The United States’ National Park Service is in trouble. Not because nobody is taking in the great outdoors, but too many. In fact, the country’s national parks have seen record numbers of visitors, including more than 331 million in 2016.
But the latest government spending bill, signed by President Trump in March, slashes the NPS budget by seven percent and proposes an extreme 2,000 staffing cut. Cutting staff amid the unprecedented popularity of visiting parks has and will cause service reductions, environmental degradation and worsen parks overall. As a result, city officials concerned with park quality are calling on their fellow citizens to take a stand for the environment.
And who better to answer the call than the cannabis industry?
Cannabis Industry Has Unique Opportunity to Protect the Environment
Traditionally outside the arena of politics, the legal cannabis industry has become an increasingly political player, especially regionally. Good cannabis business operators understand that success is tied to their ability to respond and adapt to the needs and wishes of the communities that host them.
Many companies have already found that interfacing with community leaders and having an active dialog with policy-makers can make all the difference. Where communities feel the industry hasn’t been listening, they’ve been more likely to restrict or ban the industry outright.
In many ways, an unchecked cultivation industry can and has posed serious environmental hazards. Grow operations are energy and water intensive, sure. But unscrupulous operators have used unsafe pesticides and other chemicals–shot wildlife and run noisy, polluting machinery.
As the industry moves above board and into the legal, regulated market, sustainability has quickly become a paramount concern. Regulation can work to repair some of the damage to ecosystems. But cannabis companies also have a major role to play.
The industry can ensure business operations prioritize sustainability and conservation. But it can also devote its considerable resources to civic efforts to better-protect natural resources.
Cannabis Industry Groups Back “Parks for All” Campaign
At a volunteer meeting a couple weeks back, Sonoma County Regional Parks Director Bert Whitaker spoke to attendees about the need for investment in the county’s regional parks.
Whitaker said that the area’s parks were at a critical point. Without investment, he said, the parks would start seeing significant consequences. Consequences that would cause serious harm to natural resources, a worse experience for visitors and, Whitaker added, have a detrimental impact on “the validity to the whole system.”
Sonoma County has 56 park facilities spanning 11,000 acres and 150 miles of trails. And to raise the funds to support them, Sonoma County is introducing a Parks Improvement, Water Quality and Fire Safety Measure. The measure will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.
A number of groups have come out in support of the “Parks for All” initiative. But some of the most vocal proponents have been two cannabis industry groups. 421 Group and Justice Grown California are both donating time and resources to promoting the ballot measure.
Justice Grown California, a cultivation and advocacy group focused on social justice and environmental sustainability views the industry as responsible to community needs. The group’s Facebook page reads, “as we secure permitted operations, we become public donors to important community needs.”
That sense of community responsibility was echoed by 421 Group president Craig Litwin. “It’s critical for the entire community,” Litwin said, announcing 421 Group’s participation in the “Parks for All” campaign.