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Vegan Weed | The All-You-Need-to-Know Guide

For those who are vegan, this information might shock you…

Veganism has become a rather common dietary and health practice. For some, it goes far beyond food choices and health benefits. For these individuals, veganism has become a way of life. The growth in the number of vegans has led to a massive spike in the availability of vegan products. Not so long ago, vegans found it extremely difficult to find any real range of choice.

These days, however, companies fall over themselves to claim their products are vegan-friendly. It is also an excellent excuse to slap a few dollars on a product’s price tag! You also see this when shopping for cannabis. A surprising number of people believe that all weed is vegan. Indeed, there are lots of people who assume that all the fruit and vegetables they consume enable them to remain vegan.

While plants themselves certainly fall into the category, we can’t say the same for all the processes used to grow and package them. If you believe that all marijuana is vegan, this article may come as a real eye-opener.

Keep reading to discover what vegan weed is, and how this information could change your life, especially if you are living a vegan lifestyle…

What Is Veganism?

Perhaps it is best to begin with a very brief description of what veganism is for those unfamiliar with it. Being vegan means avoiding products from animal sources. Some vegans define themselves as a term known as “honey vegan.” This means they still consume honey even if they stay away from most other products.

For some vegans, it involves boycotting edible or consumable items that are animal-derived. For others, it also includes the exclusion of all animal-derived merchandise.

Dietary wise, animal elements are found in dairy, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, honey, seafood, wine, and much more. Other animal products include leather clothing/accessories, fur garments, and wool/fleece garments. There are also items constructed out of bone/ivory/skin, cosmetics with animal origins or products tested on animals, and more.

Each vegan, of course, has individual regulations and limits. However, it seems the overall consensus is an avoidance of animal-derived consumables in addition to other non-edible products. However, sometimes animal products can sneak up on you. In this case, weed is a good example of an item that may seem 100% vegan friendly. Yet, in many instances, it is not.

Vegan Weed? Isn’t All Marijuana Vegan?

For many, the term ‘vegan weed’ sounds ridiculous. They assume that ALL cannabis automatically falls into this category. It is, after all, a plant!

Unfortunately, a substantial amount of the weed you use is most assuredly not vegan. This is the case with a significant number of other vegetables, such as tomatoes. What happens is that many fertilization processes involve the use of animal products. It is a similar story with packaging.

Indeed, if you are an ultra-committed vegan, your options are significantly more limited than you would first imagine. Even organically-grown cannabis doesn’t fit into the vegan category. This is because natural fertilizer can include animal excrement, such as bat guano. Most vegans are okay with the thought of animal feces being used to help plants grow, but that’s not the case for everyone.

Animal Derived Fertilization Practices

Numerous grower’s guides for marijuana point out that certain fertilizers are not vegan-friendly. However, these options are commonplace for many cannabis cultivators. They are widely discussed in grower communities, and not much thought goes into their non-cruelty-free sources. For those who are not against consuming animal-derived products, this certainly does not matter. However, it does provide vegans with some difficulties.

Crops such as lettuce grow extremely well with little more than organic fertilizers. However, if you want to obtain high yields when growing weed, you will need to invest in some added nutrients. Organic growers will have an assortment of ‘natural’ additives such as fish hydrolysate, bone meal, and blood meal to hand. However, they exist as a result of intensive animal farming.

The most highly recommended fertilizers for marijuana plants during the cultivation process are nutrients derived from animal origins.

Bone meal is a waste product from slaughterhouses and is dried and ground into a fine powder. Fish hydrolysate comes from rejected non-commercial fish trapped in the lines. They get ground up, liquified, and poured into a bottle. Blood meal is mainly dried blood from cows.

Believe it or not, even packaging is a potential issue for vegans. Some inks and adhesives have ingredients that come from animal products. Fortunately, ‘vegan weed’ is real, and this is how they make it.

Here Are Some Alternative Vegan-Friendly Fertilizers

There is no question that fish, blood, and bone meals are outstanding additives for cannabis plants. Indeed, ancient cultures used practices such as sowing corn above fish heads to produce good results in severe growing conditions. Indeed, we can do worse than to implement some ‘old-fashioned’ processes to counteract the use of chemicals.

There are now plenty of ways to grow veganic cannabis. Cultivators can enjoy outstanding yields by using non-animal-based fertilizers. Here are a few options:

Compost or Compost Tea

One of the simplest methods is to produce homemade compost teas or simple compost mixes. As you add the food scraps to your compost pile, you can closely monitor what types of leftovers you add. If you are a vegan, your compost bin is likely full of plant pits, seeds, vegetable and fruit skins, and grains. Other options include hay mulches, lime, gypsum, dolomite, rock potash, rock dust, green sand, and wood ash.

Alfalfa Meal

Made from alfalfa, this plant-derived fertilizer is an excellent substitute for blood meal. It contains a lot of nitrogen, which is released quickly when incorporated into the soil. Many gardeners use it to fertilize roses, and you can also mix it into the earth when growing members of the cabbage family.

Kelp Extract

This is a fantastic plant-based fertilizer that contains lots of micronutrients and natural growth hormones. Try spraying your weed with liquid kelp if the plants look like they need a boost. If you decide to buy it, please note that some brands include fish products.

Also, there is a multitude of store-bought selections and readymade vegan fertilizers. These options are a bit more expensive but are convenient for some marijuana cultivators. These include:

  • Grow Veganic
  • Growmore Vegetarian
  • FloraBlend Vegan Compost Tea
  • Yum Yum Mix 2-1-1
  • Down to Earth Vegan Mix
  • VeganMator,

What’s a Vegan to Do?

There are not many solutions for this issue, except, of course, to buy vegan-friendly products as much as possible. It isn’t easy to prove the claims of marijuana brands that say they sell vegan weed. If you grow it at home, you have more control and can create plant-based fertilizer.

Ultimately, you can only do so much if your goal is to consume veganic weed. You should take all the necessary steps when ‘vetting’ companies that claim their cannabis is vegan-friendly. You can also take matters into your own hands. However, you must realize that there’s only so much you can do.

Although the number of options is growing, it still isn’t easy to take on the vegan lifestyle.

There is no question that the number of vegans is growing massively worldwide. As this number swells further, the range of choices available to them will unquestionably also increase. Manufacturers will have to become even more dedicated to clearly labeling their products as vegan-friendly.

Final Thoughts on Vegan Marijuana

Vegan marijuana does exist, but it isn’t the easiest to track. Some producers and cannabis vendors have made it mandatory to check their sources and label their herb. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many companies. Until veganism expands further into the marijuana world, those avoiding animal-derived products should do the best they can.

If you are a vegan or are merely curious about vegan weed, this article is for you. Hopefully, this has cleared up some of the facts about vegan marijuana. It has also reminded you that there are ways and means to ensure you don’t unknowingly stray from the vegan lifestyle.

Cannabis is a plant, so it must be vegan, right? For those who are vegan and love weed, this information might shock you…

Is Your Weed Vegan?

Cultivating plants isn’t typically as cruelty-free as one might hope, but veganic growers are trying to change that

Jessica Misener
Aug 5, 2019 · 9 min read

It sounds like a question straight out of a Portlandia sketch, but vegan cannabis is a real thing! If you’ve ever seen a “veganic” strain at your local dispensary, you’ve already encountered it.

Hold up — isn’t marijuana, a plant, already vegan?

Not necessarily, depending on how strictly you define the parameters of your veganism. Before you hit your next pre-roll or take that strawberry-flavored edible, here’s everything you need to know about vegan-friendly weed and how to find it.

Why does this exist?

Marijuana is a plant , yes, but the way it’s grown can be anything but cruelty-free. “When medical cannabis was first passed [legally in California] as an alternative treatment in the ’90s, not many people seemed to think about the fertilizers and pesticides used to produce [it],” says Barry Warman, executive of sales for Bio-Veganic, a plant-based cannabis nutrient system.

If you buy organic fertilizer, it almost definitely contains bone or blood meal, which are both made from slaughterhouse waste and comprise a major revenue source for the beef, fish, and poultry industries.

Cannabis farmers, like other farmers, need healthy soil to grow healthy plants. The fertilizer you use at home and fertilizers used in agriculture have something in common: they likely contain chemical-based growing additives like nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, as well as other metals like zinc. If you buy organic fertilizer, it’ll be chemical-free, but it almost definitely contains bone or blood meal, which are both made from slaughterhouse waste and comprise a major revenue source for the beef, fish, and poultry industries.

So in the same way that a tomato might be grown with cow manure or fish meal-based fertilizer, cannabis is also grown with animal products.

Now that cannabis is legal for recreational use in 11 states and in D.C. — and for medical use in almost all of the rest — many users can be selective about what they choose to consume, whether it’s a specific THC-to-CBD ratio, a locally grown gram, or just a really cutely-packaged cookie. For a community of veganic growers, taking the extra step to provide consumers with cannabis that’s grown veganically and sustainably is worth the work.

The veganic method

Veganic cannabis strains might still be niche, but they comprise a growing (heh) cottage industry. In fact, a veganic high-CBD strain won a first place prize in the High Times Cannabis Cup in 2016, and Veganic Strawberry Cough took home second place for Best U.S. Sativa Flower in 2015. Popular strains you might have seen include Veganic Starkiller OG and Veganic Platinum Cookies, which is grown from a clone of the popular Girl Scout Cookies strain. Buds and Roses dispensary in Los Angeles often has several different veganic strains in stock, including Veganic Royal Highness.

It’s important to note that the legal cannabis industry has no regulatory way to certify bud as “organic” or “vegan.” (The closest you can get is something called the “Clean Green” certification for sustainably and naturally grown products.) But since you can unofficially grow cannabis veganically, how does it work?

First, a little gardening 101. At your local grocery store, you’ve probably noticed organic produce sitting right next to non-organic, or conventional, produce. Those non-organic carrots were grown with fertilizers like you find at any big-box home or hardware store, which are usually made by combining synthetic elemental salts — mainly nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. (Synthetic pesticides and herbicides are also used in conventional farming, and unless otherwise specified, GMOs.)

The organic carrots definitely cost more, but that’s because they were farmed using a more natural method. To be USDA-certified organic, a vegetable cannot be grown with synthetic fertilizers, synthetic pesticides or sewage sludge, and it can’t be genetically engineered or irradiated. But it can be grown with animal products. So instead of being fortified with mineral salts, your organic carrots might have been fertilized with manure or bone meal.

“Veganic” farming combines two growing philosophies: organic and vegan. Veganic plants are grown both organically — without the aforementioned synthetic fertilizers or pesticides — and vegan. Because traditional organic farming often uses biological fertilizers like manure, veganic takes it one step further by eschewing any of the typical animal by-product ingredients like cow manure, fish meal, or bat guano.

“People who are vegan are definitely drawn to vegan cultivation, but there are a myriad of reasons to take some out of the organic animal production of growing cannabis.”

The practice of veganic farming has been around for a while, perhaps first highlighted by an Irish gardening enthusiast named Maye Bruce in her 1940 book on composting, From Vegetable Waste to Fertile Soil. But it’s master grower Kyle Kushman who really put veganic cannabis on the weed map. An award-winning cannabis cultivator, Kushman is the founder of Vegamatrix, a line of veganic bottled nutrients for growing without the use of animal products.

“People who are vegan are definitely drawn to vegan cultivation,” Kushman says, “but there are a myriad of reasons to take some out of the organic animal production of growing cannabis.”

When it comes to farming, cannabis plants in particular are especially finicky, requiring things like microbial inoculants and carbon dioxide tanks to produce healthy plants. And one thing they definitely require? Special nutrients to thrive. A small sector of veganic cannabis nutrient mixes like Kushman’s has sprung up, including the previously mentioned Bio-Veganic and the Dutch-based Canna company’s BioCanna line.

Besides these pre-fab mixes, veganic gardening has developed several interesting alternatives to both chemical and animal-based farming. “Green manure,” also referred to as cover crops, is a term for plants grown specifically to be dug back into the soil to fertilize it. (Common plants used as cover crops are legumes and grasses.) Alfalfa meal is a plant-based substitute for blood meal, which is often added to commercial fertilizers to boost nitrogen in soil, and a hay mulch can expedite the natural composting and worming processes. One of the most popular veganic methods is to use a good compost tea, made by steeping compost in aerated water for an even richer fertilizer. ( Really hardcore people can use human urine and “humanure” from compost toilets — and to go even farther, some will use only the waste from people who eat vegan diets.)

Does it taste different?

Without having to fight through synthetic chemicals and animal products, the theory goes, a plant like cannabis can grow in peace and nurture a balanced pH soil. But let’s get down to brass tacks: Does vegan-grown weed taste or smoke better?

“When you light a bowl of veganic weed or a joint, as that cherry cools, it doesn’t extinguish. You’ll be able to smoke a bowl or a joint in less than a minute.”

Veganic cannabis proponents say vegan Mary Jane does provide a cleaner smoke with less residue; Kushman claims that users can taste or smoke a palpable difference.

“When you inhale veganic weed for the very first time, you will note how smooth it is,” he says. “The flavors are much more prominent. You can taste the terpene profile much more because you’re not also tasting metals. When you light a bowl of veganic weed or a joint, as that cherry cools, it doesn’t extinguish. You’ll be able to smoke a bowl or a joint in less than a minute.”

Kushman and others claim it can also make you cough less.

“Smoked veganic cannabis won’t produce noxious fumes that tend to be associated with the notorious cannabis cough,” says Adam Siskin, founder of the website Cannaplayground.

“From personal experience, the flowers are definitely a smoother smoke. [The cannabis] has a better taste, and when the joint paper burns, it burns white smoke and ash instead of dark black or gray you would see with commercial fertilizers,” Warman says.

For smokers, that all surely sounds great. But just how valid are these claims that veganic cannabis is healthier for your body?

Dr. Robert Flannery, founder of Dr. Robb Farms and the first PhD in the United States with certified technical expertise in growing commercial cannabis, says that even if a plant is grown veganically, it will still contain mineral nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus.

“Plants, cannabis included, can only absorb mineral nutrients through the root system to provide nutrition for the plants,” Flannery says. “This means that regardless of whether I use an organic fertilizer, a veganic fertilizer, or a mineral nutrient to fertilize my plants, the plant is only going to absorb mineral nutrients.”

Flannery says he’s heard the arguments that mineral nutrients cause a harsher smoke because of the presence of fertilizer salts inside the flower.

“However, I am here to say that even if you use veganic nutrients, the plant will still only absorb mineral nutrients,” he says. “The plant will still have those salts in its tissue regardless of the type of fertilizer.”

Why veganic growing matters

But even for tokers who might be skeptical, benefits to vegan weed extend beyond just the experience. Veganic growing techniques don’t only result in allegedly cleaner Mary Jane; they’re safer for the planet. Farmers of all types would do well to minimize their use of traditional chemical fertilizers; runoff from these products pollutes waterways by spawning algal blooms that pull valuable oxygen from the water. Nutrient runoff from the Mississippi River watershed has already created one such large low oxygen “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, choking off marine plants and animals.

By cutting back on demand for animal by-product-based fertilizers, consumers can send a powerful message to the meat industry.

Veganic fertilizers also boosts a plant’s bio-availability, which refers to how much nutrient it’s able to absorb. “Regular” fertilizer is received by soil as a foreign substance, but organic nutrients more closely resemble forms of nutrients plants would be exposed to in their environment and are more readily absorbed by the plant, leaving behind richer and more fertile soil.

Finally, factory farming, which generates the bone and blood meal used in organic fertilizers, is not only harmful to animals, people, and the economy, it’s also resource- inefficient, taking up increasing amounts of farmland and water that could be used for plant agriculture or housing. By cutting back on demand for animal by-product-based fertilizers, consumers can send a powerful message to the meat industry.

It sounds like a question straight out of a Portlandia sketch, but vegan cannabis is a real thing! If you’ve ever seen a “veganic” strain at your local dispensary, you’ve already encountered it. Not…