Pot production, done mostly indoors, often uses hospital-intensity lamps, air
conditioning, dehumidifiers, fans and carbon-dioxide generators to stimulate
plants and boost their potency.
The power-hungry crops rival data centers or server farms in intense use of electricity, according to a peer-reviewed study last year in the journal Energy Policy. One kilo, or 2.2 pounds, of pot grown indoors, the study says, leaves a carbon footprint equivalent to driving across the country seven times. Producing one joint is equivalent to leaving a light bulb on for 25 hours.
There's little question sun-grown pot is a cleaner alternative, even in Washington state, which uses mostly hydropower, considered greener than most energy sources.
"It's great we have relatively low-carbon electricity, but that's not a license to waste it," said KC Golden, policy director for Climate Solutions, a Northwest nonprofit working against global warming.
It doesn't make sense to move agriculture indoors, Golden said, given the sun's track record of "encouraging photosynthesis for some 4 billion years now, without an outage."
But in this blue-green state, very few folks are lobbying for pot grown under the sun in eastern Washington where the climate is suitable, in part because of security concerns about outdoor grows. And absent a stronger push, it appears state-regulated retail stores will open next year without sun-grown weed on their shelves.
Golden said he hasn't studied the issue, particularly the implications of outdoor pot for law enforcement. Leaders at other environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Conservation Northwest say they have other priorities. Even in Seattle, where the City Council is writing new zoning rules allowing large indoor grows, no one seems very concerned with the carbon footprint of indoor pot.
Instead, the chief advocates for outdoor pot in the state are Okanogan County activist Jeremy Moberg and state Rep. Joel Kretz, a Republican from Wauconda. They say outdoor pot should be grown in greenhouses that allow in natural sunlight, not expansive open fields.
"The waste of our clean hydropower, wind and solar electricity for a nonfood crop used primarily for recreation is simply unacceptable," Kretz, a rancher, wrote the state Liquor Control Board, the agency charged with carrying out voter-approved Initiative 502. Sun-grown pot could also be an economic boon for his rural constituents, Kretz noted.
And it probably would be cheaper than indoor weed, Moberg said, helping the state achieve its goal of undercutting the black market.
The politics of producing pot are complicated, however, by the federal prohibition of marijuana looming over the state, and a state timeline for opening retail stores that seems to give the entrenched indoor industry a running start in competition with outdoor cultivators.
Gov. Jay Inslee won't comment on pot growing, according to spokesman David Postman, even though the governor recently declared Washingtonians "are the people who are destined to defeat carbon pollution." He doesn't want to micromanage the Liquor Control Board, said Postman.
(EDITORS: BEGIN OPTIONAL TRIM)
Inslee did address the subject on a radio show earlier this year. He said he assured U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that Washington will keep its weed
Most Popular Stories
- AIG to Create 230 Jobs in Charlotte
- Bipartisan Negotiators Reach Modest Budget Agreement
- Justin Bieber Visits Typhoon Victims, Plays Concert
- Senate Dems Move Forward With Obama Nominees
- Russia Says Nyet to Canada North Pole Claim
- New Obama Aide to Focus on Climate Change
- Obama Nominee Confirmed for D.C. Appeals Court
- MasterCard to Split Shares, Raise Dividend
- GOP, Dems Strain to Unearth a Modest Budget Pact
- Office Depot Moving HQ to Florida