Ganja, a plant from the Earth that can connect us to Earth through a blissful crescendo of partnership between the elements of Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. You’ve likely heard the old adage that warns against “too much of a good thing,” so it raises the question: Is the rise in demand and commercialization of cannabis negatively impacting the land, air, and water through which it grows?
Research recently released in the journal Nature Sustainability reveals some grim impacts of the industrial manufacturing of cannabis that has grown rapidly since the onset of legalization movements in the U.S. If there has ever been a sign that perhaps removing Earth’s processes, variables and paces in favor of consumption-focused efficiency requires more careful examination, this might be it. Check out what WeedTube is doing this Earth Month to help.
Researchers found that one of these indoor cultivation warehouses generated between 5,033 and 11,428 pounds of carbon-equivalent emissions for every 2.2 pounds of cannabis flower. To put it another way, an eighth of a pound of cannabis has a carbon footprint of up to 41 pounds.
“Policymakers and consumers aren’t paying much attention to environmental impacts of the cannabis industry,” Jason Quinn, associate professor at Colorado State University and lead author of the study, wrote in an email. “There is little to no regulation on emissions for growing cannabis indoors. Consumers aren’t considering the environmental effect either. This industry is developing and expanding very quickly without consideration for the environment.”
Instead of removing indoor growing, which is important in areas where outdoor growing is not feasible, researchers suggest the industry should make sustainability a priority.
“If indoor cannabis cultivation were to be fully converted to outdoor production, these preliminary estimates show that the state of Colorado, for example, would see a reduction of more than 1.3% in the state’s annual [greenhouse gas] emissions,” the study states. That would result in a decrease of approximately 2.3 million tons of carbon equivalents annually in Colorado alone, which researchers say is approximately equal to the state's total coal mining industry's emissions.
Outdoor growing isn't feasible throughout every region of the country, though. As a result, researchers marked areas within states where indoor growing is not as energy consuming. For example, because Leadville, Colorado is colder than Pueblo, “the practice of growing cannabis in Leadville leads to 19% more GHG emissions than in Pueblo.” Lawmakers must take action to ease the transition in areas where outdoor growing is feasible by updating laws and zoning codes to permit more outdoor facilities.