De-criminalisation to Reduce the Carbon Footprint of Indoor Cannabis Production?

by Barry M-C on April 14, 2011

I was intrigued by this posting on Freakonomics about a fascinating study by Evan Mills: “Energy Up In Smoke: The Carbon Footprint of Indoor Cannabis Production.”

“Energy Up in Smoke” finds that indoor cultivation of marijuana is adding quite markedly to carbon emissions. Whilst the Freakonomics’ posting suggests that medical marijuana and Californians’ personal pot plants are the main drivers here (and, certainly, medical marijuana is becoming a larger part of indoor marijuana cultivation), the study suggests that criminalisation of marijuana is still the dominant cause of the problem:

“Large-scale industrialized and highly energy-intensive indoor cultivation of Cannabis is driven by criminalization, pursuit of security, and the desire for greater process control and yields. The practice occurs across the United States and in many other countries.”

Further, the study explains that when marijuana cultivation is legally sanctioned, i.e. for medicinal purposes, so that cultivation becomes subject to the same sorts of regulations that apply to other legal activities:

“ the analysis sheds light on certain adverse consequences of indoor cultivation in its current form.  Moreover, an increasing fraction of Cannabis cultivation is legally sanctioned at the state level (17 states at present, and many more deliberating), which places the related use of energy in the same domain the many other energy-intensive activities routinely addressed by energy policies such as codes, standards, incentives, and labeling.”

The study goes further, with the author asking whether its findings support the case for criminalisation.  In fact, the answer is “No”; that:

 “criminalization is an important driver towards energy-intensive indoor production.  Criminalization also contributes to many of the energy inefficiencies in the process, including long driving distances, noise and odor suppression measures that undercut ventilation efficiencies, and off-grid power production that is far less efficient produces more greenhouse-gas emissions than many electric grids. Moreover, decades of criminalization has resulted in this energy-using sector being passed over by massive efforts to incentivize and mandate efficiency improvements”.

The War on Drugs appears to be essentially lost; not only prohibition has failed to stem drug use but is clearly undermining the rule of law, curtailing our basic freedoms and slowly turning our open society into an open prison.  If we can’t keep drugs out of our most secure prisons, the Drug Warriors are stretching credibility to suggest prohibition can “win the war on drugs” in the wider world.

Now we appear to have a new argument for legalising marijuana: it will save the planet!  “Energy Up in Smoke” will make uncomfortable reading for politicians who wish to portray themselves as being both tough on drugs whilst maintaining their environmental credentials…

Aaron April 17, 2011 at 7:19 am

do you know the caloric value of a bale ? Excellent post.the war is lost,it could never be won, and an unholy trinity of interests keep it alive.

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