Hippies love marijuana and the environment, right? Marijuana and the environment kind of go together: mother earth providing an amazing plant that makes hippies feel amazing. Marijuana is literally green so it is also metaphorically green, too. Well, it turns out that mother earth may not love the means of marijuana production anymore. Marijuana production leads to environmental degradation when grown indoors, in greenhouses, and sometimes outdoors.
First, indoor weed production in the United States accounts for $5 billion of electricity or 1% of all electricity consumption nationwide. In Canada, indoor growers use three to eight times more electricity than other households. These may even be underestimations, because growers often learn to electrically evade the electricity meter so as to avoid detection from law enforcement agencies that keep an eye on excessive energy use to identify potential growers (Eaton, 2011).
Additionally, indoor marijuana productions that are poorly constructed are known for catching fire. Whether it is the circuit breaker, the lights in a compact area, or the ventilation system, when they catch fire, the surrounding vegetation or houses could catch fire. Especially in high-risk places for wild fires, like Southern California, the environmental effects of an indoor marijuana production catastrophe could be cataclysmic. Additionally, should the house catch fire, it becomes a source of air pollution.
When marijuana is grown outdoors, many growers choose to grow in national or state forests (Carini, 2010). The growers bring pesticides and herbicides to the forests that have never been exposed to chemicals. The chemicals are often so strong that they are not even legal in the United States, but brought in from Mexico. In Mendocino County, growers used Furadan, a banned toxic insecticide that birds eat thinking it is a seed. Similarly, growers leave rat poison at the plants’ bases to deter rats and other animals, but the poison eventually travels up the food chain killing bobcats and hawks in addition to other species. Approximately 1.5 pounds of fertilizer and pesticide is used per 11 plants according to DEA officials, which pollute the forests and create water pollution.
In greenhouses, often in remote locations without electricity, growers run generators by burning hundreds of gallons of petroleum. Often, the waste oil is dumped and makes its way into water ways. This happened in Covelo, California where growers were improperly disposing of their waste oil and it made its way into the Eel River (Carini, 2010).
Many advocates arguing for the legalization of marijuana or at least the legalization of marijuana production say that it would prevent the environmental degradation associated with current production methods. Regardless, for the time being, it is clear that marijuana is not “green.”
For those stoners sitting in their co-ops, sustainable living environments, and hammocks talking about all they are doing to reduce their carbon footprint, benefit the environment, and stop harming others and the environment, I wonder what they would think of this article. I, certainly, talked the sustainability talk, but if I had known about marijuana’s effects on the environment, I would have just come up with some justification about where I got my weed from.
Carini, D. (2010, October 1). The Environmental Impact of Illegal Marijuana Growth. Retrieved 2012, from millbrae patch: http://millbrae.patch.com/articles/the-environmental-impact-of-illegal-marijuana-growth
Eaton, J. (2011, August). The Energy Drain of Recreational Drugs. Retrieved 2012, from National Geographic: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2011/08/pictures/110829-carbon-footprint-of-illegal-drugs/