COMMENTARY: Beware of recreational marijuana’s energy cost

New York will soon have recreational marijuana. Gov. Andrew Cuomo sees the added tax revenue, so we can be sure this will happen – and soon.

Now is the time for New York to learn something from the states that have gone ahead, and actually become a leader in something other than population loss.

Colorado has found some of the unexpected pitfalls of this growing industry. Marijuana is usually grown in large, artificially-lighted, temperature-controlled warehouses. Hundreds of 1,000-watt lamps are used, as is heating, ventilation and air conditioning for temperature and humidity control. Ten percent of Denver’s electric power is now used to grow marijuana. In Boulder, it’s 13 percent.

According to a study by Evan Mills, a staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, indoor pot production in 2011 used about $6 billion worth of energy, enough to power 2 million average homes. This amounted to 1 percent of national electricity consumption and created greenhouse gas pollution equivalent to that of 3 million cars. That was in 2011. It’s much worse now.

Before we allow marijuana production in New York, we need to address this wanton electric drain. The state must require that recreational marijuana sold or grown here be grown using renewable energy, either produced on site, or purchased from renewable energy providers. Alternatively, producers could purchase carbon credits. Can it be done? Yes, it can. Boulder has an increasing growing operation and it insists green energy be used.

New York could both encourage this new industry, and promote carbon neutral energy at the same time. All it takes is the determination to insist on it. If we are saddled with this by Cuomo – and it appears we will be – at least let’s learn something from our predecessors.

Susan Wolslegel


Greenstate Contributor