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The insatiable demand for marijuana has created a giant carbon footprint.



The insatiable demand for marijuana has created a giant carbon footprint.

Emission life cycle from simulated indoor cannabis cultivation in the United States Credit: Hailey Summers / Colorado State University

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7;s no secret that the $ 13 billion cannabis industry is big business. What is less noticeable to many is the environmental impact this booming business takes in the form of commercial greenhouse gas emissions, mostly indoor production.


A new study by Colorado State University researchers provides the most detailed accounting details to date on the industry’s carbon footprint – a sum with only limited understanding. Consumption of marijuana is inadequate and shows no sign of stopping as several states have signed on to legalize it.

The study is published in Natural sustainability Led by graduate student Hailey Summers, whose mentor Jason Quinn is an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Summers, Quinn and Evan Sproul, a mechanical engineering research scientist conducted a life cycle assessment of indoor cannabis operations across the United States, analyzing energy. And materials needed to grow products and count associated greenhouse gas emissions.

They found that most greenhouse gas emissions from cannabis production are due to electricity generation and natural gas use from indoor environmental controls, high-intensity lighting and carbon dioxide supply to accelerate growth. Of plants

“We know that emissions are going to be huge. But because it hasn’t been fully quantified before, we identified this as a huge area of ​​research opportunity, ”Summer said. “We just want to run with it.”

The CSU group effort updates previous work by National Laboratory researcher Lawrence Berkeley, which counts small-growing operations in California and sets a precedent of compliance. State-to-state laws Since Colorado was the first to be accredited in 2012, 36 states have passed laws. The medical use of marijuana and 15 has legalized its recreational use.

Variable emission mapping

The CSU team predicts that there will be a large variation in emissions depending on where the product grows due to climate and power grid emissions. A recently published work illustrates the spread of large, cross-country commercial warehouses with potential for growing cannabis and provides a model for emissions for many high-growth areas across the country. Their results include a map showing relative emissions anywhere in the United States as defined as emissions per kilogram of cannabis flower. They have also developed a GIS map that allows users to enter county names and find local emissions estimates.

Their research shows that indoor US cannabis cultivation results in life cycle greenhouse gas emissions between 2,283 and 5,184 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram of dried flowers. Compare that to the emissions from the use of electricity in outdoor marijuana and greenhouse growth, which are 22.7 and 326.6 kg of CO2, respectively, according to the New Frontier Data 2018 Cannabis Energy Report.These outdoor and greenhouse numbers only consider electricity at the moment. That the CSU researchers’ estimates are more comprehensive. But the comparison still highlights the significantly larger footprint of indoor planting operations.

The researchers were surprised to find that heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems were most demanding, with numbers fluctuating depending on the local climate, whether it was in Florida, where excessive dehumidification was needed or Colorado. Where heating is more important

How high cannabis use is due to product control, Quinn said. In Colorado, many growing operations need to be close to retail fronts, and this has sparked an explosion of energy-hungry indoor warehouses in urban areas like Denver. According to the Denver Department of Health and Environment, electricity consumption from growing marijuana and other products increased from 1% to 4% of Denver’s total electricity use between 2013 and 2018.

The team is seeking additional funding to continue modeling in the hope that it will expand the results to a comparison between potential indoor and outdoor growth. Ultimately, they want to help industries tackle environmental issues while legal marijuana is relatively new in the United States.

“We want to try to improve our environmental impact before making it a business practice,” Sproul said.


New research discusses the future impact of greenhouse gas emissions.


More information:
Greenhouse gas emissions from indoor cannabis production in the United States Natural sustainability (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s41893-021-00691-w, dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41893-021-00691-w.

Provided by Colorado State University

Reference: The insatiable demand for cannabis has created a giant carbon footprint (2021, March 8) .Retrieved March 8, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-03-insatiable-demand-cannabis-giant-carbon. html

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