Understanding the Carbon Footprint the Cannabis Industry Creates

The cannabis industry in the United States has grown in great leaps overnight. There have been not one or two but four States in the past 2 months have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. This has brought the total number of States that have legalized marijuana to 17. Medical marijuana is already legal in 36 States. The focus of a lot of people in this emerging industry is the health effect of cannabis, the revenue both in tax and profit, and what the decriminalization of marijuana means for drug policy.


The white elephant in the room has been totally ignored. Little attention is being paid to the to the impact of cannabis production on the environment. A study published in 2021, “The greenhouse gas emissions of indoor cannabis production in the United States”, details the massive carbon footprint for which the industry is responsible.


During research, the researchers who had sought to analyze “the energy and materials required to grow cannabis indoors” alongside “the corresponding greenhouse gas (GHC) emissions, using life cycle assessment methodology” were able to put together these results. As shocking as this may sound, the team discovered that the emissions over the complete life cycle of one kilogram of dried flowers range from 2,283 to 5,184kg per CO2 equivalent. This is still below the top end of the indoor cannabis range.


Growing cannabis indoors is a major source of greenhouse gas whatever the reason for doing that may be. The New Frontier Data 2018 Cannabis Energy Report of Colorado State University estimated that a kilogram of greenhouse-grown dried flower produced 326.6kg of CO2 as against outdoor that produced only 22.7kg. A lot of energy is needed to maintain a great environment for cannabis. The plant is better grown in a warm environment with low humidity. The extra measure is taken to by producers to pump carbon dioxide to boost photosynthesis and increase plant growth. All this accounts for the huge carbon footprint.


As per the above report, a lot of cannabis producers with the legalization of recreational marijuana are moving away from indoor production to outdoor. This made warehouse production to fall by 20 percent since 2016 while seeing a rise in outdoor facilities and greenhouses by five and seven percent respectively. Not only do greenhouse and outdoor facilities eliminate the use of lights, the emission of CO2 to the environment is controlled.


As the demand for environmentally friendly products rises, producers of recreational marijuana take advantage of this by making sure the means of production is friendly and green. Users can also demand for a zero emissions gram of the flower.