Why the Pot Industry Needs to Get a Lot Greener

There’s a budding movement urging cannabis growers to ask themselves: How green is your grass?

A recent energy-use report authored by one California scientist and a Humboldt County-based group are taking a sharp look at the carbon footprint of industrial-scale indoor cannabis growing. An ordinance in Boulder requires medical-cannabis dispensaries to pay carbon offset fees. All of them are concerned about the environmental impacts as the medical cannabis industry grows ever larger.

But first, a quick history lesson in indoor growing: A few decades ago, a bunch of hippies trekked off to the rural lands of Humboldt County, Calif., to create idyllic, off-the-grid communities. When their kids got old enough to drive, growing cannabis and selling marijuana became the way to pay for gas. But as the CAMP raids started up in the 1980s, growers had to move their operations indoors. Elaborate lighting systems were created to maximize growth cycles. Fuel had to be trucked over miles of dirt roads to run the generators that kept the operations going.

Today, as sixteen U.S. states have approved medical cannabis, it’s becoming easier for entrepreneurs to set up elaborate energy-sucking cannabis nurseries. And all that indoor cannabis comes with high energy costs.

In April, energy and environmental systems analyst Evan Mills released his report “Energy Up in Smoke,” which examined the energy usage and carbon footprint of indoor cannabis growing operations. (While Mills is a staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, his website emphasizes that the report was conducted independently and on his own time.)

Consulting with an indoor growing expert, Mills crunched the numbers for running all those high-intensity lights, pumps, dehumidifiers, heating and irrigation systems, plus the electric gadgets that control them.

The report finds that nationwide, “indoor Cannabis production results in energy expenditures of $5 billion each year, with electricity use equivalent to that of 2 million average U.S. Homes.” All related CO2 production, including transportation, equals that of 3 million cars.

– Read the entire article at AlterNet.