How much of a carbon footprint does marijuana cultivation make? You have to wonder. And we all know what the answer is: a big one.
The carbon footprint of the marijuana industry huge. Anyone who’s seen it can tell you that. You can’t have a room that is normally lit by two 100 watt bulbs illuminated by ten 1000 watt bulbs without increasing carbon release.
It’s not going to stay under the radar. In some states medical marijuana dispensaries are required to pay carbon offset fees. And let’s face it: your typical weed smoker is likely concerned about the environment and has already put two and two together.
In the hippy days pot was imported from Mexico or Colombia, or Asia. It was grown outdoors the old fashioned way. When people in North America and Europe started growing it they started small and outdoors.
Then the grow industry was born. High intensity lights in basements, barns and buried shipping containers became normal. Energy use in terms of electricity and fuel to move supplies and run generators blossomed.
Laws have relaxed. 16 states allow medicinal marijuana. 25 have decriminalized possession to some degree. Marijuana growing is rampant. There is a huge grow supply industry. And the grow ops consume one thing more than anything else – electrical energy.
All the equipment used in grow ops sucks up huge amounts of energy, and that doesn’t even count the energy and resources used to manufacture high intensity lights, pumps, fans and everything else. A 1000 watt light uses a kilowatt each hour and grow shows have lots of lights. They likely use more energy than body shops or welding fabricators. The carbon footprint of a single joint has been estimated at two pounds!
Moving the crop back outside is the answer, but there are challenges. Federal law still prohibits marijuana in the US, but out of sight cultivation is tolerated by local governments. In your face growing may not fare as well. Theft of outdoor crops is easier too.
There seems to be a recognized difference between commercial growers and medicinal growers. Many medicinal growers are small scale. While they do grow indoors it’s often by necessity. They need the weed, have few options other than the closet, and aren’t making money. The same can’t be said of commercial growers.
It seems like another good argument for legalization of small grows. If cultivation for personal use was like growing tomatoes then there would be less need for black market commercial grow ops. That would be good for everyone, and not just from a green viewpoint.