Growing weed has a reputation for harming the environment. Here are the growers trying to change that.

Inside a warehouse in an industrial part of downtown Los Angeles, where rats can be as big as seagulls, the one thing standing between some aggressive rodents and a lucrative crop of cannabis is Ghost, a 2-year-old black and white cat.

What, no rat poison?

Ryan Jennemann, co-founder of THC Design, doesn’t believe in it. For his Southern California cannabis farms he employs two rescued cats and dogs to deter rodents from chewing on the stalks of his crop, killing the plants. And his conservation mindset extends to other aspects of THC Design.

Edgar Perez tends to cannabis plants at THC Design in Los Angeles, which focuses on environmentally conscious growing practices to reduce their carbon footprint. (Photo by Ana Venegas, The Cannifornian/SCNG)

A series of pencil-sized tubes runs from his plants to drain runoff water into a recycling system. A dehumidifier captures water from the air to reuse and nourish the strains of cannabis, which sell under names like Blueberry Dome, Agent Orange, XJ-13 and Skywalker OG.

At its best, Jennemann estimates THC Design captures and reuses 1,500 gallons of the 2,000 total gallons every day — nearly four times more the average American family of four uses each day.

Even the stems and branches cast off by Jennemann’s discarded plants are re-used, donated to a company that makes recycled paper.

“Cutting a thing here or there to make an extra buck, I think, is very shortsighted,” Jennamann said. “I think being environmentally friendly is the best way to make that money.”

Not everybody in the cannabis industry works that way.

Though California is expected to turn marijuana farming into a multi-billion dollar legal business over the next decade, it’s also expected to remain host to a vast world of illicit farms, often grown without permission on state or federal lands. Often, these mini-farms, known in the industry as “trespass grows,” are nothing short of environmental disasters.

Eric Shelton and Mark Imsdahl of the Department of Fish and Game clean up trash left by illegal pot growers in the hills above Los Gatos, Calif. in 2012. (Gary Reyes, Staff)

Pot pirates steal water from public watersheds. They use poisons and fertilizers that eventually work into the food chain, harming species as diverse as Northern spotted owls and the Pacific fisher.

“They’re the worst of the worst,” said Scott Bauer, the senior environmental scientist supervisor with the state’s Department of Fish and…

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