Westword reports…..marijuana still has some work to do on its environmental impact. Legal marijuana businesses accounted for around 4 percent of Denver energy use from 2016 to 2018, according to a CPR breakdown, with much of that going to indoor grow operations, the preferred method of growing marijuana. The average electricity consumption of a 5,000-square-foot indoor grow in Boulder County was 41,809 kilowatt hours per month, according to a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures, compared to an average household’s use of 630 kilowatt hours.
Strict regulations on legal cannabis packaging have led to large amounts of plastic waste, while the industry’s pesticide and nutrient use and even terpene production have been shown to contribute to Colorado’s carbon footprint. While other agricultural industries do the same, most of them aren’t located inside Denver warehouses. And while the marijuana industry’s growing practices are definitely evolving in regard to energy use, with LED lights, improved ventilation and more outdoor grows just a few examples of changes toward in pot production, grows have also scaled up exponentially.
But cannabis is catching up to hemp in environmental awareness. Many of hemp’s advantages have been ingrained in laws and consumer demand. After all, hemp is a hardy plant, federally legal, and doesn’t require the same attention to detail as cannabis grown for smell, potency and, most important, human consumption. Meanwhile, commercial marijuana growers weren’t even allowed to legally recycle their plant stalks, which are just as fibrous as hemp’s, until several years ago.
Marijuana grows were forced inside long before they were legalized, and that restriction bled into early laws legalizing the plant. Now more outdoor marijuana farms are sprouting up in Colorado, although many growers will tell you that outdoor weed still pales in comparison to indoor overall. All of those factors tilt the scale heavily.
But cannabis users still have a powerful voice, creating trends in a new industry for future legal weed shoppers to follow. Sustainability can be one of those demands, and maybe Earth Day is the wake-up call you needed after a two-day 4/20 hangover.