Marijuana Energy Usage

As more states legalize cannabis and grow operations start springing up around the country, the aggregate power usage for the cannabis industry is bound to reach levels that will be alarming to some.  We are seeing this trend already with an article in the Washington Post titled “One surprising downside of marijuana legalization: major energy use“. In it the article notes:

Indeed, the level of power use appears to be so significant that one scholar is now suggesting that as the industry grows, states and localities should take advantage of marijuana licensing procedures to also regulate the industry’s energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

“Given that this is a new ‘industry’ that is going to be pretty highly regulated, I felt like the state and local policymakers have a unique opportunity to incorporate energy usage and climate assessments into their state marijuana licensing fees,” says Gina Warren, a professor at the Texas A&M University School of Law whose paper, titled “Regulating Pot to Save the Polar Bear: Energy and Climate Impacts of the Marijuana Industry,” will soon appear in the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law.

They noted  “a 2012 study of the “carbon footprint of indoor cannabis production” published in the journal Energy Policy” by researcher Evan Mills, which notes:

The study estimated that indoor cannabis (both illegal and legal) uses $6 billion worth of electricity every year, amounting to 1 percent of overall U.S. electricity. And in some production-intensive states like California, it was much higher — 3 percent, Mills found.

“One average kilogram of final product is associated with 4,600 kg of carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere, or that of 3 million average U.S. cars when aggregated across all national production,” wrote Mills.

They lay blame mostly on the indoor marijuana production as “the chief climate change and energy concern“.

The reason is simply the technology required. “Specific energy uses include high-intensity lighting, dehumidification to remove water vapor and avoid mold formation, space heating or cooling during non-illuminated periods and drying, pre-heating of irrigation water, generation of carbon dioxide by burning fossil fuel, and ventilation and air-conditioning to remove waste heat,” writes Mills.

Such concerns are driving people like Prof. Warren to propose “that states that legalize marijuana use should also require the growing industry to power itself cleanly”.

So what do you think? Is this something that is good for the marijuana industry as a whole?

Some localities are already moving in this direction.

Starting in October of this year, Boulder County in Colorado will require many marijuana facilities to “directly offset 100% of electricity, propane, and natural [gas] consumption” through renewables or other means.

Those pushing for such regulations on the industry believe it can be a positive marketing tool for the inudstry “because if you have people who are purchasing the product who are the type of individual who cares about the environment, then they would gravitate towards the green marijuana production.”  Remains to be seen, but the debate about the total energy used by the marijuana industry will be something that is sure to heat up as we head into the final stretch of national legalization.

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