Buzzkill of the Day: U.S. Marijuana Industry Responsible for $5 Billion in Energy Consumption

It might be all-natural, but that joint you're smoking has a serious carbon footprint.

Cheech and Chong

Ethonomic Indicator of the Day: Marijuana growth uses 1% of all U.S. energy.

Buzzkill, stoner pals. Your weed is really bad for the environment. Only the stuff that's grown inside, to be fair--the kind of boutique-y, mind-blowing pot preferred by many marijuana dispensaries. It's responsible for 1% of all electricity use in the U.S. That's a $5 billion yearly energy bill--two million U.S. homes' worth--just to get you super stoned.

The sobering news comes from a report by Evan Mills, a longtime energy analyst at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs who, uh, has a friend who told him about all this weed stuff. According to Mills, the problem can be traced back to the high-intensity lighting, dehumidification, air-conditioning, irrigation systems, space-heating, and ventilation systems that all go into making sure marijuana plants grow up to be healthy, smokeable adults. And since the industry operates in the shadows, it hasn't felt the consumer pressure to go green (rimshot!).

Mills's report gets even more intense when the energy consumption figures are broken down into consumer-friendly numbers. Smoking a single joint is the same as leaving a 100-watt light bulb on for 17 hours. For you more committed drug peddlers out there, each kilo is the same as five cross-country drives in a 44-mpg car.

So, smoking a joint of indoor-grown pot is like leaving the lights on for a day, and sitting around for hours with a handful of friends and a bong is as bad carbon emissions-wise as taking a really long road trip. Evan Mills has yet to calculate the added environmental costs of your vaporizer.

The simple solution to this is to nix indoor growing operations; the energy consumption of outdoor operations is virtually nil. But the medical marijuana market is set to grow to $8.9 billion in the next five years, so cutting back is probably out of the question. Instead, marijuana production needs to be legalized, so people will actually cast a critical eye on its energy usage. All the industry has to do is follow in the footsteps of the commercial agricultural industry, which has made strides in energy efficiency in recent years. Then, at least, stoners will have one less thing to be paranoid about. In the meantime, maybe those dispensaries should start selling carbon offsets with your eighth.

Reach Ariel Schwartz via Twitter or email.

Read More: The Walmart of Weed May Come Soon to a Town Near You

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3 Comments

  • Stuart Bogue

    Some of this energy consumption is caused by the need for stealth. Allowed to function in the open lowers the need for odor control,allows for conspicuous solar installations as well open use of controlled skylights/sunlight.

  • Marko P

    If anything, this article isn't necessarily a buzzkill, as much as it is an even greater argument for legalization. If the industry were legitimized and regulated, growers would presumably have to live up to certain standards, and as a result use less energy. They'd also be able to use the tax revenues for other, offsetting environmental initiatives.

    It's also dumb this article acts surprised that an unknown-number-of-billions-of-dollars-per-year industry that operates entirely in secret doesn't have top-of-the-line measures to reduce energy consumption. I doubt growers have R&D departments working on reducing their energy consumption. Also, to put a number on the energy usage of an industry for which there is no publicly-available and scrutinizable data is stupid. There's no way that figure could be accurate.

    So, yeah, the industry probably uses too much energy, but that isn't an argument for prohibition any more than it is for legalization and regulation.

  • Jordan Zimmerman

    Legalizing marijuana is one way to help reduce its carbon footprint. It would also allow us to easily put $19 billion (or more) per year towards federal deficit reduction… http://ow.ly/4xzv6