Marijuana

Illegally Grown Pot Is Bad for the Environment. What Should We Do About That?

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Illegal outdoor marijuana grows on California's North Coast are sapping 18 million gallons of water a year from an Eel River tributary, according to the L.A. Times. That water consumption is threatening a salmon species that California has spent "millions of dollars to recover." In Humboldt County, growers are using rat poison mixed with human food to kill bears and fishers (a type of weasel), both of which animals threaten clandestine growing operations. Threats to salmon and weasels aren't the only problem: "Farmers have illegally mowed down timber, graded mountaintops flat for sprawling greenhouses, dispersed poisons and pesticides, drained streams and polluted watersheds."

Illegal indoor grows present their own environmental problems, as discussed in a 2011 study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (emphasis mine):

Specific energy uses include high-intensity lighting, dehumidification to remove water vapor, space heating during non-illuminated periods and drying, irrigation water preheating, generation of CO2 by burning fossil fuel, and ventilation and air-conditioning to remove waste heat. Substantial energy inefficiencies arise from air cleaning, noise and odor suppression, and inefficient electric generators used to avoid conspicuous utility bills.

The emergent industry of indoor Cannabis production results in prodigious energy use, costs, and greenhouse-gas pollution. 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. 

To its credit, the L.A. Times manages to pin-point why outdoor growers are loathe to run more environmentally friendly operations: "Because marijuana is unregulated in California and illegal under federal law, most growers still operate in the shadows." In this case, literal shadows: Growing pot in a dense forest is wiser than growing it in plain sight. The Lawrence Berkeley report also notes the incentives driving energy-consuming indoor grows: "air cleaning, noise and odor suppression, and inefficient electric generators used to avoid conspicuous utility bills."

Remove the threat of prosecution, and marijuana growers would have no incentive to obscure their operations in dense, hard-to-reach forests. They wouldn't need to mow down protected land to plant, and they wouldn't need to poison bears and fishers. They might also be more likely to comply with permitting processes for water use. 

Similarly, fully legal indoor grow operations could abandon fossil fuel generators, and use less energy attempting to eliminate plant odor. With the knowledge that police would prosecute theft and burglary of their plants, indoor growers might also spend less on security infrastructure.

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  1. Illegally Grown Pot Is Bad for the Environment. What Should We Do About That?

    Declare the illegal grow operations illegal and shut them down. It’s like you’ve never played this game before.

    1. Time to declare WAR!

  2. That water consumption is threatening a salmon species

    Oh for the love of bejeebus, here we go again.

  3. It will be a great day when legal pot growers can grouse about regulations, zoning and taxes.

  4. Remove the threat of prosecution, and marijuana growers would have no incentive to obscure their operations in dense, hard-to-reach forests. They wouldn’t need to mow down protected land to plant, and they wouldn’t need to poison bears and fishers. They might also be more likely to comply with permitting processes for water use.

    Or they could do whatever the hell they want on land they own. If they don’t own the land they are growing on right now, I understand getting upset; but legalize pot and just let them fucking grow pot, regardless of all other regulations (and this goes for any other business).

    1. Or they could do whatever the hell they want on land they own

      This is Cali we are talking about, so I assume that you are joking.

    2. They also have to own the water or the rights to it.

      1. Wait, people don’t own water that’s on their own land?

        1. Try not paying property taxes rent and tell me who owns the land. It ain’t you.

        2. If it is running through your land, not necessarily. It depends on the state water rights law.

      2. Water law in western states is fucking retarded. It is designed to support population and land use that would never exist under more property rights and market based water law.

      3. In Utah, Washington and Colorado you don’t even own the rain that falls on your land.

        1. In Utah, Washington and Colorado you don’t even own the rain that falls on your land roof.

          Don’t let them catch you putting barrels under your downspouts. They will fine you for it.

          1. Round here they tax rain. Seriously.
            Sure, they call it a stormwater utility fee, but it amounts to taxing rain.

            1. And melting snow.

              I keep waiting for the taxing of windows to come back.

  5. Is there any problem legalization can’t cure? Besides having enough money to buy some legal weed?

    1. Only regulatory burden and/or taxation could cause legal weed to be more than a few pennies per dose.

      1. Ditto booze, I think.

        1. My home brewed beer, which is good stuff made from grain instead of extract, costs me around thirty five cents per 12oz serving.

        2. I can see that, especially with large operations and considering the “black market” charge of not being able to home-distill.

          1. “Moonshiners” comes to CA?

  6. In this case, the cure is easy. They legalize pot growing, and then the Cali state government regulates and taxes them all out of business. Problem solved.

  7. Energy inefficiency and CO2 is petty shit to bitch about. My damn generator can be as inefficient as I want it to be.

  8. Semi-OT: Can anyone tell me why dry ice isn’t used much as a coolant for grow rooms? It seems like it would be ideal.

    1. Cost and supply. Dry ice is about $1.50 a pound and the amounts needed would raise eyebrows.

    2. Expense. Dry ice needs to be kept pressurized and sealed or it doesn’t last long, and in those conditions it would probably be too cold for the plants.

    3. Fried Aquatic Avian, answer @12.06. (It’s expensive to keep liquid nitrogen on hand for clinic and hospitals).

  9. Inefficient and not cost effective to provide a consistent, equal distribution of coolant. You would spend lots of $$$$ and time replacing sublimated dry ice for the consistent temp you would need for optimal growth. I’m not a grower or user, but that seems most logical to me.

    1. There were railcars for shipping frozen food that used a sealed dry ice system, and those have even been converted to conventional diesel powered refrigerant compressors because of the trouble with handling dry ice.

  10. Because marijuana is unregulated in California

    You give the Times too much credit, that observation just screams MOAR REGULATION.

    1. ^THIS^

      They just need the benevolent hand of the G to guide them to eco-sustainable prosperity!

  11. That water consumption is threatening a salmon species that California has spent “millions of dollars to recover.”

    So water stolen from central valley farmers for northern fishing is being stolen for illegal pot farming? Hahahaha!

    1. Salmon are not dying becouse of lack of water.

      they die because they are over fished….the who lack of water bullshit is for environmentalists to put pressure on land owners and water owners.

      If salmon are in such peril then why the fuck are they being sold at supermarkets?

      I don’t see spotted owls or bald eagles being sold there.

  12. It never ceases to amaze me what sort of shit will be given a respectable hearing if it’s wrapped in a cry of “we’re proposing this for the sake of the environment”.

  13. Similarly, fully legal indoor grow operations could abandon fossil fuel generators, and use less energy attempting to eliminate plant odor.

    Ummm, if growing weed is legalized, no one will incur the massive costs of indoor growing. It will be grown in the open and use sunlight, not fossil fuels.

    1. Not if you can harvest twice a year.

  14. Law of the contradictory environmental left: “Any idea which is promoted as effective alternative to the status quo will later be demonized by the same groups who once favored it onces it becomes a viable option.” examples: Fracking, Large Scale Solar farms, Wind farms, Natural Gas.

  15. sapping 18 million gallons of water a year from an Eel River tributary

    Why are people so friggin idiotic when it comes to water?

    Ok see a farmer takes water from the ground or water body…it then gets sprinkled on the ground….

    Where does that water go from there?

    Oh yeah it goes right back into the system it was taken from. Either goes into he soil or back into the air where it again rains back onto the ground.

    Unless there is a pipe that collects it and dumps it into the ocean no matter what the farmer does with water he physically cannot take it out of the system.

  16. Similarly, fully legal indoor grow operations could abandon fossil fuel generators, and use less energy attempting to eliminate plant odor.

    I don’t know if this applies here, but the little Humboldt County town of Arcata, CA has a pretty open relationship with the cannabis industry and understand how it stimulates their economy, but they just passed a measure that will impose a 45% tax on houses using energy 600% over the baseline for indoor grows. Apparently, 1 in 15 houses in Arcata exceed the limit. LOL. It is bringing a criminal element to the town, which isn’t funny, though.

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