There’s been much ado about marijuana in the past decade, as well as the rapidly-expanding legal industry surrounding it. Developments have brought the world of weed into territory that few would have expected just a mere thirty years ago. Commercial indoor growing facilities are one of these unforeseen things, and while they certainly allow for cultivation in areas where growing outdoors is not ideal they also expend a huge amount of energy. Some professionals within the marijuana industry are working to change that with an emphasis on sustainability.
One square foot of space used for the growing of the plant requires four times more energy to power than the same amount of space inside of a hospital. That is a big problem for environmentalists who want to reduce their carbon footprint while still producing high-quality marijuana.
Three percent of California’s energy consumption was used by medical indoor growing facilities in 2012. Since then, that number has likely increased substantially and is only going to increase more as growers prepare for the first of the year, when they can legally sell recreational marijuana to Californians.
“We believe that sustainability extends to setting a high standard for conduct, and we are working to show the community that the emerging legal cannabis industry is contributing to society, not taking from it,” said Siobhan Danger Darwish, the owner of Blessed Coast Farms. The farmland that she owns had acquired a commercial license to grow marijuana in June 2016-the first license of its kind issued in the state of California.
On farms like Darwish’s, growers track their water consumption carefully and avoid the use of unnatural pesticides or fertilizers. There is also a lot to be said of growing outdoors versus inside, in terms of energy savings. But that isn’t to say that there isn’t anything to be done for indoor growers, as well.
It can be expensive and a very technical process to convert an indoor grow house to more environmentally-friendly methods of production, but it can be done. The use of LED lights, for example, can significantly reduce the energy consumed by the facility. Updating the facility’s HVAC system on a regular basis (somewhere between every one year and eighteen months) is another example, and definitely falls on the more costly end of things. For those who have no choice but to grow indoor and who put sustainability at the forefront of their business, these costs are ones that many are willing to meet.
The innovation set forth by marijuana growers-indoor or outdoor-is a real testament to the capabilities of people when they have a passion and drive to do good for the world. There is an astounding lack of scientifically researched data available for both consumers and industry professionals to make the most educated decisions possible. So, a lot of growers are left to conduct their own research and draw their own conclusions with the intent of improving their trade.
Why is there so little information about what seems like an incredibly important subject? The answer to that question is a disappointing one, at the very least. Marijuana’s classification as a Schedule One illegal substance makes it nearly impossible for researchers to obtain the permits necessary to conduct their studies-the results of which would greatly benefit any members of the public who care about the impact of this growing industry.
Should marijuana ever be removed from this classification, which is characterized by a “lack of medical value” and “high possibility of abuse,” that will open many doors for scientific minds to expand our knowledge about the plant itself and what we can do to help the marijuana industry have a beneficial relationship with the earth.