There are a lot of questions up for debate now that several states have adopted expansive laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use. But sustainability questions aren’t getting much attention.
Back in the 80s, the War on Drugs, with federal raids and helicopter surveillance, made it nearly impossible to grow and profit under the sun, forcing outdoor growing operations indoors.
Indoor grows gave birth to an entirely new standard of marijuana cultivation: highly specialized and engineered in a tightly controlled environment.
In return, indoor grows became highly profitable, churning out up to six harvests per year at gross sale prices of approximately $5,000 per pound on the West Coast.
And it was fortunate for growers that indoor marijuana commanded such a high price; the astronomical energy costs of indoor grows are something the cannabis industry has been hesitant to talk about until recently.
In a Ganjapreneur article, grower Jeremy Moberg shares his experience investigating Dr. Evan Mills’ research, who posits as much as nine percent of California’s consumer energy is used for indoor cannabis.
“The emergent industry of indoor cannabis production results in prodigious energy use, costs, and greenhouse-gas pollution,” said Mills in his research titled, Up in Smoke: The Carbon Footprint of Indoor Cannabis Production.
Some states, like Colorado, are mandating indoor grows for security and safety reasons. But demonizing outdoor grows isn’t sustainable: it’s expensive and limits competition.
The West Coast, in particular, is full of outdoor opportunity, and with light-deprivation techniques, outdoor growers can now double or triple annual harvest cycles.
Moreover, new products like SolaScrim (an energy-focused plastic sheeting for greenhouses) are advancing the outdoor agenda by making it easier to grow under the sun; UV inhibitors and built-in scrim reinforcement make SolaScrim the longest lasting greenhouse cover on the market.