The Weed Industry Isn’t As Green As You Think

The burgeoning six-billion-dollar weed industry isn't as green as you think. Here is what growers are doing to make the cannabis industry more eco-fri...

Kermit the Frog said it best when he sang, “It Ain’t Easy Being Green.”  The burgeoning six-billion-dollar cannabis industry knows this tune all too well. While the flower is green, the weed industry isn’t as green as you think. 

Ironically, the cannabis business, an industry aligned with all things natural and environmental, is riddled with a Sasquatch-sized carbon footprint.

 As more and more states become pro-weed, this eco-friendly issue has become more and more critical.

The Problem

Cannabis is the United States’ most energy-intensive crop.  Over one-third of cannabis cultivation takes place in controlled, indoor environments.  Why?

Cannabis is a finicky plant that requires a lot of water, a lot of light, and a controlled temperature.  In fact, cannabis needs twice the amount of water as grapes need to come to fruition.

To create this perfect environment, growers in the weed industry must also power High-Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps. In addition to provide the intense light cannabis needs.

Unfortunately, the lights can overheat the room, and kill the crop altogether. Ventilation, air conditioning, and dehumidifying devices as well as other energy-sucking machines drain all of the energy so the crop can thrive.  

It’s no wonder that according to a New Frontier Financials 2016 Report, cannabis cultivation is responsible for one percent of the US’s total electrical output.  

Even in areas where the environmental conditions are ideal for cannabis (that lovely long stretch from California up through Washington). Many growers still grow indoors because they don’t want to attract DEA attention.  This even happens in states where cannabis is legal.  

Potential Solutions

A swap-out could potentially fix the lighting problem.  If growers would switch from HID lights to LED lights, energy needs would be cut drastically.  

LED lights heat at a lower wattage, so the grow space would not heat up as severely, thus reducing the cost of air conditioning.  This would also lessen the burden on transformers and grids. LED lights are also designed to last longer.

So why wouldn’t growers in the weed industry run out to switch their lights?  First, they don’t know if LED lights would work as well as HID lights.  Secondly, the average cost of a HID light is $350 versus the $1,600 average cost of a LED light.  Finally, as cannabis is still a federally illegal Schedule 1 drug, taking a risk on such an enormous expense would be too much for independent growers to shoulder.

How could it work?  Well, if cannabis was federally legalized, growers in the weed industry could then receive incentives, like rebates for switching their operations over to LED lights.  Federal legalization would also open more growers up to outdoor venues. 

So as more states legalize medical marijuana (28 and counting) and recreational marijuana (a bold eight), the only real solution to the bitter-tasting energy crisis is to legalize the bitter herb.  

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