4/20 Special: How people’s toking habits impact the planet

Apr 20, 2022

“Do you know how much energy it took to make your 5mg THC gummy? Shawn Cooney, Co-Founder of the Sustainable Cannabis Coalition discusses cannabis’ impact on the environment across various grow operations, efforts of the SCC, and how consumers can help push the industry towards increased transparency and sustainability.

The Sustainable Cannabis Coalition is helping to improve sustainability in the cultivation, manufacturing and distribution of cannabis throughout the market. ”

Show Notes:


Pretty ok (not great) transcript:

This is Jess and Mason with a mostly green life dude, the podcast that’s making sustainability in our connection to the environment, more fun and approachable for the eco curious man today, we’re chatting with Sean Cooney of the sustainable cannabis coalition about everyone’s favorite topic on four 20.

Well, and the sustainability of the cannabis industry, we probably all know the industry has boomed in the last several years as legalization keeps getting passed in state after state. But how does the industry score when it comes to the environment? Keep listening to find out.

[00:00:00] Mason: Sean, you started in technology, right? Virtualizing networks.

[00:00:04] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: Yeah, not that long ago either. Up until 2013, I was in tech and developed A bunch of technologies for moving data around or compressing data or encrypting data.

[00:00:17] Mason: So a very predictable to go from tech to, uh, contain our farming. And you started before cannabis, right? You were doing containers with lettuces and other.

[00:00:28] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: Yep. And we, and we still are, we’re you know, we’re continuing to do that.

And, because they’re modular we can run them. In the same space, basically, but as different businesses. So we don’t get into, potential problems with the, with the state over, you know, them not wanting one business to be. Touching another, they don’t touch it, but they’re, they’re really close. Yeah.

Yeah. And

[00:00:58] Mason: I like to quote on the website, it read, like you grow the largest possible amount of food with the smallest possible carbon footprint. Is that part of your container farm claims?

[00:01:11] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: That’s fine. That’s good. That’s part of the claims. Yeah. You know? Um, I mean, there’s lots of ways to look at.

We use as little electricity as possible, even though we’re using led light. But we’re not all using too much. we keep the cold out, we keep the heat in and. You know, we’re cramming as many plants per square foot into the space as possible. Yeah. And so

[00:01:34] Mason: right off the bat, I’m curious, how much did you leverage your background in technology for the innovations y’all have done and container farming?

[00:01:42] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: I can’t say it was leveraged. but what we really did is what it made. It, it made it. So from one to the other, you know, it made it possible to look at the technology that it takes to run that business, to run the indoor growing business and all of the connections and connectivity that are required to do that.

Basically it’s running a data business now, and instead of monitoring. You a lot and lots of the things you would think of monitoring we’re monitoring plants and the plant environment.

[00:02:16] Mason: And did your interest in cannabis come from, shall we say a long-term relationship with.

[00:02:22] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: I’m in, I’ve had a long-term relationship with canvas, but that wasn’t the main reason. It wasn’t like I was waiting to get into the cannabis business till it was legal. It was really from running a small farm.

You know, if you’re not running a large industrial farm, it’s very hard to reach scale. Where you can throw off enough money to, to, to make, to have it make sense. Long-term and if you look at most small farms, you know, and for me, I think technically a small farmer is anything less than 500 acres. Um,

[00:02:54] Mason: different people have different definitions in the big world, in the real

[00:02:58] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: world, in the real world.

You know, if you’re not, if you’re not doing, half of the central valley in California, Big farm. but if you look at most small and small farms, they grow some basic products and then they usually have a couple of couple or one cash cow or the, you know, the, the cash crop, and in the Northeast around here, it’s tomatoes or berries or that kinda.

They’ve got the base income from growing carrots and lettuce and those in sort of general things that you would buy in a grocery store. And then, you know, they, there’s something where you can get a good amount per pound. And you grow a bunch of that. And that’s the sort of operating profit, marijuana presented itself as the right crop to be growing for a farmer in that environment as a cash crop. Yeah. Makes sense.

And my guess is you might see more of it from some of the large indoor growers. Yeah,

[00:03:56] Jess: it seems like it’s booming for sure. You know, what we learned is that the cannabis industry, we know it’s growing rapidly, but we learned that global sales are expected to reach somewhere. I think it was like 30 billion by 2025, which is all legal, legal, which is a ton of marijuana.

What are a few of the factors that catapulted that growth?

[00:04:14] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: Yeah, I think, I mean, it is there’s, there’s still not that much growth on the experimenter side. There is a growth, but not, not that much. They usually display it as the standard bell curve and there’s like the bottom 25% are the people who smoke lots of marijuana or use lots of marijuana products.

Then there’s the middle of the curve, which are the people who are entering. And may occasionally use it. And then there’s the far end. Who’s like, no way, this is not going to happen. So there’s still a huge that middle of the bell curve, which may be occasional users or curious. And so there’s still, that’s the growth.

Yeah. That that’s the growth. And I think a lot of it has to do with, um, I mean, it’s not so much related to what I’d be doing as well. But it’s, uh, it’s going to be product development. Um, yeah, I mean, the, the CA the cannabis industries to really maximize its growth and to have things that people are going to want to spend their hard-earned money on.

They’ve got to start looking at what they’re producing in terms of non flour products,

[00:05:27] Jess: gummies, or. Yeah, anything else

[00:05:31] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: I’m going to that’s part of the problem with the growth is a dummy, isn’t it? An attractive product? Yeah. I mean, you know, how many guns, you know, you can’t think you can companies all the time.

People don’t want to eat candy.

[00:05:44] Mason: No weed coffee is the one that when I first heard of it, I was like, now that is genius.

[00:05:50] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: Right? So that’s, I mean, and, and to produce it in a way that that’s an attractively packaged useful. Product for people to use on a regular basis or any of the drink products, the beverage products that aren’t, that aren’t sweet lemonade, which is what most of it is.

You know, there’s very little, you know, it’s not even approaching the level of sophistication of the heart soldiers that are out there, you know, they’re starting to get fairly sophisticated about the taste of those products, how they package them and what they’re talking about them.

So, and that’s kind of just at the, at a base level. Um, so this is a huge as a huge opportunity, but the people who are making products from cannabis have to get much more sophisticated about what they’re making. Yeah, the candy is good candy, but I don’t need that much candy and I’m not going to eat more candy, uh, because it has cannabis.

[00:06:41] Mason: Right. Exactly. And so, from your perspective, do you think sustainability has always been ingrained with the cannabis industry or does when you look out at it, does it look more like traditional agriculture?

[00:06:55] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: Uh, I would say traditional. Indoor bullying. Well, they’re all, I don’t think the cannabis is any more or less sustainable than the other parts of the ag industry.

Uh, I think people growing outdoors are very, very, concerned about and try to steward the land they grow on. But often the practices they use, plowing is the main. Uh, and you saw, um, in use of chemicals to, uh, not even chemical fertilizers, lots of fertilizers, you know, isn’t are not necessarily the best practices.

They really want the land. They really want to care of the land, but what they’re doing, aren’t necessarily great sustainability practices. They focus on that and talk about it and understand them people growing in greenhouse. Uh, and indoors, you know, are still feeling their way through it.

you know, they’re looking at making good products and, are trying to do as best they can, but they’re suffering from the same sort of thing. The, the technology to grow well indoors or in greenhouses is just beginning to get a dog. Hm. Um, you know, monitoring the environment 24 hours a day, seven days a week in a sort of a 3d way.

So knowing what’s going on all across the facility, not just like where the thermometer is, where the committed new Minda status, or, you know, those kinds of things, you have to start being really careful about what you’re doing in order to do it. Cannabis has got a hang over from it’s past, for the past 40 years there are a lot of ingrained practices that may or may not be the best way to do things, um, that are sort of counter to what agricultural research has been showing over the past 40 years.

but the cannabis industry is kind of hesitant sometimes to take it back. Um, the learnings, from the universities land grant university system, which research is growing things all day long every day and has been for a hundred years. you know, it may not have been with cannabis, but there’s a lot of written stuff that’s written.

And I think the industry is a little bit hesitant and, and the universities are putting in. They would like to be doing a research to help out this new agricultural industry, cannabis and hemp. Uh, but they can’t because they’re fearful of their, um, their federal USDA, fundings they’re really hesitant to do plant touching research, uh, which the industry sorely needs.


[00:09:32] Jess: And so what are some of the components of growing marijuana that have a negative impact on the environment? Um, I know you mentioned, you know, the use of herbicides or pesticides. Are there any additional

[00:09:42] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: there’s a lot weight in the big, the big bugaboo, the, the big bugaboo, the hangs over everyone growing cannabis indoors is the amount of electricity and they use a lot of.

It’s often talked about in the wrong way, but I think the industry sort of shies away from the discussion because it doesn’t, it it’s a bugaboo. Kind of scares people to talk about it. I mean, But if you, but if the industry starts learning, doing their data, you know, understanding what, what, how many photons it takes to grow something, you know, what would it cost to buy that photon?

And then you know, what you end up with what it sells and how much, you know, what it sells for. So the, the, the reality is a single serving of cannabis. Let’s say the five or 10 milligram state regulated single serving sizes, of the amount of energy it takes to grow that and have it ready for sale, is not much greater than the single serving of tomatoes or it’s less than the single serving of red meat, by a long shot, you know, not ounce by ounce because they’re completely different things, but allocate you take a six or an eight hour.

Take as much more covering overhead, uh, and energy use then the, the, five or 10 outs coming when we’re talking about.

[00:11:00] Jess: Yeah, it’s interesting. You hear those stats on how much energy consumption something takes to make. And for those examples that you shared, you, you think about them singly and you’re overwhelmed with that information.

And then when you compare it to other things, it helps you wrap your head up. You know, what choices are you making out of all of the choices? What are the better choices? And are they in line with some of my other choices, but hearing them alone? I feel like sometimes it’s scary. Oh yeah.

[00:11:23] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: Yeah. And then you start adding that up and about how much, how much energy they use in Colorado compared to everything else in the state.

And it’s like, it’s an, it’s a big number. you know, and there’s no denying. So I think that, I mean the legal cannabis folks are generally very good about The sort of pesticide impacts and those kinds of things, you know, growing inside, you can use a lot of nasty stuff because you have to believe it, uh, growing in greenhouses is the same thing.

growing outdoors, people can get sketchy, I think, but I don’t do that. So I, I can’t really speak to that inside of the industry. But,

[00:11:54] Mason: what about all the other parts of the plant? What happens to that besides the flower?

[00:11:59] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: The wonder done. Depends. They vary state by state, but most states have sort of this arcane thing that you have to grind it up and mix it with other post-consumer product stuff.

[00:12:13] Mason: Worried that it may have a little THC in it. Huh?

[00:12:16] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: Uh, just in case, uh, you know, and, and composted, or, you know, bring it to a place that will compost it for some period of time, you know, it’s it, you know, it’s usually state regulated and it’s, it’s a little arcane, it’s probably kind of stupid. but that’s the way it is at the moment.

And you, can’t one thing you can’t do, which would be a great thing. Is it, I mean, it’s a, it’s a carbon. And one of the positive things you do, you can do with carbon things like wood or leftover wood products is you can turn them into char or some kind of a carbon, carbon, secondary product, you know, which sequesters the carbon ended forever.

Basically there’s a couple of one company in this, in the cannabis space that is turning. They’re not turning cannabis into it yet, but they’re, they’re taking. They’re creating a carbon grow media. Um, they’re, they’re looking at how, how well the cannabis leftovers turn into to this char or this carbon grow media.

And that’s, you know, so that’s a good thing, and then there’s the fertilizers that a lot of people let their runoff from their plants go into the, uh, the source systems are under the ground. I that’s, it’s more, that’s more a hanging on.

practice from growing. You want the legal businesses, but, but a lot of the forward-thinking growers are, you know, basically our research relating. So you’re, you’re maintaining a car, the correct amount of fertilizers in your, um, in your, in your nutrient system. And you’re not throwing it away and continually having to add more and throwing fertilizer onto the ground or into the source.

[00:13:54] Mason: What are some of the other benefits of a hemp crop compared to, um, you know, other crops.

[00:14:02] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: Alright marijuana.

Yeah, marijuana have a we’ll have us a great, um, hemp is a great sequester of, um,

[00:14:09] Mason: okay. And so I guess, backing up, are they different? I thought it had been marijuana where the same thing.

[00:14:15] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: Um, no, they’re they’re the same plant marijuana would be too, but in terms of sequestering, lots of. You need to plant it over planted, close together over a lot of acres.

Uh, having, you know, having a couple of acres of marijuana plants for, you know, which would be a fairly big marijuana farm. Wouldn’t be a bad thing, but you wouldn’t be sequestering very much, uh, carbon having a big hemp farm with, you know, few thousand acres. They’re sequestering, carbon. That’s.

[00:14:49] Mason: That makes sense.

[00:14:50] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: but yeah, you would have to, you would have that’s for an outdoor thing that when I’m really only applies to outdoors, growing marijuana indoors into cocoa quar or into water or into some other grow medium or carbon medium, doesn’t sequester the carbon, right. Because you have, then you would have to, you would have to do something with the growing medium.

[00:15:10] Mason: from a sustainability perspective, you’ve kind of touched on this, but any, you know, the difference between indoor and outdoor, uh, do you think one is better for the environment than the other

[00:15:22] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: It’s just different. I mean, yeah. Growing outdoors is generally better for the environment and assuming all things being managed.

Everybody doing the right thing. You know, if everyone’s doing the right thing, it’s, it’s better to grow probably outdoors. But in, as in, in, in growing in the Gregory and houses in the middle, and, but it depends on where you are. It’s nice, like in the central valley or, or in the triangle, and it’s great to grow up or.

But the question then becomes, where’s your, what’s your water source now they’ve got their own little bugaboo and, and their, and their own thing. That could be a problem. Can they catch an off rainwater so that they’re not taking a lot of water out of the Colorado river?

I mean, in Humboldt or not, but you know, the water sources, a big problem growing in a dry climate, even though the plant grows great in that climate, you still have to work. Yeah.

And then your, you know, can you manage your nutrients into the ground? How are you doing that? Are you doing it without digging up and, plowing the. Every time you’re doing this. I mean, it’s got its own set of things. If everyone did, if there then if someone growing outdoors does everything sort of probably the way they should, it can, it’s probably more efficient and more sustainable and better for the environment.

The greenhouse is kind of in between,

[00:16:44] Jess: do they all grow at the same speed, whether it’s outdoors, greenhouse.

[00:16:50] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: No, they grow differently. And the outdoors, probably the slowest, and it’s the most dependent on mother nature. and the genetics you select to grow, uh, the greenhouses in between, because it has a nice, sort of a more controlled environment and in indoors is the most controlled and it’s probably the fastest, you can grow.

No anywhere from a four, four or five crops a year is kind of the standard that people use for growing indoors. So even if you’re cut in half and say, the season is six months, you’re still doing three turns two or four, two to three turns. and there’s not much two to three turn growing happening outdoors.

[00:17:34] Mason: So I’m in Texas, but not the same crop for sure.

[00:17:38] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: yeah, and then you have a longer season with a longer season. You can grow more. There’s genetics too, that come into it. This, you know, which genetics are using this. There’s a whole range of genetics that are, based on plants that are called auto flight.

And they, they start flowering after three weeks after you, they, they germinate. But there’s, there’s not much research. You can start doing it. They, they produce a nice plant. but they’re not quite as good as a lot of the genetics people using, for regular growing. Uh, so people aren’t using very much, but there’s the beginnings of experimentation at that.

But at that point, uh, they grow much faster. They start flowering right away. So the flower side, you know, you sort of get rid of two cycles. Now you get rid of the, the early cycle and the vegetative cycle. They’re basically flowering in three weeks and you can grow outdoors. You can grow a lot of cycles outdoors and you can grow them even more cycles indoors.

But there’s the beginnings of genetic research. As opposed to individual experimentation, let’s put it that I like to talk about that way. There’s plants in the plant world.

There’s genetics research about what makes a really good lettuce. What makes it, you know, what makes it powdery, mildew resistant? What makes it grow faster? What makes it taste better? What makes all those things, whereas, uh, No, the cannabis space has kind of experimentation, trial and error. And the end in the place that that’s going to happen is probably is in the university the same place that happens now.

And there are companies that specialized in it. Awesome. In addition to the universities, and as a result, you get really stable genetics that produces, you know, really great plants, uh, that give people choices in what they’re buying. It’ll

[00:19:30] Jess: be interesting. What happens in the cannabis industry then, and once they have more years behind them.

[00:19:34] Mason: Yeah. I feel like there’s already 2000 varieties when you go to, the dispensary, but, uh, there’s not, there’s not that much

[00:19:43] Jess: different.


[00:19:45] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: More to come. And a lot of it will help the, the growing industry and the sustainability part of it. It’s like, stuff growing right now. There’s a lot of. That’s being grown, that was designed over 30 years to grow indoors illegal with HPS lights. The industry is moving to led lights.

Yeah. It hasn’t moved completely yet, but it’s moving to led lights and they’re not the same. People selected as they were picking stuff that was the best stuff. They were picking it to grow in the environment they were growing it. And, uh, so it, you know, it’s not that it’s bad.

It’s just, it could be better. It could, maybe it could maybe grow faster. It could maybe have better profiles of terpenes. It could maybe have the right amount, right. Mix of other minor cannabinoids. it may taste better so that when you’re making, uh, Right. You can use it, right. You can use it in your product as part of our flavor profile.

As opposed to trying to hide,

[00:20:48] Jess: right. That’ll be a big one for product companies. I’m sure. Yeah.

[00:20:52] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: Well, can I kind of, there’s a, there’s a product company in Los Angeles called rose Los Angeles. And they make, they make gummies. but they use basically sort of single variety, single sourced, cannabis products, as in Roslyn’s that haven’t been extracted down to, you know, isolate levels or those kinds of things.

So that they still have the same taste the planet had and all the chemicals the plant had. And they’re, they’re using some very famous shit. To mix it up with some really interesting fruits or vegetables and come up with something where it’s not the taste isn’t hidden because it becomes part of the process, part of what you’re eating.

Just like any other great chef.

[00:21:39] Jess: So to get back to the sustainable cannabis coalition, um, we know that, you know, it brings together industry leaders to improve sustainability, whether it’s in the cultivation or the manufacturing or the distribution, what does the coalition hope to achieve in the coming years?

[00:21:54] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: we hope to get people to start, basically writing down what you’re doing, publishing it, and then saying what you’re going to do to improve. We’re not in the business of telling people that they have to use X amount of energy. You know, it’s not, that’s not how people are going to get to some sort of goal.

You know, you’ve got a sort of, it’s part of a journey and you have to, you have to be able to say, okay, I use this much energy creates this amount of greenhouse gases or this amount of wastewater or certain amount of waste other products. this is what we’re doing today. I’ve measured.

And our plan is next year, we’re going to be a little bit less than a year after that. We’re going to be a little bit less and we’re going to report this every quarter. you know, so that’s our goal is to get people to doing that more. And to that end, um, you know, we’ve partnered with a company called sustain life.

That right. Makes the software to do that. They do to do the, yeah, it’s basically the, a TurboTax for sustainable. and you know, And in addition to that, all, there’s all the other parts of sustainability that your social responsibility parts, your, you know, The 17 do good things. You need to do your sustainable development goals, or if they cover all those, it’s not just about the energy. Um, so that’s where, you know, getting people to use that where the chair people for the American society of testing and measurements, cannabis, sustainability, And we’ve got 70 people in that that are ready and willing and starting to create, uh, standards about what to measure and how to measure it.

That will get reflected back to the regulators. Wow.

[00:23:45] Mason: It really is early days in terms of even understanding what sustainability means in this industry. Yeah,

[00:23:51] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: well, yeah, there is no, there is nothing in. The okay. There’s more, there are more groups than the ASTs. but this is the first sort of national standards body that has an international standards body that has anything related to this.

yeah. And we’re the sponsors for an ongoing project with Dartmouth universities, their school of engineering, doing research in cannabis energy. So we’re sort of ongoing ongoing research to sort of push things along, some tools to make it easier for people to do it. And hopefully a place where some of the actions and some of these smart people who are making changes can, can start codifying that in, in standards.

Uh, and. Yeah, I’m sure a

[00:24:39] Jess: lot of the farmers don’t even know where to begin in terms of trying to become more sustainable or more efficient. And so, as a consumer, what information is currently out there about sustainability or about the sustainability of, you know, the edible they’re going to buy or the butter joint they’re going to buy at the store? Is there any transparency in that. On the packaging or labeling or anything like that.

[00:25:02] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: And, um, very, very little, the, some of the people who make physical packaging are really working hard, trying to figure out how to, deal with that. but there’s very, very little information about what’s in, you know, about that. Um, you know, all, I think pretty much all the big pack. I don’t know. I don’t want.

Let’s some of the big packaging companies that make the little boxes and the paper and the cardboard things, and the plastic stuff are trying to figure out what to do with the post-consumer waste stuff. So they are, they are working on that. And there’s a problem with the packaging because some of it is almost designed by the state regulators.

So they have problems on how to, how you can deal with it. So for that, you know, there’s stuff happening. But there’s nothing like. No one is putting on their packaging. What their greenhouse gas profile is for that package, for that box, you know? And there’s starting to happen in other industries, you know, it start Allbirds, puts the greenhouse gas overhead for every shoe.

It makes. Oh, the shoe itself on the

[00:26:08] Jess: shoe itself. Wow. I didn’t realize that.

[00:26:10] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: Yeah. Uh, you know, in some food products are putting, in their barcodes or QR codes, you know, this may not be on the package, but you can scan the QR code or scan the barcode and you can then say, oh, and compare the compare, the two products you want to buy and say, well, I’ll pick the one that has the better.

Profiles. Uh, there’s nothing like that in the cannabis space, but they’re candid now. And I think as you know, it’s going to be incumbent upon the consumers, I think, to lack the producers of the marijuana and the, products and others to say, I want to know.

you know, because that’s what th that’s what people do in the Superman. Yeah, that’s what they do when they buy other products

[00:26:55] Jess: spilling over to different industries at this point,

[00:26:57] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: yeah. It’s there. So in, in the cannabis folks are going to have to do it just like everybody else.

I did a session, uh, at a, at a big conference and I created, uh, a ghost page, uh, for a cannabis product. And that was connected to her QR code you only need that tiny little space on your label. You don’t have to give up a lot of, a lot of space explaining your, your process and your, what you’re doing and how you’re committed to the environment and what the overhead is.

You know, you put the QR code on there and you scan that and you get it. It pops up a page that has all the information and the consumer needs. And, and probably a little marketing stuff too. But that’s okay. The tools of there and the industry certainly needs to start using it.

[00:27:47] Mason: As, as an industry gets more sophisticated. Well, one, we, Jess and I don’t do very well with gummies.

We really struggle even just on the dosing. We’ll be sitting there watching a comedy show one time and I was having a grand old time and she was just like, Hey man. Can you look up how to not be high? I was like, oh man, if you’re asking that it’s too long, but we love, a joint best just smoking it. And as the industry becomes more sophisticated, I worry about the chemicals in it.

Cause smoking things obviously can be bad for you on their own. And I feel like cannabis has mostly avoided the reputation of being bad for you in the smoke format. Uh, Have research yet, or is, is smoking worse than eating worse than tinctures or whatever?

[00:28:38] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: Um, well, it’s, uh, I can, I can speak for Massachusetts and there are some other states that have the same Massachusetts tests, every batch of everything that goes out for everything from herbicides through heavy metals, there’s nothing, there’s nothing.

That shouldn’t be in it. That’s fine. I don’t know if anyone can attest to the fact of whether the combination of burned, cannabis that’s completely clean has something in it that may not be good for, you

know, a lot of that has to do with the quantity and frequency and that kind of thing. Um, and I also think that the, flower vape industry, you know, could be in, should we be doing a better job about explaining how that is actually better than burning? Because it’s all, you know, heating it up to a certain point where they, the, the volatile things come off at, but don’t burn generally.

It’s the burn stuff that creates other chemicals that aren’t good for. You. Uh, you’re really, you know, the, the, just heating it up and releasing volatile organics, is definitely, probably a much cleaner, healthy thing with them. Frying and charcoal lines.

[00:29:56] Mason: That’s fine. That’s good to know. And it’s really great to know that Massachusetts is testing because that would be one of my biggest fears is, I mean, we buy organic food.

We don’t want it on the stuff that we’re even touching. And to imagine actually smoking pesticides sounds like a really bad idea.

[00:30:15] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: Yeah. Now Massachusetts tests everything. I’m not sure which states test for what, there’s generally a trend towards it. They all test somewhat, and there’s a trend toward more testing.

[00:30:27] Mason: So we know when it was, the industry was primarily and it probably still is primarily but completely dominated by illegal activity that there was a lot of cartel influence.

I don’t know if up there in Massachusetts, you have any kind of insights, but I, as the car tells still involved in the industry on the legal side. And what do they think of legalism?

[00:30:51] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: I don’t know here there was never any, there was never really any large scale illegal growing in Massachusetts. So most of the product on the east coast or Northeast was trucked in.

Um, so the cartel was involved in the process of distribution, but not in the growing thing. so, I, I don’t see them. I mean, there still is apparently a large chunk of the industry that is illegal. Uh, but I do think a lot of it is, um, more, it is more local than it was back in the old

[00:31:30] Mason: days. Yeah. And in Texas, What has taken a big chunk of getting from Mexico, you to all come from Mexico and now everyone just flies it back from Colorado or drives it back from Colorado.


[00:31:42] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: every time we get that’s where the illegal stuff here comes from now. I mean, it’s either grown here and the people who did a little bit of growing or it gets struck back or falling back from somewhere else.

[00:31:54] Mason: Yeah. I’ve also heard banking is a real nightmare for the industry. Is that starting to come together or are y’all having to self-organize banking?


[00:32:04] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: Banking. Banking is not a good thing in the industry.

[00:32:08] Mason: It’s a lot of cash, right?

[00:32:11] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: Well, particularly at the retail level. Know, at the end, again, it’s different in every state, but in Massachusetts now you can use debit cards. Uh, so you don’t have to use gas and you don’t have to use cash, which is a really good thing.

but you still can’t use credit cards because the federal government’s involved in that, more so than local banking. It’s difficult to get for people to get funding. It’s difficult to get loans to buy, you know, you, can’t, it’s very difficult. If not impossible to get along to do you want to add 10,000 square feet to a building?

You can’t just go and get a building loan, even if you’ve maybe have been in business for four years and show a good can show a good profile, a good balance, or just a good decent balance sheet. Um, you know, you, you can’t go just get alone. Uh, and there’s the. Two 80 E tax problem on top of that, you know, which scares away banks, because they’re not sure about whether the business has got to be worth anything, or can continue to stay alive if they have to, they can’t deduct anything.

[00:33:17] Mason: Um, well, I think it’s really interesting that. You know, it’s early days from a sustainability perspective. I really hope that the industry grows with sustainability at its core. So it doesn’t go the way of all these other industries, like fashion that are now having to try to backpedal significantly on environmental impact.

What do you think are the most important factors the industry needs to influence to move towards sustainability?

[00:33:43] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: I think that they they’ve got to get a grip on their, you know, their position on energy. I mean, that really is it. That is the one thing that’s going to hang over the industries have, and they just need to, basically your own up to where they are in this space today and start talking about it clearly and not hide from it and, and get better at it.

The, the research, we’ve just the research work for in the middle of our phase, or just completed, has, is looking like, that a facility that was well-designed and well-managed, in save around 75% of their energy costs, by, adopting some of the things we’re talking. And that’s, if they, if they’re using old style HPS lights or metal Halon lights, and if they’re already doing that, it’s a lot of the, the movie building management and humidity and temperature and environment and environmental management, uh, will still allow them to pull out another, over 50.

you know, there’s room and, and again, you don’t have to change it. People don’t have to change it today. They just have to own up to where you are today and sign on the dotted line saying I’m going to do better, you know, and start plotting along the course, getting better at it.

You know, and if you talk to people in the. That are building cannabis facilities. Um, you’ll find that the way they call it is it’s the only building industry that’s upside down. And what they mean by that is that the, people buying or having facilities designed are driving the product and build out decisions as opposed to.

Hiring the people who know how to do it and, uh, and relying on their advice. There’s a lot of, there’s a lot of room for improvement and people have to do it, they know, and, and, you know, there’ll be things like hybrid where people will grow a little bit outdoors, a little bit indoors on a little bit in greenhouse, you know, to make it, to balance off their product suite and their balance sheet to go with it.

Like this, there’s probably no reason to grow. Product, that’s going to end up in gummies or in drinks indoors, to the same way that you would grow, you know, people who want to buy a pretty flower, that smells nice. Make more sense to him to be able to grow some of that stuff outdoors or not in a greenhouse and save yourself.

You don’t have to worry. You don’t have to worry about whether the bud is a little bit scraggly, as long as it has the right balance of cannabinoids and terpenes and everything else, and is it’ll have the right balance of stuff. Just won’t look as pretty,

[00:36:27] Mason: It’s funny how ingrained. Cannabis culture in Austin is our last company, veggie Rico.

We made pasta out of, uh, fresh vegetables, but we called all the kind of the extra pieces that didn’t quite make it, we call it shake. And I didn’t even know that that was a cannabis term until someone were at a meeting. I think it was a corporate meeting and national, and someone was like, you call it, why do you call it?

Shake it. I don’t, I don’t know. That’s what we call it, but this episode is going to air on four 20. And so. One question I had about that. W at one point I had looked up the legend of four 20. Are you familiar with the legend of four 20?

[00:37:05] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: No, I know it’s a legend.

[00:37:06] Mason: Yeah. I think at first aired in fast times at Ridgemont high, they use it and they were able to track it down to some, literally some high school on the beach in California.

And it was either at four 20 in the afternoon or, uh, on four 20, they would throw a huge party. But either way, either way, they got it down to some high school in California. I feel like the legend has been fading because as we talk about this episode airing on four 20, some people are like, what does it, what does that mean?

And we’re like, what do you mean? What does it

[00:37:38] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: mean? I know it’s a thing. I just don’t know exactly what

[00:37:42] Mason: yeah. And so as we light up on 14, How can consumers best help with leading the industry more towards sustainability

[00:37:54] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: start asking the people who are selling you products at the, at the retail level.

What’s the. Yeah. What you know is what’s the, what’s the greenhouse overhead? What do you know about this product? Start asking, instead of asking how much TTH she’s in it, or you can get, you can still ask that, but ask the next question. And that’s the next question, you know, how has it grown or if it’s another product like gummy and say what’s in it, you know, how has it made, and.

to tell you the truth. if you look at the market research, you’ll see that a lot of the decisions in the industry are driven by budtenders. Um, what bud tenders tend to be. The one experienced sort of heavy user, uh, not to a bad point, but, but so they drive the, uninitiated, the, the curious concerns.

Towards things that they think are important until the consumers start asking the bud tender who’s really does have a lot of influence in the industry. you know, what is the background of this product? You know, how was it grown? you know, what is the greenhouse gas, how much energy, you know, whatever they want to ask them.

But until those questions start, start trickling into the bud tenders. Um, my feeling is it’s not going to get to the folks who make the product decisions. You know, we’re starting to see that I know one company one-on-one large MSO who is actually noticed that, that some consumers are starting to ask the, you know, the same, the, the folks who are asking about their lettuce are starting to ask about their cannabis, but it’s just starting and they haven’t really done anything about it yet, but they’re hearing it.

that’s what you can do in an ask. This is going to be the right experience for me. And tell me about how, how it was grown or made wonderful. And I’m sure no, one’s going to know.

[00:39:48] Jess: Right. Right. Especially at the retailer level, there were like, um, They’re not going to have

[00:39:53] Mason: any idea,

[00:39:56] Jess: but then they’ll ask, you know, the next person, so

[00:39:58] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: right.

You know, and then it might get on the website and then we’ll get into the training for the budtenders, you know? Like right now, if you look at most vendors websites, basically it’s a retail store with no information about the product.

For buying something on Amazon has more information about a product that you’re buying them. The cannabis websites actually have.

[00:40:20] Mason: Yeah. That is hilarious. I’ve going to ask

[00:40:22] Shawn Cooney of Sustainable Cannabis Coalition: the question and start at, start asking the question and it will drive the industry forward.

You, uh, ready to talk one up yet? Oh yeah. I think it’s funny that some people don’t even know about four 20 at all. Yeah. And I think my mom had actually smoked pot for probably most of her life. And there were some other people, as we talked about over four 20, we’re going to do a cannabis one. They’re like, why, what does that mean?

So there’s going to be a poll with this episode on Spotify. Let us know if you’re familiar with the four 20 legend and whether you, um, I guess celebrate the holiday is how you’d say it. Anyways, takeaways. I think it’s fascinating. There are no standards for sustainability yet in the cannabis industry.

And when you look on the shelf retail, you can’t tell what tenant that it, it kind of. They’re in the, write it down and try to do better next time phase of growth. But I hope they keep an eye on the environment. As an industry continues to boom, I know some large players like Phillip Morris and even some big pharma companies are buying up large swaths of land in anticipation of national legalization.

So there’s going to be pressure on both sides and I hope sustainability wins takeaways for you just.

A takeaway for me is something similar, I guess, to other topics we’ve discussed the power of the consumer. If you want to know what’s in something or being sprayed on something like herbicides or pesticides, you just have to ask and have a conversation about it and put some pressure onto the industry that you want to see some.

Though it does seem like the cannabis industry is a little further away from listening to their customers about demanding sustainability initiatives, but you got to start somewhere. Okay. Yeah. It always starts with a conversation and, well, that’s just like your opinion. Anyways, this was a fun one and a brand new one to both of us.

If you have any other apropos topics, you’d like us to tackle throughout the year, sending. Or to just say hi, or to say, you actually listen to these podcasts, we see people listening, but we don’t hear from enough of you. So reach out and you’ll get a very nice price. And don’t forget to leave us a review if you like the content.

Thanks for listening.


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