“Energy Up in Smoke” is the title of a new study that finds that marijuana production in the United States results in 1 percent of all electricity production across the country. One percent of all electricity production is the equivalent of providing electricity to 2 million average size homes. As the New York Times says in its blog on the report, “Don’t bogart that megawatt, my friend.”
In California — a large producer of cannibus, in part because of the quasi-legal status of medical marijuana here — cultivation accounts for about 3 percent of the state’s electricity use and about 8 percent of household use. And, as the study’s author explains, smoking a single joint
represents 2 pounds of CO2 emissions, an amount equal to running a 100-watt light bulb for 17 hours with average U.S. electricity (or 30 hours on California’s cleaner grid).
Evan Mills, a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientist, conducted the study and explained, in an obvious effort to steer clear of potential Congressional critics, that he did the work “independently … with no external sponsorship or institutional affiliation.” He argues in the study that the reason electricity use is so high in the production of marijuana is because growers operate clandestinely and therefore use highly inefficient means of lighting and heating. Improving efficiency wouldn’t be difficult but for the fact that growers are attempting to steer clear of law enforcement. Berkeley and other cities have attempted to address the inefficiency of indoor cultivation by zoning in favor of medical marijuana cultivation but localities obviously can’t immunize growers from federal law enforcement activities.
The regulatory possibilities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cannabis cultivation are huge. Should the California Air Resources Board, in implementing the state’s climate change legislation, set new energy efficiency standards for marijuana cultivation equipment? Tax marijuana heavily to reduce demand? Educate high school students about the negative environmental consequences of smoking weed?
Two challenges for readers: catchy slogans for conveying the message that pot is a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions and regulatory ideas to reduce emissions (which, as Mills points out, could be close to zero if cultivation were moved outdoors).