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Indoor cultivation of Marijuana and AGW
April 13, 2011 9:10 PM   Subscribe

PDF: Indoor cultivation of Cannabis is estimated to consume 20 TWh/year, equivalent to that of 2 million average US homes. This is about 1% of national electricity consumption, and results in emission of 17 million metric tons of CO2 to contribute to global warming.

So knock it off, you stoners! You're destroying the planet!
posted by Chocolate Pickle (89 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Pot is bad because of X.

X=consequence of prohibition.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:17 PM on April 13, 2011 [49 favorites]


Legalization + nuclear power would solve this problem.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:20 PM on April 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


We'll, at least this approach is better than the previous disastrous and thankfully aborted anti-drug campaign:
"Where do terrorists get their money? If you buy drugs, some of it might come from you."

Yuck.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:21 PM on April 13, 2011


Well geeze, KokuRyu. I can't think of anything legalization + nuclear power couldn't solve.
posted by kipmanley at 9:22 PM on April 13, 2011 [14 favorites]


Even if it was legal, it would still be a huge draw on power. Indoor Cannabis has a demand that is not going away.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 9:23 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Stupid potheads.
posted by orthogonality at 9:25 PM on April 13, 2011


I can think of worse things to spend 1% on.
posted by clavdivs at 9:26 PM on April 13, 2011 [26 favorites]


good stuff on the the summary page, too

psycho-alchemy : Even if it was legal, it would still be a huge draw on power. Indoor Cannabis has a demand that is not going away.

At least where its legal, you don't *have* to grow it inside.
posted by frijole at 9:28 PM on April 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Well geeze, KokuRyu. I can't think of anything legalization + nuclear power couldn't solve.

Weak-ass suspenders that don't snap hard enough cause while the bendy part is a great thick red canvas, the clasp is a stupid cheap bit of junk. No craftsmanship!
posted by The Whelk at 9:28 PM on April 13, 2011 [15 favorites]


Not to derail, Whelk, but NUCLEAR POWERED SUSPENDER CLASPS I mean come on.
posted by kipmanley at 9:30 PM on April 13, 2011 [19 favorites]


I would need a bowtie and fez to go with them
posted by The Whelk at 9:30 PM on April 13, 2011 [21 favorites]


Mass production would be done outside, you might have some small niche for indoor but I can't see much of a reason for it. Pot is grown indoors to hide from the law.

You can of course increase potency with indoor 24 hour superlights and all but if pot is freely available who cares anymore? You can smoke less to get high, yeah, but just use a vape instead if you care about your lungs.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:33 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


So make it legal and farmers will grow it outside or in greenhouses.
posted by w0mbat at 9:34 PM on April 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


So the green stuff isn't really that green, after all...
posted by 1000monkeys at 9:42 PM on April 13, 2011


If you walk down the street for pizza, do you get an offset credit?
posted by pompomtom at 9:45 PM on April 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


Let me clarify, in California, where consumers have a choice between indoor and out, they consistently choose indoor, even if the price is higher.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 9:49 PM on April 13, 2011


Legalization + nuclear power would solve this problem.

Just don't drive on a highway!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:52 PM on April 13, 2011


This is about 1% of national electricity consumption, and results in emission of 17 million metric tons of CO2 to contribute to global warming.

This number assumes... what? Is it arrived at by taking all CO2 production from electricity generation and then attributing 1% of that to marijuana grow lights?

What if there is more cultivation taking place in locales where there is hydroelectric? Or nuclear? Has any of that been included at all in the calculation of that 1%'s worth of power's share of CO2?
posted by hippybear at 9:53 PM on April 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Let me clarify, in California, where consumers have a choice between indoor and out, they consistently choose indoor, even if the price is higher.

I would too, you are limited in the legal volume you can buy and indoor has higher potency.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:53 PM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Or not:

The glut of outdoor pot and consequent price drop has more than a few growers contemplating the idea of focusing on indoor only. This “crisis” is amplified by the fact that medical-marijuana dispensaries have lately demonstrated a strong preference for indoor product, giving credence to the myth that indoor pot is somehow superior to outdoor.

Erich Pearson, who runs the SPARC (San Francisco Patient and Resource Center) dispensary in San Francisco, is critical. “Dispensaries have not been educating the public,” he opines. “People are beginning to believe that indoor cannabis has a higher THC content. But the genetics of a plant remain the same whether it’s grown indoors or outdoors. We’ve grown the same seeds indoors and outdoors, and the THC level has remained the same. In fact, our outdoor Black Domina comes in at 18 percent, while our highest indoor product, an OG Kush, comes in at 16.5.

“People have not been told about the environmental benefits of growing outdoors. Dispensaries seem to prefer indoor because it’s a prettier product; outdoor pot is duller, not as glossy. But it’s not like outdoor pot is dirtier or even moldier. Steep Hill Labs, whom we rely on to test our products, states that there is no difference in mold content.”

posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:56 PM on April 13, 2011 [23 favorites]


Long story short: pot is no longer "green"?
posted by ShutterBun at 9:57 PM on April 13, 2011


Long story short, prohibition turns a disproportionate amount of cultivation away from less energy intensive methods.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:59 PM on April 13, 2011


Yeah, the assumptions seem a little off to me. All those cities, all that neon, all those giant AC units, etc, etc.., and marijuana cultivation is 1%. Mmm...nah.
posted by halcyon_daze at 9:59 PM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can think of worse things to spend 1% on.

I think the salient point is that if pot were legalized, we would use far, far less than 1%.
posted by zardoz at 10:02 PM on April 13, 2011


So, what's the story with LED grow lamps? First they were going to be the saviours of the world, then they were the biggest disappointment since Carter, now... well, all the untutored can tell is that there are an awful lot of people writing an awful lot of rubbish on teh intarwebs.

Not that I grow. But a chap likes to keep an eye on things.
posted by Devonian at 10:03 PM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the salient point is that if pot were legalized, we would use far, far less than 1%.

But, others are saying that the "indoor" stuff is, like, an established niche market, so it wouldn't diminish much/entirely/at all anyway. So who's right?
posted by ShutterBun at 10:15 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't sweat it, Devonian. The latest generation of LEDs produces spectrum in the red & blue ranges that is sufficient for chlorophyll A and B. They use less electricity than the far more common HID and produce a LOT less heat, thus less need for air conditioning - you can run LEDs without any additional a/c than you'd use in a house. And the results are better than HID. I would not have believed it, but I have seen the results personally.

As far as indoor versus outdoor, that is both a security issue and a market issue. More of a market issue. Indoor produces a much higher quality bud. Outdoor gets a bigger volume - colas two to four times the size of indoor - but you can lose a lot of the bud to mold and insects. Of course, spraying the bud with antifungal and pest control agents is out of the question. You can get roughly twice the price per unit weight for indoor than outdoor.

I suspect the 1% of U.S. electricity consumption is a bit high, no pun intended. Industrial uses consume a LOT of electricity. Perhaps 1% of U.S. residential consumption, but total consumption? Color me skeptical.

The other numbers in the PDF look about right, the equipment analysis is good. A lot of growers don't use CO2 generators or use CO2 at all. I haven't seen water heaters, down south they use water chillers, but those may be less efficient than heaters. And I haven't seen space heaters, that's certainly a regional thing.

The vehicle use mileage looks very high, though that will vary widely by grower and grow location.

Water use looks high, at a gallon per plant per day, but if you factor in non RO water used for cleaning and washing, ok thats might be about right.

Just for the record (IIRC), growers shoot for 2 pounds per 1000w HID every 100 days. That's a very good yield.
posted by Xoebe at 10:28 PM on April 13, 2011 [18 favorites]


140 gallons of gas per plant? Am I reading this right? I find that very hard to believe.
posted by Hoopo at 10:31 PM on April 13, 2011


Here's an aside: indoor gets better prices almost entirely due to its appearance. There is no difference in the quality of the bud. Indoor tends to have more tightly clustered blossoms, which is a result of controlled day length and temperature.

There are differences in varieties as well. Some varieties do not like to be grown indoors. Others don't do well outdoors. And , as I mentioned above, outdoors gets mold and insects. The guy who stated there is no difference in mold quantity between indoor and outdoor had to have been testing trimmed bud. You trim the mold out. It's heartbreaking.
posted by Xoebe at 10:41 PM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]




Long story short: pot is no longer "green"?

I'm sticking with brown and white then -- for environmental reasons, obv.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:46 PM on April 13, 2011


I have a little waterwheel in my bong and every time I take a hit it turns a generator which feeds electricity back to the grid. I like that I'm doing my part to save the planet, but sometimes it makes me forget what the fuck are those? Unicorns?
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:48 PM on April 13, 2011 [21 favorites]


I'd put 1% of electricity at maybe a little bit high, but not very high, based on the EIA's number of 3.5 billion kWh generated in 2009. That's if the 20 TWh number is right, which isn't something I can speak to - but it really doesn't seem to far wrong to me if the lamps involved are really 1,000 Watts as Xoebe seems to indicate. That would mean you'd need about 2.3 million of those lamps burning (24x7 nationwide) to suck up that much juice. To me, that fits pretty well with the numbers on page 1 of the paper (I confess I didn't look further). A rough analysis from there suggests you'd need about 150,000 grow houses of the ten "grow unit" capacity the paper refers to in order to make up that kind of consumption. That's a lot of juice. I know utilities sometimes notify police when they see indications of stolen electricity (or absurd levels of usage), as it's frequently the best way to identify a grow house.

The CO2 question is a different matter, of course.
posted by nickmark at 10:55 PM on April 13, 2011


I prefer the "don't give money to cartels" anti-prohibition argument.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:55 PM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


According to page 1 of the article, "6.6% of U.S. population above the age of 12" smokes dope. That's lower than I would have expected, although I only know of one person who partakes. Here in Texas it's probably not wise info to broadcast, so there are certainly others. By the way, those LED light assemblies linked above start at around $1,500 for a 4 foot by 4 foot effective area of coverage. Yikes!
posted by Daddy-O at 10:56 PM on April 13, 2011


Dispensaries seem to prefer indoor because it’s a prettier product; outdoor pot is duller, not as glossy. But it’s not like outdoor pot is dirtier or even moldier.
indoor gets better prices almost entirely due to its appearance

The indoor vs outdoor difference is not a matter of appearance or dirt or mold. It's difficult to keep (female) outdoor plants from being pollinated. Pollination leads to seeds, which are not desirable and additionally end the budding process. Buds contain more active ingredients than leaves or other plant parts. Or something like that a friend told me once.
posted by Bokononist at 10:59 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is about 1% of national electricity consumption

another 1% is used up by stoned people watching TV with the sound off and the stereo on
posted by pyramid termite at 11:06 PM on April 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


If we spent the money we spend on pursuing and arresting drug traffickers on energy research instead, we'd probably have a viable alternative energy source by now.
posted by doctor_negative at 11:10 PM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let me clarify, in California, where consumers have a choice between indoor and out, they consistently choose indoor, even if the price is higher.

Because if you plant it outside someone will steal it (a lingering effect of prohibition, even in California).


They need to make the testing and labeling of THC/CBD content mandatory, because then people would actually know what they're buying and can make an informed decision without relying on prohibition myths. SPARC was already mentioned - read their current menu and compare that to some stoner idiot assuring you that whatever they have is super dank, bro.
posted by bradbane at 11:22 PM on April 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Daddy-O: 'According to page 1 of the article, "6.6% of U.S. population above the age of 12" smokes dope. That's lower than I would have expected...'

I think that's supposed to be current users. The number of people who, like me, used to smoke but don't any more would be much, much larger. I would bet at this point it's above half.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:35 PM on April 13, 2011


I thought current users would be higher than 6.6%, no pun intended.
posted by Daddy-O at 11:44 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


It may the case that 6.6% of people ADMIT to smoking dope.
posted by Daddy-O at 11:51 PM on April 13, 2011


Even if it was legal, it would still be a huge draw on power. Indoor Cannabis has a demand that is not going away.

The reason indoor pot seems better is because locally grown 'designer' weeds are all done indoors. If it were legal, there would be more emphasis on artisan products grown outdoors. I mean, fine chocolate and wine grapes are grown outdoors, it shouldn't be that hard.

Plus, you could still get all the temperature control benefits using greenhouses.

Anway, focusing on one industry in an attempt to fix global warming is just completely ridiculous. If all those grow lights died tomorrow, the price of electricity would slightly drop and the use elsewhere would pick up. Maybe it wouldn't happen immediately, but it won't solve the problem at all.

What's needed is comprehensive carbon restrictions, via carbon tax, cap and trade, or whatever.
posted by delmoi at 12:26 AM on April 14, 2011


Wait a second, what if you're using solar power for the electricity? Other than a drop in efficiency, obviously.

Sunshine -> plant
Sunshine -> photovoltaic -> plant
posted by Talanvor at 12:30 AM on April 14, 2011


I think that's supposed to be current users. The number of people who, like me, used to smoke but don't any more would be much, much larger. I would bet at this point it's above half.

You mean you've moved on to terrorist supercrack now because GATEWAY DRUG, obviously.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:03 AM on April 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wait a second, what if you're using solar power for the electricity? Other than a drop in efficiency, obviously.

Well, there's the whole matter of extracting minerals, assembling them into solar panels, and shipping the solar panels back and forth across the Pacific a few times before they end up on top of a grow op.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:06 AM on April 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wait a second, what if you're using solar power for the electricity? Other than a drop in efficiency, obviously.

Well, there's the whole matter of extracting minerals, assembling them into solar panels, and shipping the solar panels back and forth across the Pacific a few times before they end up on top of a grow op.


well, that's just extra energy consumed throughout the lifetime of the solar panels, and can be included in their overall efficiency throughout their lifetime. that extraction/shipping cost only slightly lowers the efficiency. contrary to what some party-poopers want to believe, the vast majority of solar panels provide far more energy than they consume over their lifetime. (and the ones that don't are the ones that were damaged or defective).
posted by molecicco at 1:34 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


also, in British Columbia (which provides a significant proportion of North America's weed), a pretty big chunk is grown outdoors. BC is huge and empty. people get away with that shit!
posted by molecicco at 1:36 AM on April 14, 2011




All the goodness of pot, for just 1%??
posted by CautionToTheWind at 1:39 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whew, that's a relief. Global warming is not my fault after all.
posted by lollusc at 4:32 AM on April 14, 2011


Anyone have figures on energy and water consumption in alcohol production?
posted by knapah at 4:57 AM on April 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


You know what the indoor cultivation of cannabis is not responsible for - 99% of national electrical consumption and about 5.8 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions.
posted by IvoShandor at 5:08 AM on April 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


DUDES PLANTS SEQUESTER CO2 DUDES!
posted by Casimir at 5:28 AM on April 14, 2011


I'm gonna start a jam band and call it Terrorist Supercrack.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:43 AM on April 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Where's the invisible hand when we need it? If electricity was properly priced, wouldn't its use be directed to where it's needed most by market forces?
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:46 AM on April 14, 2011


Where's the invisible hand when we need it?

Ayn Rand wrote a book in the 50s, called An' them buds are super strong, bro'. It's a dystopia...
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:15 AM on April 14, 2011


This just in, people downplay the environmental impact of things they enjoy. Film at 11.
posted by electroboy at 6:21 AM on April 14, 2011


Needs more samples mailed out to my home address.
posted by Splunge at 6:41 AM on April 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


So...outside weed: once upon a time, I was traveling through America's heartland in a van with a handful of jugglers, three cats and a large boa constrictor named Roland.

We were driving through Kansas, or Iowa, or somewhere where all there was to be seen were corn fields in every given direction. We're driving down the road and from the back I hear "Wait! Stop!". Thinking that something has gone wrong, I pull over and stop. The back doors opened, and the jugglers piled out and went running into the fields like the van was about to explode. I got out and was walking around, checking tires, looking under the van for leaks, trying to figure out what in god's name had gotten into the jugglers.

And I heard this rustling in the field beside me...and out popped the jugglers, dragging what had to be the biggest hemp plant I'd ever seen. Seriously, this thing was like 8 feet tall. The jugglers stood there with this scraggly, obviously male, giant plant like they were great white hunters displaying a hard fought trophy. So I took a picture and told them to all get back in the damn van....and they tried to drag the giant hemp plant, roots and all, into the van with them.

I swear to god, the next 30 minutes was like trying to take toys away from a group of 5 year olds. "No, you cannot put the giant pot plant in my car." "No, trust me, this is not good smoking weed." "It's hemp, licking the inside of the van would get you higher than this will." "Yes, it is very cool, and I agree that everyone at our destination will thing it's funny." "No. You MAY NOT put the giant pot plant in the car." "Put the pot plant DOWN." "Do ya not think that the police will notice an 8 foot pot plant if we get stopped?" "Of course we're going to get stopped again, there's a giant wench on the side of my van and we look like we just lost the Grateful Dead caravan somewhere." "I will not bail any of you out of jail." "No goddammit, you WILL NOT put the giant pot plant in my car." "I'm leaving. Everyone without a felonious amount of crappy non-smokable weed can go with me."

Oh, the 80's...you were so much fun. I think.

That said, I find the assumptions that form the basis of the argument of this paper by Dr. Mills to be dubious. I think much extrapolation has been done from very little data...and numbers don't work that way in real life.

To be fair, the only massive growing sites I've ever seen were in Holland, and they used nowhere near this much equipment, in a country with a significantly cooler and less sunny location than California.

It's been my impression, from articles that I've read, and people I've spoken to, that grow operations are often run out of a residential house...and again, there isn't going to be that much equipment in a grow house. I'm sure that grow houses have an impact on the grid and water tables more substantial than would be generated by a family living in the same space, but I'm also sure that it's nowhere near the impact created by any of the other crops being grown in the same area.

This paper strikes me as one of those academic exercises where a conclusion was reached before the research to support the conclusion was performed.
posted by dejah420 at 6:59 AM on April 14, 2011 [11 favorites]


...a handful of jugglers...

I saw what you did there.
posted by chugg at 7:09 AM on April 14, 2011


Yeah, and those cucumbers and tomatoes we grow year-round don't cost us a dime in carbon emissions. Not a fucking dime.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:17 AM on April 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


to be dubious

Teehee!
posted by Jpfed at 7:45 AM on April 14, 2011


"Where do terrorists get their money? If you buy drugs, some of it might come from you."

Well, we could legalize them, and then pay our money to the legal terrorists.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:06 AM on April 14, 2011


Get back to me when we stop eating meat. If we really want to fucking "move the needle" (as my bosses might say), let's fucking do it.

This ^^ is a fluff issue.

"Electric clothes dryers, which use electricity for heating as well as for operating motors, accounted for 66 billion kWh, 5.8 percent of the total."

- U.S. Household electricity consumption in 2001

Almost (almost!) anyone can dry their clothes on a line. Again, focus on the big stuff. Lots of shit we like uses electricity/energy.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:20 AM on April 14, 2011


I think much extrapolation has been done from very little data...and numbers don't work that way in real life.

That too.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:21 AM on April 14, 2011


How much energy does building prisons and then housing drug offenders in them use up? How many miles do cops put on their cars pursuing/tracking illegal pot? How much paper do they consume writing up offenders and creating files on them? How many extra pounds of fast food do cops purchase whilst pursuing/tracking/patrolling for drug offenders, thus contributing to factory farming, antibiotic resistance, obesity and related healthcare costs (and hospitals use a LOT of electricity), and rainforest depletion?

Hell, I could do this all day.
posted by emjaybee at 8:40 AM on April 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Are there any Overgrow.com equivalents? I really loved those grow threads, and I say this as someone who has never grow and doesn't smoke anymore. If you're a supply chain / efficiency management geek, watching people fiddle with setups and achieve higher outputs was like watching empiricism in action!

Also LEDs work now? From my memory, and this was whenever Overgrow was still around, they were pretty shitty. The big thing everyone was talking about were the prices of LEDs coming down and their outputs increasing. I guess that finally happened?
posted by geoff. at 8:44 AM on April 14, 2011


1%...skeptical.
Some perspective: Every single street lamp across all the highways and city streets across the whole country each have a 1000W HPS or MH lamp, similar to one grower's lamp. How many of those do you think are lit up every night?
posted by goodsignal at 8:54 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh good, we're finally going to get serious about this whole global climate change thing now.
posted by Kale Slayer at 9:07 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


How much energy does building prisons and then housing drug offenders in them use up? How many miles do cops put on their cars pursuing/tracking illegal pot? How much paper do they consume writing up offenders and creating files on them? How many extra pounds of fast food do cops purchase whilst pursuing/tracking/patrolling for drug offenders, thus contributing to factory farming, antibiotic resistance, obesity and related healthcare costs (and hospitals use a LOT of electricity), and rainforest depletion?

Most folks here (including myself) will probably agree with you, but opponents will just lump this wasted energy on top of the original 1% as EVEN MORE energy that is wasted by pot smokers -- because CLEARLY pot smoking is evil and must be prosecuted.
posted by LordSludge at 9:25 AM on April 14, 2011


Almost (almost!) anyone can dry their clothes on a line. Again, focus on the big stuff.

Every single street lamp across all the highways and city streets


Except that most people dry their clothes and use streetlights, but most people don't smoke pot regularly, so a relatively small number of people have a disproportionate impact on overall energy consumption.
posted by electroboy at 9:28 AM on April 14, 2011


yeah, but it balances itself out by emitting coolness.
posted by hellbient at 9:33 AM on April 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Except that most people dry their clothes and use streetlights, but most people don't smoke pot regularly, so a relatively small number of people have a disproportionate impact on overall energy consumption.

Marijuana is the #1 cash crop in the US -- it provides a hell of a lot of return directly to the economy.

Clothes dryers and streetlights, not so much.
posted by vorfeed at 10:29 AM on April 14, 2011


Some perspective: Every single street lamp across all the highways and city streets across the whole country each have a 1000W HPS or MH lamp, similar to one grower's lamp. How many of those do you think are lit up every night?

I smell a potential brilliant government / private business partnership here. We could sell it as a "green highway" initiative.
posted by formless at 10:59 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Clothes dryers and streetlights, not so much.
posted by vorfeed at 12:29 on April 14 [+] [!]


Exactly! What economic benefit do we really derive from being able to drive at night?
posted by Jpfed at 11:07 AM on April 14, 2011


it provides a hell of a lot of return directly to the economy. Clothes dryers and streetlights, not so much

Right, because they just appear through a non-value added process, employ no one in the manufacture, installation and maintenance and have no economic benefits associated with them.
posted by electroboy at 11:09 AM on April 14, 2011


Right, because they just appear through a non-value added process, employ no one in the manufacture, installation and maintenance and have no economic benefits associated with them.

These are obviously also true of marijuana, though -- the number of weed-related satellite industries is not small, nor is the number of people who make a living growing, selling, and celebrating marijuana.

Exactly! What economic benefit do we really derive from being able to drive at night?

I didn't mean to suggest that streetlights and dryers are entirely worthless; I simply meant to point out that, as our number-one cash crop, marijuana returns to the economy (and thus to the nation) far out of proportion to the "relatively small number of people" who grow it. When a "disproportionate impact on overall energy consumption" is matched by a much more disproportionate positive impact on the economy, that strikes me as a good use of energy, not a bad one.
posted by vorfeed at 12:00 PM on April 14, 2011


goodsignal: "1%...skeptical.Some perspective: Every single street lamp across all the highways and city streets across the whole country each have a 1000W HPS or MH lamp, similar to one grower's lamp. How many of those do you think are lit up every night"

I don't think 1000W is the typical HPS draw, but they do use electricity for almost no gain over a lesser and better directed amount of illumination. And streetlights, unlike clothes dryers, employ very few people. The vast majority of the cost there is energy. It never ceases to amaze me how many millions of dollars every year my city spends on the damn things.
posted by wierdo at 12:02 PM on April 14, 2011


matched by a much more disproportionate positive impact on the economy

I think it's a weak argument. By the same token, every time someone steps on a package of heroin or cooks some rocks you can argue that it's a value added process that increases the economic impact. Cooking rocks is even less energy intensive, so it should be preferred over growing marijuana. But both those things also extract money from those who can least afford it and puts cash in the hands of violent criminals as well. I'd also argue that marijuana production actually employs very few people, outside of sales and that the sales jobs it does produce aren't quality jobs.

I'm of course not arguing that all marijuana producers and users are violent criminals (or criminals at all, really) but arguing from a maximum economic benefit position ignores a lot of the externalities.
posted by electroboy at 12:25 PM on April 14, 2011


Those are externalities of prohibition, not of marijuana. Besides, one could easily claim that clothes dryers also extract money from those who can least afford it (see: your local laundromat). And, again, the direct economic impact of marijuana is still very disproportionate to its power cost, and very difficult to ignore.
posted by vorfeed at 12:35 PM on April 14, 2011


They're externalities of the situation as it is. You can't ignore reality just because you or I disagree with prohibition. If marijuana is leglized, there'd also likely be a huge price drop which would decrease the economic impact.
posted by electroboy at 12:43 PM on April 14, 2011


They're externalities of the situation as it is. You can't ignore reality just because you or I disagree with prohibition.

You also can't ignore reality (like 38B in sales per year in return for 1% of national electricity consumption) because you don't like cartels and/or products which are sold to the poor. Whether you like its externalities or not, marijuana does have a disproportionate direct effect on the economy, and that's all I'm claiming here.

Besides, every product has its pluses and minuses, yet every product is not met with "look how much energy this takes"; as others have said, I'd love to see the same thing done for alcohol or, say, corn. Until then, focusing on this seems like another way to marginalize what is, in actuality, very big business in America.

If marijuana is leglized, there'd also likely be a huge price drop which would decrease the economic impact.

I think this is actually pretty unlikely. Smokers are used to paying current prices, and current prices seem quite fair as compared to alcohol; also, stigma is likely to keep truly industrial-scale producers out of the game for some decades to come, and at the same time, consumption is very likely to rise. What's more likely to happen is what has happened in California -- more growers rush in and a glut of low-end product is produced, so sales and prices for low-end product drop while high-quality bud remains popular and expensive. Over the mid-to-long term, those who can't move their product drop out, and prices rise again.

The idea that a post-legalization eighth of good weed is going to cost $5 at 7-11 (or $38 an ounce a la the Rand Corp. study) seems like a fantasy to me. That's not going to happen, especially since weed is most likely to be heavily taxed and driven into specialty shops by local ordinance -- shops which can charge street prices or higher, knowing that people will pay for convenience and known quality.
posted by vorfeed at 1:38 PM on April 14, 2011


yet every product is not met with "look how much energy this takes";
Sure it is. Any article about modern food production has at least a passing mention about the energy inputs for commercial farming, especially in relation to meat production. People similarly wigged out about the Environmental Impact of Pets post because it pointed out that there's a significant environmental impact to a luxury that most people induldge in. It doesn't mean that X activity is objectively wrong, but it does have consequences and that it should be part of the analysis. It's telling that most of the posts don't take issue with the substance of the paper, but rather make some tu quoque argument about something in which they don't personally engage.

You also can't ignore reality (like 38B in sales per year in return for 1% of national electricity consumption) because you don't like cartels and/or products which are sold to the poor.

Sure I can, if I'm not making the utilitarian case. There's certainly a moral argument and it's a similar one that leads people to boycott things like the lottery and Walmart.
posted by electroboy at 2:08 PM on April 14, 2011


If marijuana is leglized, there'd also likely be a huge price drop which would decrease the economic impact.

...

I think this is actually pretty unlikely. Smokers are used to paying current prices, and current prices seem quite fair as compared to alcohol


Agreed. Look how legalization of marijuana (as medicine) has affected prices in California. OK, they have gone down a bit, but not very much at all. And the legal prices are higher than the illegal prices.

Any article about modern food production has at least a passing mention about the energy inputs for commercial farming, especially in relation to meat production.

What the what?

A Table for Nine Billion

Novel foods review stumbles over cloning

Show me where in there.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:29 PM on April 14, 2011


Some rule of thumb facts if anyone wants to do some maths:
A *really* efficient indoor grow will produce 1g quality final product per watt of lighting
You can harvest in 3 months start to finish one month with 24 hour lights and two with 12 hour
1g of indoor high grade weed = 1.5 Kwh
posted by ollybee at 3:19 PM on April 14, 2011


my thoughts on LED lighting for growing:
LEDs are not more efficient than HPS lights, 90 lm/w vs 140 lm/w (lumens per Watt)
Some believe that LED's can compensate with colour temperatures more readily absorbed by plants but this has not been proved. It is true that as they do not radiate heat the LED's can be positioned much closer to the plant and multiple LED's can be arranged more efficiently to get light to the right places. Those advantages might overcome the lower lm/w, they *might* even allow you to use less power and light for the same yield as HPS would have produced. The cost of LED's per lumen is 20x that of HPS and that's if you were to wire up the hundreds of LEDs yourself. LEDs are sometimes also recommended for space restricted grows but although hey do not radiate heat they must still dissipate heat, instead of radiation out the front there is conduction out of the back, large heat sinks and good airflow are needed.
posted by ollybee at 3:33 PM on April 14, 2011


Exactly! What economic benefit do we really derive from being able to drive at night?
You could use your headlights. Or the street lights could be solar powered (charge during the day, illuminate at night)

The problem is that looking at one minor thing doesn't solve any problems. We could look at street lights, we could look at grow-ops, we could look at driers, ad-infinitum. The solution is a hard cap, economic transfers so that the price of energy reflects the externalities. That's the solution.
posted by delmoi at 5:23 PM on April 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


And the legal prices are higher than the illegal prices.

That's because the illegal prices have to account for a risk premium which the legal product does not have.
posted by rhombus at 9:32 AM on April 15, 2011


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