Will Legalization Reduce Cannabis’ Climate Impact?

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What people say green, those who use cannabis will often think of their favorite plant. However, the word green can also describe something environmentally friendly. Unfortunately for the cannabis movement, indoor growing green is often anything but green. Instead, it is a massive drain on resources, requiring huge amounts of electricity and water to work.

Farming outdoor on any scale is also resource-intensive, but the requirements to create artificial light for growing plants indoors and then to ventilate them properly are a major drain on electrical systems throughout the country, to say nothing of aquifers in dryer regions. Those who grow cannabis inside use several times more electricity than their neighbors, even if those neighbors leave on their lights and crank the air conditioning down to 65 all summer.

It simply takes a lot of power to keep indoor plants flourishing. In other words, the cannabis industry is anything but green, and many laws that pass to legalize individual states do nothing to address the environmental impact of cannabis grow operations. In fact, many states effectively require indoor cultivation by mandating intensive security systems and tracking.

The most environmentally-friendly way to grow cannabis is outdoors. The sun and the rain can provide a lot of what the plant needs to grow. Beyond that, Mother Nature can also naturally supply things like ladybugs which growers often have to import into their grow rooms when dealing with pests. Some states will allow for outdoor cultivation with adequate fencing, but indoor growing still seems to be the dominant choice.

There are some issues with outdoor growing, not the least of which has the potential for someone breaking up a beautiful bud to find a spider or insect inside. It’s also possible for people to illegally enter the property and steal the plants, but that’s a risk in an indoor grow operation as well.

Still, those risks seem relatively minor compared with the environmental damage of expanding indoor growing while electrical production in the United States remains so dirty. Cannabis lovers who want to push for change can remind their local lawmakers of the importance of producing cleaner electricity and trying to support growers who use environmentally-friendly practices.

For previous Ladybud articles about the environment, click here.