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Is cannabis vegan-friendly?

Published Mar 21, 2023 09:00 a.m. ET
Unsplash / Shane Rounce 

If you're a vegan and a cannabis enthusiast, then you may be wondering whether or not your love for the herb aligns with your personal morals and ethics. Though cannabis is 100% a plant-based substance, the way it's cultivated and processed determines how vegan-friendly it may or may not be. To clear the air surrounding this highly debated topic, we'll explain how and why certain cannabis products may not be entirely compatible with a vegan lifestyle.

What is veganism?

Veganism is a lifestyle choice that aims to avoid the abuse and exploitation of animals for anything including food, clothing, and other everyday things. Vegans go to great lengths to steer clear of animal-derived products, including meat, dairy, eggs, and honey. They also don’t use products that are tested on animals or those that may contain animal by-products like gelatin or carmine.

The difference between vegan and non-vegan cannabis

When it comes to cannabis, there are a few factors that could determine whether or not it's vegan-friendly, and here we’ll break them down into four categories.

Growing practices

To determine the vegan-friendliness of any cannabis product, the first thing you should do is research the growing practices used by the producer. Many add animal byproducts to their fertilizers like fish emulsion or bone meal, as these additions are created by processing the remains of animals that are killed for the benefit of humans, so they are not generally considered to be vegan friendly.

However, it is important to note that most cultivators use ingredients that are vegan-friendly, like worm castings, compost, or plant-derived nutrients. Some products will say right on the label that they’re made using vegan-friendly practices, but the majority don’t so it may take some time, research and dedication to make this distinction.

Pest control

Pest control is essential in cannabis cultivation as these pesky invaders can cause damage to a crop and reduce the size of yields. Some producers use products that are animal-based or toxic to the surrounding environment like neem oil to keep pests at bay, and most vegans would not be okay with these additions.

However, there are many vegan-friendly pest control methods such as beneficial insects (ie ladybugs or praying mantises) or plant-based ingredients like garlic or peppermint oil. To make this distinction it’s a good idea to look for labels that clearly indicate the use of vegan-friendly pest control methods, but these easy-to-read signs may not always be available. So again, research may be required to be sure.

Processing methods

Once a cannabis crop is harvested, the plants are typically dried and cured before being packaged and sold to consumers. Some of these methods may rely on animal-derived products, such as gelatin or bone char, to filter or refine the cannabis into a new form. Luckily, there are many vegan-friendly processing methods out there that rely on plant-based materials like activated charcoal or diatomaceous earth.

Some companies are proud of their vegan-friendly processing methods, but many do not openly advertise their choice on product labels.

Edibles and other cannabis products

Aside from pure cannabis flower, there are many other amazing derivatives on the market including topicals, tinctures, and edibles, and these products are even more likely to break the ethical boundaries of vegan consumers. Ingredients such as gelatin and honey are often used as sweeteners or binders, but there are just as many plant-based alternatives out there, like agar or corn syrup.

The only way to know for certain whether or not these products are vegan-friendly is to check the labels.

Summary

In conclusion, cannabis can be vegan-friendly or it may not be, depending on how it's grown, processed, and manufactured. If you're a vegan who enjoys the many benefits of cannabis, then it's important to do your research and look for products that align with your ethics some of which may be labeled as vegan, or vegan-friendly growing, processing, or manufacturing methods.

Like with any consumable product, it’s important to do your research and read labels before investing your hard-earned money in something that may not be compatible with your lifestyle. If you still aren’t sure, then it may help to ask a knowledgeable budtender.

As with any product, it's important to read the labels and do your research before making a purchase. If you're unsure whether a product is vegan-friendly or not, don't hesitate to contact the manufacturer or ask a knowledgeable budtender.

At the end of the day, vegan cannabis is possible and accessible, so long as you're willing to put in the work to find the ones that are vegan-friendly.

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