PRELIMINARY survey data: How are cannabis cultivators thinking about environmental sustainability and social equity?
Are you a cannabis cultivator or related business? TAKE THE SURVEY now and be entered to win some prizes, including a one-hour business sustainability consultation session with Enlighten Your Grow, a branded hoodie from Trella Technologies, and a swag bag from MCR Labs.
In September 2020, the CCOE, our sponsor The Hub Craft, and our study partners Enlighten Your Grow, Trella Technologies, and UMass Dartmouth, launched the Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice Survey in an effort to better understand how legal cannabis cultivators across the USA and Canada are thinking about issues of environmental sustainability and its relationship to building a just and equitable cannabis industry.
We believe that the linked issues of social and environmental justice must be at the forefront of creating our legal industry, and there is no better time than now to understand the challenges, opportunities, and promising practices that contribute to an ecologically healthy and sustainable cultivation sector. Building a just and equitable industry means building a foundation of cannabis production that is not only socially equitable but conscious of the environmental costs of growing and distributing cannabis products. Our goal is to generate a data-driven understanding of current efforts and ideas related to corporate social responsibility, addressing the wrongs of the failed drug war, and reducing the industry’s energy and environmental footprint.
A growing body of journalistic, industry, and academic research highlights the historic and continued environmental challenges associated with growing cannabis, across geographic contexts and cultivation methods, whether outdoor, indoor, or greenhouse. You can read more on these issues here and here. To date, no systematic study has been conducted to understand how current cultivators think about and address environmental issues, or about what challenges they currently face given the complexity and diversity of regulatory and legal contexts.
This short blog post summarizes some of our preliminary data and reports on some interesting findings, as we hope to expand the reach and response rate of the survey before releasing the full results in early 2021. So far, we have received over 40 responses from cultivators mostly located in the Northeast US, and are looking to expand into other jurisdictions. Moreover, while the survey is geared towards cultivators, over 30% of our respondents come from ancillary businesses like retail and product manufacturing, demonstrating an interest in the issue beyond strictly cultivation businesses. We therefore encourage businesses not directly involved in cultivation to respond to our survey as well, as opportunities for social and environmental sustainability solutions are relevant across the cannabis supply chain.
Our preliminary data shows that while over 40% of respondents have made formal commitments to Corporate Social Responsibility, over 50% have not yet done so, pointing to a significant gap in companies operationalizing solutions to their concerns about social and environmental sustainability. Of the 40% of companies that have made a formal commitment:
This early data is important for better understanding where cultivators are currently working to address issues of sustainability and what kinds of solutions are most actively used. In terms of specific issues relating to cultivation and environmental impacts:
It is well known among cannabis industry participants that energy use from grow lighting is a common environmental concern, further reflected in our study by 73% of respondents reporting concerns about electricity use in general and 67% associating this with their lighting technologies. Our survey data will be useful for those in the industry seeking to understand where solutions for these issues, whether technological, social, or otherwise are most promising. For instance, our preliminary data shows that 73% of our respondents are looking to find ways to save money by reducing energy use, with 67% reporting an interest in reducing water usage. Moreover, over 60% of respondents are looking for educational and webinar opportunities about the effects of climate change on cannabis cultivation. Finally, over half of our participants report an interest in “best practice guides” and other textual/web-based resources to help them navigate the environmental impacts of their businesses.
This preliminary data represents a small portion of the information collected through our survey and we look forward to publishing the full results later in 2021. Please save the date of JUNE 30TH, 2021 @ 12:00pm EST for a live event discussing the results of our study. More information TBA.
In May 2020, CCOE and UMass Dartmouth launched an online anonymous survey titled the “COVID-19 and Cannabis and Patient Consumer Study,” scheduled to run from May 2020 to August 2021. This anonymous survey seeks to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on both medical cannabis patients and adult-use consumers. In this short blog post, we wanted to share some of our preliminary results.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, reporting from around the world has highlighted the ongoing relationship between cannabis use and the pandemic. (1) Not only have people been using cannabis more frequently (with 47% reporting increased use in our survey), often as a treatment for symptoms of anxiety and depression (2), but the social and economic significance of the legal industry is reflected in the widespread designation of cannabis businesses as essential across the US and in Canada. (3,4) In science and medicine, cannabis has likewise been the focus of the development of potential treatments and preventative medicines for COVID-19, such as ongoing research related to CBD and viral modes of infection by researchers at the University of Lethbridge in Canada and the University of Maryland. (See a list of ongoing medicinal cannabis and COVID-19 research here).
We wanted to understand how people who use cannabis in Massachusetts were experiencing this wider relationship between cannabis and the pandemic. The anonymous data will be used to inform the public, healthcare providers, and policy makers about the impact of COVID-19 on cannabis patients, consumers, and marginalized populations. This survey reflects our efforts to develop citizen and community driven, clinical, public health, and industry recommendations and education materials to better understand and advocate for medical cannabis patient and adult-use consumers amid the pandemic. Since launching the survey, we have received 187 responses as of September 9th, 2020. Some initial demographics below:
One important finding that agrees with journalistic reporting is that respondents are primarily using cannabis to treat symptoms of ‘Anxiety’ (72%) and ‘Depression’ (69%), across both medical and adult-use respondents. These respondents report feeling nervous and on edge since the pandemic started, with many (49%) seeking relief for their insomnia. This is an interesting finding because earlier surveys about reasons for medical use often place chronic pain as the top condition (with 53% of respondents continuing to use cannabis for pain in our survey). This early finding might reflect the psychological burden of the pandemic situation, as well as the versatility of cannabis as a potential treatment for both physical and psychological symptoms. Indeed, 79% of our respondents report that, in general, cannabis improves their quality of life by alleviating psychological symptoms of all sorts.
Another important early finding is that 50% of respondents are actively using cannabis to reduce other medication use during the pandemic. 20% of this group of respondents are using cannabis to reduce anti-depressant use, followed by a wide variety of other pharmaceutical medicines:
Alongside an interest in medical data, our survey also asks about methods of consumption and cannabis purchasing practices during the pandemic. So far we have found that 53% of respondents prefer to use cannabis flower as their top method of consumption, followed by edibles at 13%, and vape cartridges at 11%.
A related finding is that 25% of our respondents report having started to grow cannabis at home since the COVID-19 pandemic began, perhaps reflecting the influence of social distancing and stay-at-home advisories on people’s gardening habits. Importantly, however, many of our respondents note that they do not have the time or expense to begin growing for themselves, nor to access cannabis in general, including 15% needing to home school their children, 22% reporting job and income loss, and 10% reporting having to move or change living situations. These early findings about the relationships between the social and economic issues brought on by the pandemic and questions of access to cannabis medicines reflect only a preliminary example of the range of related data we are collecting through the survey.
We look forward to continuing the survey until August 2021, allowing us to analyze changes in the data over time as the pandemic progresses and new respondents continue to access the survey.
Thank you to our study partners, we could not do this important work without their support!