The world was treated to a historic event on May 5, as the Regenerative Cannabis Live forum convened at the United Nations, the first time that the cannabis industry and global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have ever shared the same stage. Cannabis meets all points of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, a fact that advocates stressed to urge government authorities to free the plant worldwide.
Regenerative Cannabis Live Brings Cannabis, Hemp, and Sustainable Development Goals Together
Created by Regennabis, an organization that advises clients in cannabis, hemp and psychedelics in alignment with the UN’s SDG policies, Regenerative Cannabis Live brought plant-based solutions to the forefront in new and exciting ways. International leaders gathered for the daylong conference, a groundbreaking immersive discussion on how to shape the future of the cannabis and hemp industries while pioneering strategies for economic, social and environmental progress. Panels explored subjects including the worldwide normalization of the cannabis industry; how to regenerate society through Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts; effective use of environmental resources and new technology; Environmental Social and Governance (ESG)-conscious branding, and more.
After opening remarks from Patrick McCartan, co-founder and CEO of Regennabis, the day kicked off with governmental blessings from HD Kayra Harding, Vice President of the National Assembly of Panama, and Dr. Miriam Dalli, Malta’s Minister for Environment, Energy and Enterprise. Their stirring addresses reminded all in attendance that beyond the UN’s stated SDG goals, the need for more women in leadership is crucial to ensuring a successful economic and planetary future.
Why Is Cannabis Perfect for SDG and ESG?
But what makes the cannabis sector so perfectly credentialed to provide solutions for all these issues? Because for decades, cannabis researchers, advocates and entrepreneurs have striven to resolve them. Fighting to free the power of the plant has given the cannabis industry an open and dynamic model that it can now share with the rest of the world.
“We have a responsibility to help shape a more equitable and sustainable future,” said Chris Hagedorn, Division President of Hawthorne Gardening Company, Regenerative Cannabis Live’s presenting sponsor. “As a leader in growing solutions, we’re conducting R&D [research and development] and bringing innovation to market in ways that can benefit cultivators, consumers and communities. Regennabis is at the forefront of issues that are important to the industry’s future. We’re proud to support Regenerative Cannabis Live and foster dialogue to drive meaningful change.”
Hagedorn gave a keynote speech to introduce the environmental impact panel “Resource Use Efficiency in the Hemp / Cannabis Industry.” Noting that “there is an opportunity within both indoor and outdoor cultivation to improve the environmental footprint,” he emphasized the importance of energy conservation throughout all aspects of cannabis horticulture. At the top of the list is understanding water usage and waste. Regenerative agricultural practices teach that outdoor or sun-grown cultivators can cut down on water waste through the use of cover crops, rain-catching devices, and other irrigation methods that won’t disturb the natural ecosystem. But Hagedorn and the Hawthorne team also advise indoor cultivators to consider cutting-edge irrigation technologies that help purify source water without adding to many communities’ drought problems. Some such tactics include using an indoor grow’s dehumidifier system to recapture excess water, filtering source water prior to irrigation to maximize plant health, automating irrigation schedules post-filtration, and installing systems to treat excess wastewater onsite at the grow so its nutrients can be reused immediately.
Regenerative Cannabis Live Takes on Restorative Justice, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
However, the regenerative approach encompasses more than environmental practices. The panel “Regenerating Society – Restorative Justice, DEI and Social Impact” examined how “Active Citizenship” in a global cannabis industry can deliver an inclusive perspective for humanity by dismantling inequalities. Moderated by John Kagia, Chief Knowledge Officer of New Frontier Data, panelists Patricia Villela Marino (President of Humanitas 360), Amber Littlejohn (Executive Director of the Minority Cannabis Business Association) and Danielle Drummond (Vice President of Social Equity for Ascend Wellness) discussed the glaring racial and social inequities in cannabis, particularly the United States. Across the US, 17 million people have been arrested on cannabis charges since 1985, with people of color four times more likely to be incarcerated than their white counterparts. Although some emerging marketplaces are attempting to mitigate these harms with social equity programs, the efforts to educate and empower marginalized communities are not nearly enough yet.
“We exist at the intersection between social justice and restorative justice,” Littlejohn said of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, “and as a business organization, we focus on [industry’s role in addressing that]. Restorative justice means holistically… mitigating harm done to communities.” The modern cannabis industry, forged in the fires of the efforts to fight the War on Drugs, has an intrinsic drive to incorporate restorative justice into everything it does, she explained.
“It is imperative for North American companies to be proactive and intentional with environmental, social and corporate governance, as they will set the standard the rest of the world will follow,” said Kagia. He highlighted DEI strategies as a key part of implementing these standards, because no society will survive in the long term on economic inequality. “As a newly emerging industry, cannabis has the opportunity to get it right from the start, and this U.N. conference shows just how seriously global policy and industry leaders are taking this issue.”
Cannabis and Hemp Provide a New Paradigm for Environmental, Social and Governance Principles
Kagia’s points about Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)-oriented business were elaborated upon in a later presentation by New Frontier’s founder and Executive Chair Giadha Decarcer. Speaking about “A New Paradigm” by which the cannabis industry can align with SDG policies, she offered a valuable framework for cannabis to influence the universal economy. The global addressable market of cannabis is now approximately $500 billion – both legal and illicit – and more than 70 countries around the world have legalized use of the plant in some form. Through the industry’s continuing growth, and the plant’s applications that increasingly come to light (industrial hemp has over 25,000 uses in construction, biofuels, plastic replacements, technological materials and others), it’s high time for the UN to integrate cannabis significantly into its SDG blueprints.
Hemp’s substantial role in reinvigorating our planet was showcased in a short film screened at Regenerative Cannabis Live. Produced and narrated by “Father of the Cannabis Industry” Steve DeAngelo and directed by filmmaker Giacobazzi Yanez, Hemp Is the Hope of the World explains how pivoting to a plant-based lifestyle will save our planet from destruction. As DeAngelo instructs viewers, this doesn’t mean simply going vegan, but working meaningfully with Mother Nature to build systems for the future. Innovations on fuel and resource supplies, land use, technology – and yes, food sources – that harmonize with natural plant cycles can take our world in a positive direction. We need only throw our collective action behind it.
Watch the film here:
That collective action demands corporate action as well, according to the speakers at Regenerative Cannabis Live. A further panel in the day discussed ESG as a brand builder and driver in cannabis and hemp; although cannabis companies are entering the public sector at an exponential rate, the industry can only acquire the legitimacy it seeks through strict adherence to ESG principles. Moderated by Debra Borchardt, co-founder and Executive Editor of Green Market Report, the panel featured Jamie Pearson, President and CEO of Bhang; Kim Rivers, CEO of Trulieve; and economist Beau Whitney in a lively debate about what it means to operate with ESG. Social equity and climate change concerns are obvious issues for businesses to address, but how closely are cannabis corporations looking at customer acquisition? How do they deal with transparency? How are employees being retained for long-term success? These are all factors that cannabis companies, and the industry as a whole, must take into account and lead by example.
Paraguay: A Regenerative, Hemp-Driven Nation
Paraguay is one nation that can provide an outline for a regenerative and hemp-driven economy to the rest of the world. In a highlight of the entire Regenerative Cannabis Live program, a presentation revealed that Paraguay is the first country in history to validate carbon capture in a variety of industrial hemp applications, which will convert it into a carbon-positive nation in coming years. The development of this approach to a hemp-based regenerative economy will generate a sustainable socioeconomic impact. Paraguay’s Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Ing. Moises Santiago Bertoni, and Dr. Marcelo Demp, Vice President of the Latin American Industrial Hemp Association and President of the Chamber of Industrial Hemp of Paraguay, shared how implementing industrial hemp across the country will lift thousands of families out of extreme poverty, including small family farms and Indigenous communities. This embrace of the “Potency of Hemp,” they asserted, will deliver long-term environmental, social and economic impact that’s bound to change not only Paraguay’s position in the global economy, but provide solutions that will alter the international strategy to carbon capture.
Regenerative Cannabis Live marked an epic day for cannabis advocates and industry leaders worldwide. As the first time in history that cannabis delegates have ever been invited to speak at the UN, and the inaugural conference to synergize the sector with SDG goals, it’s definitely a moment for the books. However, it is just the opening step toward more progress. Once opened, we cannot allow those doors to close again. To quote Giacobazzi Yanez, “Eventually, but inevitably the plant will be free, but until all nonviolent cannabis prisoners are released and we replace cotton, trees and petroleum with hemp, we still have much activism to do.”
Featured image: Regennabis co-founder and Chief Growth Officer Geoff Trotter presents as Master of Ceremonies at the United Nations for Regenerative Cannabis Live (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.