise color wavelengths and ratios work best.  Regardless, the technology is quickly becoming orders of magnitude cheaper and more effective–and, just like in other lighting applications, it has the potential to help individuals and our society be much more energy efficient.

Lights are only one small part of the equation.  It may be true that all you need to grow a plant is light, soil and water; but if you want to cultivate the healthiest plants and get the best harvests then its worth investing in soil-less techniques such as hydroponics and aeroponics.

Aeroponic means that the roots are suspended in air and are misted with a fine spray or submersed in a fog which creates an environment with 100% humidity.  Using ultrasonic foggers to help grow plants is still relatively new idea, however the low cost and high versatility of the technology (they are also called nebulizers) assures that its potential in indoor cultivation will be explored extensively.

As the following video demonstrates, hydroponic technology has already become much more fine-tuned and affordable in recent years.

Can you imagine if your own diet was as healthy for you as the food that these zoo animals are lucky enough to eat?  Not only is this method of food production much healthier for the individual, it is also far better for the environment and requires less energy, less water and less time to produce a superior product (when compared to soil-based farming, even if they saturate said soil with all sorts of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or anything else.)

There are, in fact, a multitude of benefits which come with the widespread proliferation of vertical farming–whether you use hydroponic, aeroponic, or a combination of both methods.  I would highly recommend that anyone interested in learning more about this topic check out The Vertical Farm Project.  Dr. Dickson Despommier from Columbia University has written a number of fascinating articles on the subject which can be found there, along with dozens of designs and projects that have far more potential to make our world greener than any solar panel ever can.

This is not intended as disrespect to solar technology or any others, for that matter; it is simply my opinion that our food supply is a very important part of any attempt at sustainability and long-term security.  Plus, some of the designs like the one below are nothing short of incredible–and, incidentally, rely on the use of lots of solar and wind technologies.

Main View, “Eco-Laboratory”
While the recent advances in technologies and manufacturing associated with growing cannabis have not yet made projects like the one above feasible to complete in the next few years, those days are closer than you might imagine.  Already there are converted warehouses and commercial greenhouses being dedicated to the legitimate growth of cannabis plants.  It’s only a matter of time before it becomes easy and profitable to grow other plants using the same technologies which continue to revolutionize the cannabis industry.
For those with a bit of time and ingenuity, that time is already here:
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3 Responses to Cannabis economy has growing impact on society

  1. Charlie Goodman says:

    VertiCrop is getting some good coverage. Finally the world will see vertical farming is not just a geek’s wet dream…

    Time Magazine says Valcent’s Vertical Farming Technology one of the Top 50 Best Innovations of 2009: http://bit.ly/5zDIqh

    “I can’t think of any technology that addresses more urgent issues than Valcent’s vertical farming system”, says RFK Jr http://bit.ly/cPb00g

    Reuters Video features Valcent’s VertiCrop vertical farming system: http://bit.ly/a9p47W

    New pdf presentation of Valcent’s VertiCrop vertical farming solution – locally grown crops that are healthier for you: http://bit.ly/cqBglv

  2. david says:

    I find this just weird. About 15 years ago I was reading about green roofs in Germany. I thought it a terrific idea. Then while riding past the UN Building in New York I realized that if it were turned 90 degrees the wide flat face would face south. And that if that side were devoted to growing crops it could become a city farm. And if the south side were used for growing crops the north side could be used for offices. I also fanticizes a moving (vertically) series of trays next to the windows as grow boxes/trays. So all this coming to fruition excites me. I just wish I had the resources to act on the idea. It is the future!

    • J Michels says:

      It’s not as far out in the future as you might think, even with a limited budget. After doing a fair amount of research on the subject and watching lots of youtube videos where people show you how to build your own systems extremely cheap, I have started experimenting with a soil-less growing technique that uses a combination of hydroponic and aeroponic methods. It may sound complex, yet it is actually very simple and effective when done properly. The video at the end of this article is what I have based one of my current experiments on, although it appears that using a combination of aero and hydro (or possibly even bubbleponics) is incredibly versatile, meaning that all sorts of designs are now possible thanks to technologies such as the ultrasonic fogger being used above. The future is here now–some assembly required.

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