We have all eaten food grown with pesticides or herbicides, but we are starting to see how our environment is being effected by the weed industry too.

The cannabis industry is growing right before our eyes. When the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington state was first announced it was a headline that would be hard to believe. Cannabis had been at the forefront of the “war on drugs” and now suddenly it was a mainstream industry. But with the industry around it comes a slew of problems that have not been closely looked at. Although the marijuana industry has been trumpeted as a huge benefit to the environment, it may not be as wonderful as it seems. There are a lot of hidden issues that are most likely not discussed in the media.

There’s a lot of bad things that come along with cannabis. Not only is it illegal, but it’s also very bad for the environment.. Read more about is growing weed bad for the environment and let us know what you think.

Cannabis is a kind of flowering plant. It is not manufactured in a lab, unlike other medicines. Weed has been linked with earth-loving hippies and pacifists since the 1960s.

Despite its natural beginnings, however, the marijuana business is really hurting the environment. For a variety of factors, the industry’s carbon footprint is quickly increasing. These issues combine to form a massive, complex joint.

So sit back, light it up, and prepare yourself—this is going to be a doozy. 

Cannabis’s Single-Handed Environmental Impact

Weed cultivation is a multi-faceted issue. Law, agriculture, racial inequality, and interstate trade all have origins in it. Let us begin with the plant itself. 

According to the Press Democrat in 2014, the typical pot plant uses up to six gallons of water each day. Over the course of five months, these plants will use enough water to fill 160 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

This was discovered using satellite photos from California’s “Emerald Triangle” (Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties). In one state, that’s just three counties. There are 37 additional states where thirsty pot plants may be found. 

Every day, a single mature plant produces hundreds of hazardous BVOCs. These BVOCs pollute the air in the same way that vehicle exhaust and smokestacks do.   

Weed isn’t the only thirsty crop we cultivate in the United States, of course. One gallon of water is required for one pound of cannabis. A pound of almonds needs 1,900 calories. 

However, we did not condemn almonds for a century on racial grounds. As I have said, the origins of this problem are extensive.

The laws on marijuana vary from state to state. As a result, both legal and criminal grow operations must be considered. Both have their own set of issues to deal with. 

80 percent of marijuana is cultivated indoors, according to Politico. Indoor gardening increases plant production, and profit is the name of the game. Indoor facilities may consume up to 2,000 watts of energy per square meter, according to a California research. It was also discovered that one kilogram of marijuana produces 4600 kg of carbon dioxide. 

Indoor grow operations have the greatest environmental effect, according to the Resource Innovation Institute’s 2020 statistics. The least has to do with outside growth. Finally, greenhouse activities occupy an intermediate position. They use around 45 percent of the energy that an indoor location consumes. 

Indoor efficiency may be improved by switching to LED lighting. “LEDs have the potential to reduce general illumination energy consumption almost in half by 2030,” according to the EPA, according to the Cannabis Reporter. 

However, it isn’t as straightforward as indoor vs. outdoor. Bloomberg Environment estimates that legal cannabis growing used 1.1 million megawatt-hours of energy in the United States in 2017. For a year, that’s enough to power 92,500 households. 

“Legal” is the crucial word here. Illegal activities are not included in Bloomberg’s statistics. These activities are more difficult to monitor, but their environmental consequences are not.

Carbon Footprint of (Illegal) Grow Operations

Cannabis was declared illegal in the United States in 1937. With Proposition 215, California became the first state to legalize cannabis 59 years later. 

During those 59 years, however, cannabis did not vanish off the face of the planet. Illegal grow operations existed during the prohibition of cannabis, and they still exist today. 

In 2018, law enforcement officials in Humboldt County, California, discovered 14,000 unlawful grow sites on public or private property. To create space for crops, growers clear densely forested regions. They are displacing animals and depleting critical water supplies in the process.

Image of weed

(Shutterstock/Dmytro Tyshchenko)

The Long-Term Effects Of Weed On Wildlife

Illegal activities do not adhere to the same environmental regulations as legitimate operations. Many of these “trespass grow” facilities, according to NPR in 2019, utilize enormous amounts of pesticides and other chemicals. 

Bromethalin, a rat toxin, and carbofuran, an insecticide prohibited by the EPA in 2009, are among these compounds. Greta Wengert, an ecologist, talked with NPR at an illegal grow facility. She points to a tree where she discovered a gallon of carbofuran during the interview. 

She told NPR, “It’s very poisonous.” “A 600-pound black bear may be killed with a quarter-teaspoon. As a result, even a little quantity may kill a person. It can be found in an environment for a long time.”

Wengert adds, “We have found [carbofuran] in the soil, cannabis plants, natural vegetation, water, and infrastructure.” “You name anything, and we’ve found it. It’s a disaster.”

Poisoning related to weed farms has also killed mule deer, gray foxes, coyotes, northern spotted owls, and ravens. These toxins, however, have an impact on more than just the animals that consume them.

The Pacific fisher, a species of weasel, is rapidly approaching endangered status. When anglers consume poison, the poisons are passed on to their children while they are still in the womb. Salmon are also under risk of extinction as a result of decreasing water supplies.

Legalization may help to alleviate the burden.

The 1937 Marihuana Tax Act was opposed by the American Medical Association. Doctors were fully aware of the therapeutic benefits of marijuana by the 1930s. So, why was it outlawed by the government?

The government started condemning marijuana amid a surge of Mexican immigration in the early 1900s, according to Reefer Madness. Cannabis was smoked by Mexican immigrants. As a result, cannabis must be hazardous.

Several studies, however, indicate that marijuana is safer than alcohol. There would be no reason to ban cannabis if safety was the primary priority. As a result, we’ve arrived at our destination.

Cannabis’ environmental effect is exacerbated by the fact that it is still illegal at the federal level. It’s the primary reason marijuana has such a huge carbon footprint, according to this Rolling Stone story. 

According to Baylen Linnekin, an agricultural lawyer, “the core of the issue is that federal prohibition means you can’t move any cannabis over state lines.”

“That implies that everything that is marketed in a state must be produced in that state, regardless of whether it makes agricultural sense.” 

For most American goods, interstate commerce is the backbone of efficiency. According to Adam Smith, head of the Craft Cannabis Alliance, “you can’t keep Florida oranges [or] Georgia peaches out of your state.” 

To be honest, not all states are excellent at producing marijuana. In 2012, Colorado became the first state to completely legalize marijuana. However, it has one of the country’s biggest cannabis-related carbon footprints. Crop production in the Rockies is difficult all year.

Energy usage problems are comparable in Alaska and Minnesota. Hot states, on the other hand, are having difficulties. In areas like as southern California, Nevada, and Hawaii, inefficient growth techniques are also used to combat the heat. 

Furthermore, interstate travel is mostly accounted for by state-to-state legality. People fly to purchase legal marijuana rather than buying locally. The cycle continues as more vehicles are added to the road, resulting in more carbon emissions.

Another weed-related problem is the roughly 40,000 people in jail in the United States for cannabis crimes. According to a research published in 2020, jails are a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the magazine, mass imprisonment is both an environmental and a social issue.

Is Cannabis the Newest Anchor in the Fight Against Climate Change?

In more ways than one, the cannabis business is heating up the world. And if we don’t handle the issue right now, it may have permanent consequences. 

President Joe Biden stated in April 2021 that by 2030, he wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by half. Biden calls out agricultural and industrial pollutants in his speech. True improvement is unlikely unless cannabis is included in the mix.

One approach to decrease weed’s carbon impact is to legalize it at the federal level. Another example is allowing interstate trade. It would also assist if prisoners incarcerated on marijuana offenses were released. Despite this, Congress is unable to act on any of these issues due to a slow-burning impasse. 

According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2020, 68 percent of Americans favor the legalization of marijuana. The demand for cannabis isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Prohibition has never prevented people from obtaining what they desire. Apart from that, we’ve been using cannabis for thousands of years.

As a result, the most reasonable thing to do is to preserve the “green” in our green by legalizing and regulating marijuana cultivation once and for all.

The cannabis industry is a multi-billion dollar global business that is an important part of our everyday lives. The industry produces over $100 billion annually in the US alone, and has been growing at a fast rate every year. As more people make the switch to medical and recreational cannabis, the industry is set to continue its growth. But with such an expansion comes a great risk of environmental destruction, as well as a big carbon footprint.. Read more about role of weed in environmental sustainability and let us know what you think.

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • is growing weed bad for the environment
  • is weed good for the environment
  • is weed environmentally friendly
  • negative environmental impacts of hemp
  • everything you need to know about pot’s environmental impact
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