According to a 2011 report, indoor marijuana growing may account for one percent of the entire country’s electricity consumption. The independent report, by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researcher Evan Mills, Ph.D., notes that this energy use costs about $6 billion annually. The report also claims that the carbon dioxide pollution from this electricity use “plus associated transportation fuels equals that of 3 million cars.”
Energy use arises from 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 report highlighted the environmental damage caused by such grows, noting that in a single law enforcement operation in Mendocino National Forest in 2011, officers found 56 sites and removed “23 tons of trash, over a ton of fertilizer, 57 pounds of pesticides and herbicides, 22 miles of irrigation piping and 13 man-made dams.”
Marijuana plants require a lot of water, sometimes up to six gallons during a season, and illegal operations have tens of thousands of plants. To get water, farmers dam and divert streams or creeks, often drying them completely. Pesticide-filled cisterns feed miles of plastic irrigations lines. The camps are marked by trash dumps and human latrine sites right next to water sources.
While growing pot outdoors is naturally more energy efficient than doing so indoors, getting a patch of land ready for farming can mean cutting down forests, diverting rivers, and destabilizing whole ecosystems. Pesticides and rat poison can also kill animals around outdoor grow sites.
Drug trafficking organizations will capitalize by growing on illegal land because of the difficulty patrolling the back wood areas of our national forest lands or national park lands.
Six California lawmakers sent a bipartisan letter to the United States Sentencing Commission calling for more focus on the threats posed by illegal marijuana grows on public lands and trespassing private property.