When you take a step back for a minute, you realize that the cannabis industry’s legalization in many states has changed its impact on the economy. Many voters thought that legalization would give them more freedom to use the plant for various purposes, but they might not have considered its potential impact on the planet. You might want to learn more about where your cannabis comes from. So, we pose this question: Is cannabis cultivation using too much energy? Because the answer is shocking, we suggest you sit down. The idea that you were keeping to a green lifestyle by purchasing cannabis products isn’t always correct, especially if you decided to purchase from a licensed producer. Here’s why:
The Ecological Footprint Isn’t Good
Two metrics about the cannabis industry might give you pause. One independent study by Evan Mills, a senior scientist for California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, found that indoor cannabis growers aggregated a minimum of $6 billion in energy costs in 2012, which was $5 billion more than the pharmaceutical companies’ combined use in that same year. Another comparison is more staggering. When you combine the energy use of facilities in 23 states with legalized marijuana production, they’re emitting more greenhouse gasses than every home, business, and automobile in the state of New Hampshire. This comes at a time when the United States is trying to meet the terms of the Paris climate accord and the EPA is figuring out how we can limit greenhouse gas emission from coal-burning power plants. We know that these power plants, which provide much-needed electricity, are the single biggest cause of global warming in our country.
The easiest way to understand this problem is that there is not enough standardization for indoor cannabis growers. They need more eco-friendly practices. Many growers use outdated equipment, including light bulbs connected to inefficient electrical systems. They are most likely to waste electricity in older homes and buildings. Their single connection to the electric company can even cause their transformer to blow out due to the overconsumption of their indoor operations. Another way to look at this problem is that many growers still maintain their facilities off the grid. Instead of using electricity from local providers, they will adopt a solution such as a diesel generator, which dumps greenhouse gasses into the air.
The Case of Colorado
Let’s take the state of Colorado as an example. The state legalized marijuana production in 2012. Just two years later, more than 1,234 authorized growers comprised nearly half of the demand for electrical power. Their combined use of power is equivalent to that of 35,000 households.
The Future is Bright
You might not understand why the cannabis industry is using so much power, so as to place a high demand on electricity providers. We read about one operation in a Colorado warehouse where it was necessary for workers to don sunglasses because the bulbs that were providing artificial sunlight to the cannabis plants burn 500 times brighter than one reading light. That’s some powerful sunlight to stimulate growth. Are providers trying to grow super plants? Is the solution to move their operations outside? Honestly, legalized production in 23 states makes it easier to grow outdoors without concern of being caught, but some locations lack enough sunlight throughout the year to support their cannabis operations. It’s not like every state has the natural amount of sunlight that Florida offers to its orange growers.
We’re concerned that the use of energy to grow marijuana indoors is unknown to many consumers, especially if they want a green lifestyle. Cannabis producers can do a little research and then choose to buy from growers with eco-friendly growing practices. We will find more details on this subject and post them in the future.