Is marijuana bad for the climate? » Yale Climate Connections


As a growing number of states legalize marijuana, cannabis businesses are ramping up.

But cannabis is often grown in indoor farms under intense grow lights. And this setup can have a large carbon footprint.

Quinn: “Indoor-grown cannabis is using just a ton of electricity.”

Jason Quinn of Colorado State University co-authored a study on how much energy it would take to grow cannabis indoors at various locations in each state and the carbon pollution that would cause.

The researchers found that in general, production is less polluting in areas with more clean power on the grid and in mild climates where less energy is needed to maintain a farm’s temperature and humidity.

In the worst case, growing just one kilogram could emit as much carbon pollution as burning more than 500 gallons of gasoline. But in Long Beach, California, it would emit less than half that.

Quinn: “One of the challenges with it being federally regulated is that you can’t transport cannabis across state lines.”

But the study suggests that one way to reduce the industry’s climate impact would be to concentrate farms in optimal growing areas and when possible, avoid artificial lights and heat entirely.

Quinn: “The easiest thing you can do is just grow it outside.”

Reporting credit: Ethan Freedman/ChavoBart Digital Media


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