It's the era of Green energy and ESG initiatives. It's affected all businesses one way or another either by legal mandate or by business owners who are environmentally conscious despite their bottom line. The green movement has ironically hit the agricultural industry, despite its reliance on clean water, healthy soil, spacious farmland, and the clean radiant power of the sun. But then, growing crops from tomatoes to corn and caring for livestock takes enormous energy.
Cannabis cultivation is no exception. Says the owner of the Sacramento-based KOLAS CORP weed dispensary which also runs the subdivision, KOLAS Energy. At present, they are attempting to optimize the efficiency of their legal cannabis value chain. They are engineering cannabis product cultivation via retail by initiating new green and energy-conserving technologies along with new energy infrastructure by eliminating outdated cultivation techniques.
But can green, carbon-free tech provide enough energy to grow enough weed to supply all of the U.S.'s many dispensaries? Also, can weed be consumed without hurting the environment?
According to a recent article by The New Yorker, the initial answer can be found in the burning of a joint itself. In a word, the world needs to stop burning stuff. But when it comes to legal or medicinal marijuana joints, you need to "burn one" to enjoy one. In other words, eliminating the burning of a joint is simply a lost cause.
On the financial front, weed stocks are also burning hot, especially in the wake of recent legislative wins in Georgia, New York, California, Massachusetts, and so many other states. Additionally, Washington DC is pushing for more U.S. state legalization. Something that's happening rapidly, and for many on both sides of the aisle, it is a long time coming.
The good news is that amount of carbon produced by smoking weed is negligible, or so claims The New Yorker. However, the bad news is thatthe production of a large crop of marijuana, typically grown and harvested by large-scale businesspersons and entrepreneurs, is said to produce a huge amount of electricity.
More than a decade ago, it was estimated that one percent of the U.S.'s electrical output was utilized for the raising of weed on a corporate retail level. California, which has recently experienced brown and black-outs, was the largest user of pot-related electricity with the cannabis growing companies burning three percent of the state's electrical output.
Why the use of so much energy to grow a plant? Most pot is grown indoors to ensure a crop that's not damaged by Mother Nature. Indoor facilities utilize intense lighting systems. The lighting is said to be so intense, it can mimic that of a medical center surgical room which is more than five hundred times the level required for reading.
Says the National Coalition of State Legislators (NCSL), a five-thousand-square-foot indoor weed farm located in Boulder County, CO, has been known to utilize 41,808 kilowatt hours per month. Meanwhile, the average U.S. household uses only 630 kilowatt hours per month.
Growers also combine the lighting systems with highly powered air-conditioning units engineered to shorten a pot plants normal growing cycle. NCSL researchers have also pointed out that the energy required to produce just one marijuana joint is the equivalent of producing close to twenty pints of beer.
Reducing Weed Growing Energy
The New Yorker states that researchers are currently looking for ways to dramatically reduce the energy that goes into growing weed for both medicinal and recreational use. While it's true the energy produced by the sun is enough to grow marijuana, the use ofsolar panels were designed to displace the carbon footprint of everyday existing usage that comes largely from residential homes. It is not being used to power relatively new ventures such as the growing and harvesting of legal pot for mass consumption.
The need for electricity and a massive amount of energy to grow pot is said to be an irony considering the history of weed. Having always been a staple of the "green counterculture" precisely because it can be grown outdoors in sun-rich environments, the use of so much energy goes counter to the counterculture.
But in Vermont, for instance, every resident is allowed to grow six weed plants legally. The use of both sunlight and electrical light to grow these plants is legal. Six plants can produce a considerable amount of pot which means it is quickly becoming a staple of the local economy. Everyday people are commercializing their home weed harvesting operation and the state is taking notice by collecting much needed tax revenues.
However, in Massachusetts, larger residential growers are limited to only thirty-six watts of electricity per square foot, which is said to be a reduction from the original forty watts. In the state of Maine, weed harvesters are allowed to apply for state grants that are designed to make their business operations more green and therefore, more energy efficient.
But traditional sun-grown pot is making a comeback of sorts, as evidenced by growers in the Berkshire mountains in Massachusetts who are seeking local approval for outside, electricity free, artisanal cultivation.
One solution to reduce the heavy energy burden pot businesses are placing on the electrical grid is to place a large carbon tax on them. The burdensome tax should encourage growers to utilize outdoor solutions for growing their crop.
The weed business is here to stay. It is, in a word, growing fast. But the energy required to mass produce the plant's legal consumption is taking its toll on the grid. Either a return to outdoor growing will become a necessity or a more energy efficient indoor solution needs to be explored.