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Growing cannabis indoors, an environmental disaster?

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Despite the democratization of the CBD in France, the police continue their hunt for illegal cannabis plantations. They try to identify places where there is overconsumption of energy. Indeed, growing cannabis is a very energy intensive activity.

An energy-intensive activity

In 2011, Le Figaro explained how the police tracked down the dealers at the head of plantations of illegal indoor cannabis. One example is the use of helicopters equipped with an infrared camera in order to identify abnormally hot places. Let us also mention the significant electricity bills due to the use of fans and especially sodium lamps. The fact is that for more than a decade the authorities have focused their attention on the overconsumption related to culture of cannabis.

In passing, remember that this is indeed illegal cultivation in the case of a rate of THC exceeding 0.2% provided for by law. Thus, the CBD crops whose trade is currently flourishing in France are not affected by this illegality.

Indoor cultivation accounts for the majority of cannabis production. It must be said that this has several advantages such as the possibility of obtaining harvests throughout the year or to secure production.

Credit: tdfugere / Pixabay

It all depends on the place of production

In the United States, where cannabis is legal in places, this energy-intensive indoor culture is democratizing among dealers who have turned into entrepreneurs. Researchers at the University of Colorado (United States) conducted a study published in the journal Sustainability of nature on March 8, 2021 to calculate the carbon footprint of indoor cannabis cultivation in the country. According to scientists, producing a kilogram of dried cannabis flowers generates between 2.2 and 5.18 tonnes of CO2, depending on the place of production. The study indicates that the north (eg Alaska, Illinois) is one of the areas where cultivation is the most energy intensive. It must be said that the heat necessary for the growth of plants requires a lot of energy.

In the south, the problem of overconsumption is played out at the level of dehumidification and air conditioning needs which represent 1.5 tonnes of CO2 more. In Hawaii, for example, electricity itself is a problem as much of it is produced from fossil fuels. Perhaps the least alarming area is Southern California. However, growing indoors is still much more energy intensive than traditional growing outdoors.

The question to ask would be: why not produce cannabis in the United States in suitable places? The problem is simple: cannabis is only allowed in certain states and still illegal at the federal level. It therefore remains impossible for the moment to cross the country with loads of cannabis for distribution purposes, which therefore prevents rationalization of production.


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