The $ 13 billion cannabis production industry in the United States is creating a huge carbon footprint and damaging the environment, new research shows.
A team from Colorado State University has performed the most detailed analysis of the industry’s carbon footprint by assessing indoor cannabis operations in the United States, where 51 states have legalized cannabis for recreational or medical purposes. .
The researchers analyzed the amount of greenhouse gas emissions emitted during the process of growing a cannabis plant – looking at the amount of energy and materials needed to grow the product.
Their study found that indoor cannabis production in the country puts the most pressure on the environment, with greenhouse gas emissions ranging from 2,283 to 5,184 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram of dried flower. .
Hailey Summers, a graduate who led the study published in Nature Sustainability, said: “We knew the emissions were going to be big, but since they hadn’t been fully quantified before, we identified this as a big space. research opportunity. “
The team found that greenhouse gas emissions from cannabis production are largely attributed to the production of electricity and the consumption of natural gas from indoor environmental controls.
They also believe that the emissions are also due to the supply of high intensity carbon dioxide for plant growth.
Researchers found that heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems used the most electricity when growing plants, with numbers varying by region, such as Florida, which requires excessive plant dehumidification, or the Colorado, where heating is more important.
The high energy consumption of cannabis is due in part to the way the product is regulated, according to the team.
In Colorado, many grow operations have to be near retail storefronts, causing an explosion of energy-hungry indoor warehouses in urban areas like Denver.
According to a report from the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, electricity consumption from growing cannabis and other products increased from 1% to 4% of Denver’s total electricity consumption between 2013 and 2018.
The release of the results comes after the New Frontier Data 2018 Cannabis Energy Report recorded that emissions from electricity consumption in outdoor cannabis cultivation are 22.7 kilograms per dried flower.
The report, which only looked at electricity, found that there were 326.6 kilograms of carbon dioxide created per dried flower in growing cannabis outdoors.