Going Green

The environment is Canada’s most pressing issue, according to a just-released poll of Canadians. The same poll reports that 74 percent of Canadians believe Canada’s Conservative government is doing a poor job on the environment.

Prime Minister Harper knows he is vulnerable on the issue, which spurred him to shuffle his cabinet, booting Rona Ambrose as Minister of the Environment and replacing her with trusted lieutenant John Baird.

Newspaper headlines ran from “PM charts a greener course” (The Globe and Mail) to “Harper goes green” (The National Post).

But if Harper really wants to go green, he should start by legalizing it. Green, that is. Yup, I’m talking about marijuana.

Year of the CFL

Canada’s unique brand of football is increasingly popular. As temperatures continue to rise, football is only going to get more popular: after all, winter sports require winter, which bodes ill for hockey.

But there’s a different CFL on the block, and this is its year. Compact fluorescent lamps have finally hit their stride and they’re illuminating more homes than ever. Even Wal-Mart has stepped into the fray, with the goal of single-handedly doubling sales of the bulbs in one year.

CFLs are popular because they last far longer than regular bulbs, they use far less electricity (the 23-watt CFLs I bought today put out the same amount of light as a 100-watt incandescent bulb), and they no longer produce the harsh light normally associated with fluorescent lamps.

Using them is one of the easiest and most effective ways we can tackle global warming. Every time I stop by Canadian Tire I see somebody in the lights aisle, mulling over which CFL to buy.

Lightin’ Up the Basement

Canadian Tire, however, is not the only store in Hamilton where you can buy lights. The local hydroponics store also has a fine selection, but they’re not selling energy-efficient CFLs.

Instead, you’ll find high pressure sodium and metal halide lamps that range in power from 400 to 1000 watts apiece. Weed growers know that fluorescent lights might be useful for germinating seeds but to grow the fine bud, you need some proper lights.

It’s these lights that make hydroponic grow-ops such massive hydro users. Four 600-watt high pressure sodium lamps – about what’s necessary to grow pot in a large basement room – use as much electricity as it would take to light up 50 living rooms using 100-watt equivalent CFL bulbs.

It’s unknown how many marijuana grow operations there are in Canada, but there at least tens of thousands. The marijuana industry is thought to be worth $7 billion in British Columbia alone.

With all those lights burning to keep the pot growing, we’re talking about vast amounts of electricity and that means vast amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. All to grow a crop that grows even better outside in Canada’s warm summer months.

Mr. Harper, do the planet a favour and go green on the green.

[tags]global warming, marijuana legalization, cfl[/tags]

8 Responses to “Going Green”
  1. alevo:

    …and we can make clothes from the stalks…and totally mill flour from the seeds…and even like make like cooking oil or thatched rooves for our houses…sooo coool.

  2. Ade:

    Sure, pot smokers are either stupid, or sound stupid. Right?

    But I’m not talking about pot smokers, I’m talking about pot growers. Surely if tobacco growers insisted on growing indoors under high-powered lights we would protest at their inordinate use of energy that is freely available from the sun.

    The contribution of marijuana grow operations to the problem of global warming may seem like an odd topic, but as far as I can tell from my brief search for information online, it’s not something that has been talked about.

    The power usage is significant. Assuming 20,000 grow-ops in Canada using on average 1000 watts apiece we’re talking some 20 million watts of power (20 megawatts, or 20 MW). The Nanticoke coal-powered generating station has a capacity of 4000 MW and produces 17.6 million tonnes of greenhouse gases per year, which works out to 4,400 tonnes of greenhouse gases per MW.

    Could Canada’s grow-ops be producing more than 8.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gases per year? It’s a very rough estimate, but it looks like they might be.

  3. alevo:

    No, pot smokers don’t all sound stupid. Some sound crazy.

    Consider, for example, the assumption that indoor marijuana growing would diminsh given a change in the laws governing marijuana cultivation (or posession, or both). Maybe I need to wait for the pot smoke to clear, but I fail to see a link.

    To question the tacit premise of your conclusion: how would that legislative shift usher in an era of energy-concious marijuana growing. Would all the growing, all of a sudden take place outdoors?

    Marijuana grown indoors produces guaranteed results in a controlled environment free of insects and weather. Light spectrums can be mixed to optimize results. One can buy marijuana seeds that have been genetically engineered to produce high-yield “indoor” plants. Would this innovation diminish if Canada’s marijuana laws changed?

    My point is this: if perchance the Canadian government did take steps to liberalize laws with respect to the cultivation of marijuana for personal or commercial use, the individual or large scale pot-grower would have no impetus to grow their pot outdoors in an energy conscious fashion.

    Would one be allowed to grow more pot outside than inside? Would the outdoor grower be rewarded with tax credits, or maybe with health care bucks to spend on the treatment of their oral and respiratory cancer? Would large scale pot-growers be awarded free land?

    You raise the comparison to tobacco farming. Do you really think the energy and pollution costs of an clandestine marijuana industry are worse than the potential ill-effects of a legal marijuana industry on social health and welfare? Do we really need the federal and provincial governments addicted to the tax revenue gained from marijuana growth and consumption? I don’t want to turn this post into a comparison of evils, but in my opinion it is worth stressing the implications of legal marijuana production in other areas of social concern we consider the benefit to global warming.

  4. Ade:

    My point in this post is not to press the government to legalize marijuana based on this alone (“Mr. Harper, do the planet a favour and go green on the green” is written tongue-in-cheek), rather, my point is to factor in energy consumption and thus greenhouse gas emissions into the debate over marijuana. To use your phrase, in a “comparison of evils” massive energy consumption must be included.

    As far as whether or not legalization would push marijuana production outdoors, I think a comparison with other crops is in order. It’s true you can find some indoor-grown vegetables at the supermarket, notably hothouse tomatoes, but the same is not true for vegetables that do not perish easily, like potatoes.

    Given that there is no consumer market for fresh (undried) marijuana, it would seem that the dried version, which keeps easily for months if not years, would be the main product on the marketplace. Marijuana grown outdoors with free energy from the sun would have a significant pricing advantage over marijuana grown indoors, and I don’t think a compelling argument can be made in terms of quality. The sun provides better light than anything artificial.

    It’s also not unthinkable that regulating marijuana production could include a ban on indoor growing.

  5. alevo:

    “It’s also not unthinkable that regulating marijuana production could include a ban on indoor growing.”

    – like the one already in place? Give me a break.

    You raise the issue of competitive price advantage – would the government sanction a “race to the bottom” in marijuana prices in order to demonstrate to the public that outdoor grown pot is better for their wallets and the ozone layer? I suspect that any government regulation of pot cultivation would include taxes. The taxes would make the price differential almost nil, since the illegal market would be quick to furnish a competitvely priced product – again, cigarettes are a good comparative example (better than hothouse tomatoes, which have never been illegal, aren’t smoked, and don’t impare you).

    I think your point – to factor energy consumption and thus greenhouse gas emissions into the debate over legal marijuana – is very loose. Essentially, you are asking us to consider that the way to regulate the envirnomental impact of an illegal market is to legalize that market. You haven’t provided any compelling evidence that a legal version of that market would use any less energy.

    Perhaps I am resistant to accept this point because for me the notion of legal pot for social consumption is ludicrous, but putting that aside I think the applicability to medicinal marijuana production is worth exploring. If companies developing an inhalent version of THC (Cannasat Therapeutics etc.) are going to require large scale amounts of uncured marijuana to take their product to market, then mandated outdoor growth might make good sense.

    Otherwise, I don’t accept that this strain of thought could be used by pro-pot advocates for anything but to get laughed out of a room.

  6. Azox:

    You have so much spam in here.. (

  7. Ade:

    Dude, I can’t keep up! I have two spam filters installed but they are freaking relentless. Now it’s cars. Who buys a freaking car cuz they saw a spam comment on someone’s blog?