Marijuana Environmental Impacts

Drugs are negatively impacting our environment, especially with the expansion of marijuana grows. Every Brain requires a healthy environment to thrive. Marijuana not only is poisoning our brains, but it is also poisoning our waters, soil and forests, and animals, and using up valuable natural resources.

Six-Year Study Shows Downstream Contamination from Illegal Cannabis Grow Sites
USDA Forest Service 2022 December 12

A study recently published in the Water Quality Research Journal by Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations ecologists and partners discovered surface water contamination below illegal cannabis grow sites.

Previously, Forest Service ecologists documented the environmental threat illegal grow sites posed to terrestrial wildlife, including the federally protected northern spotted owl and Pacific fisher. However, little was known about the threats illegal cannabis grow sites pose to nearby surface waters and its wildlife. After six years of monitoring, illegal and banned pesticides have been unexpectedly detected in surface waters below these sites…

“This is going to be a toxic cesspool someday,” sheriff demands action on marijuana grows
KRCR 2022, March 30

The Northstate’s natural beauty is in jeopardy as illegal marijuana grows continue to plague rural communities.

Siskiyou County is one of the many locations that have been hit hard by the grows. Sheriff Jerimiah LaRue showed me around an illegal grow during a search warrant and pointed out not just the legal ramifications, but also the environmental impact it is having on their county.

“Right now we are all screaming that this is going to be a toxic cesspool someday, not only here but throughout California,” LaRue said. “Anything that has this much trash and chemicals and pesticides that go straight into the earth that are often unpermitted or often illegal in California, we should all be concerned.”..

The Environmental Impact of Marijuana 2021, September 10

Marijuana growing is an environmental disaster, which interferes with the responsible stewardship of the planet. Outdoor growers divert natural streams and rob our water supply.  These growers have destroyed the Northern California salmon fishing industry and are poised to do the same in other states.

Marijuana growers in California are a major reason for California’s water shortage, with marijuana plants demanding eight gallons of water a day, more than any other crop, including almonds

Indoor growers strain the electrical grid to unreasonable proportions.

Marijuana growers, both illegal and legal, are cutting down forests, using banned pesticides and rodenticides, killing species, and depleting resources with no accountability. Some people who voted to legalize marijuana in California thought that regulation could be applied to this problem and stop the environmental damage.  It hasn’t worked out that way.

Colorado’s indoor cannabis farms produce 30% more greenhouse emissions than the state’s coal mining industry due to electricity use and natural gas consumption, according to study out of Colorado State University. Indoor marijuana growers use high intensity lights that must be kept on 24 hours a day. The carbon footprint is massive, generating up to 5,000 kg of CO2 per one kg of flower produced and straining the electrical grid to unreasonable proportions.

At least two of California’s major wildfires in California, and one in Colorado, were started by careless marijuana growers and users.  In 2008, a gas leak at an indoor marijuana in California required one of the biggest environmental cleanups in California history.

No other industry would get away with so much environmental damage, but political contributions are shielding this industry.

Drug cartels stealing millions of gallons of water for marijuana grows in Antelope Valley: Officials
ABC 7, 2021 July 7

Amid California’s ongoing drought, drug cartels have been stealing 2-3 million gallons of water a day to feed illegal marijuana grows in the Antelope Valley, officials said.

Asked where the water was being stolen from, Rep. Mike Garcia, who represents the state’s 25th District, said: “Right here from our local aqueduct system. The California Aqueduct flows right through the Antelope Valley. They’re taking it out of wells. They’re stealing it from fire hydrants.”

Pot, water theft, and environmental harms in the US and Mexico
Brookings Institution, 2021 April 12

The government of Mexico is on the verge of legalizing cannabis for industrial, medical, and recreational purposes, legislation that would make Mexico only the third country to legalize all aspects of cannabis production and all types of the plant’s use.

Thus, before you light up your Mexico joint a year or so down the road, you should consider what kind of environmental impact you’re having and demand only pot with water-smart and environmentally-benign certification. Yet the poor security and rule of law in Mexico will undermine the credibility of most such environmentally-sustainable certification..

Colorado’s legal cannabis farms emit more carbon than its coal mines
New Scientist 2021, March 8

Legal cannabis production in Colorado emits more greenhouse gases than the state’s coal mining industry, researchers analysing the sector’s energy use have found. Emissions varied widely by state, from 2.3 to 5.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per kilogram of dried flower produced.

In Colorado, the emissions add up to around 2.6 megatonnes of CO2e, which is more than that from the state’s coal mining at 1.8 megatonnes of CO2e. “The emissions that come from growing 1 ounce, depending on where it’s grown in the US, is about the same as burning 7 to 16 gallons of gasoline,”

Most US cannabis is grown indoors, as some states don’t allow outdoor growing and the crops are also at risk of theft. This means that the majority of cannabis production emissions come from climate-control systems and high-powered lights that take the place of the sun. The carbon footprint of the cannabis industry is even larger than this study indicates…

Think Ya Know? Is Marijuana Eco-Friendly?
2021, February 22

Marijuana is hazardous to your health and the earth. The only thing green about marijuana is the color. Otherwise, it is an environmental disaster.

Whether grown outdoors or indoors, it is dirty agriculture and negatively impacts air & water quality, robs the electric grid and watersheds, and produces greenhouse gases. The industry uses heavy pesticides which put wildlife at risk. It was never meant to be a large-scale agricultural product. The end product contains mold and toxins that are harmful to humans.

The Environmental Impact of Drugs… Know the Truth
Drug Free America Foundation 2020, August 20

Know the truth about how illicit drug crop cultivation, drug production, trafficking, and drug use all contribute to the global degradation of the natural environment.

Eight Thousand Plants Taken Down in the Honeydew Area Today; Once Again, Many Serious Water Violations Were Noted, Marijuana Enforcement Team Says
Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office 2020, June 25

During the service of the warrants, deputies eradicated approximately 7,930 growing cannabis plants. Deputies also located and seized two firearms.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife found the following violations:

  • 26 water diversion/obstruction violations (up to $8,000 fine per day, per violation)
  • Seven water pollution violations (up to $20,000 fine per day, per violation)…

Marijuana and Environment: Green Rush Not So Green After All,
Greencamp 2020, April 28

The growing legalization of cannabis shed some new light on the vastly overlooked phenomenon of the environmental downside of marijuana cultivation..

Energy consumption goes from below 1kWh per square foot of canopy for outdoor solar-powered facilities to more than 140 kWh per square foot of indoor cultivation.

Electricity is not the only resource that cannabis relies on. There is, of course, the source of human life – our precious water.

The effects of illegal cannabis cultivation on chemical contamination and wildlife…

A booming cannabis industry could have critical impact on Denver’s air quality
Gillings School of Global Public Health 2019, December 19

The emissions from cannabis cultivation factories (CCFs) for recreational and medicinal use could strongly impact the regional air quality in Denver, Colorado, according to research from William Vizuete, PhD, associate professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

As more and more bills are passed in the United States to legalize recreational cannabis, the industry boom has become one of the largest in the country. Cultivation, sale and consumption of cannabis in the state of Colorado totaled $1.5 billion in 2017 – higher than the revenue for its grain farming industry. But despite its climbing revenues, the cannabis industry is not subject to the same environmental impact monitoring as the industries it rivals. Previous legal restrictions have limited the scope of this research, and prior studies pertain only to the impact of outdoor cultivation on ecosystems and watersheds, as well as to the energy consumption of indoor cultivation and its impact on greenhouse gas emissions (such as carbon dioxide)…

The electricity consumed by growing pot in Ontario is forecast to grow by 1,000 per cent over five years
Toronto Star 2019, November 24

The pot industry will not be a mellow new player on the province’s power grid.

Indeed, the energy munched by the fledgling cannabis-growing business is expected to rise by 1,250 per cent in Ontario over the next five years, according to a recent study by the province’s Independent Electricity System Operator.

“We’re seeing absolutely a significant increase in electricity demand because of the greenhouse growth in Ontario,” says Terry Young, vice-president of policy, engagement and innovation at the IESO.

“If you forecast out five years, what we’re seeing is over a thousand per cent growth in electricity to a sector,” says Young, whose Crown corporation released a study on electrical use by cannabis growers in October…

Potential regional air quality impacts of cannabis cultivation facilities in Denver, Colorado
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 2019, November 20

The legal commercialization of cannabis for recreational and medical use has effectively created a new and almost unregulated cultivation industry. Measurements have found concentrations of highly reactive terpenes from the headspace above cannabis plants that, when released in the atmosphere, could impact air quality. Here we developed the first emission inventory for cannabis emissions of terpenes. The range of possible emissions from these facilities was 66–657 t yr−1 of terpenes across the state of Colorado; half of the emissions are from Denver County. An increase of 362 t yr−1 in terpene emissions in Denver County resulted in increases of up to 0.34 ppb in hourly ozone concentrations during the morning and 0.67 ppb at night. Model predictions indicate that in Denver County every 1000 t yr−1 increase in terpenes results in 1 ppb increase in daytime hourly ozone concentrations and a maximum daily 8 h average (MDA8) increase of 0.3 ppb…

Illegal marijuana growers poison forests—these people fight back
National Geographic 2019, April 8

Despite changing marijuana laws, illegal grow sites threaten protected land in California. These experts are trying to stop it…

Cannabis Energy Overview
MA Department of Energy Resources
Energy and Environmental Affairs
2018, February 23

The Cannabis Industry and Impact on Massachusetts Emissions:
• Following the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) Massachusetts must reduce
emissions by 80% (below 1990 levels) by 2050
• The growth of a new industry, such as the cannabis industry, can have a
significant impact on unpredicted energy consumption and meeting the GWSA
• Ensuring energy efficiency in the cannabis industry reduces energy consumption growth and limits new emissions attributed to the Commonwealth..

Illegal Pot Farms Are Poisoning California’s Forests
The Atlantic 2017, March 31

Secret growers are taking advantage of the state’s remote stretches of public land—and the environmental impact is severe…

This is the grid on legalized marijuana
Industry Dive 2017, February 27

Over half of the U.S. appears to be on the cusp of legalizing a highly energy intensive crop: marijuana. Could this shift in public policy spark an increase in electricity consumption?

Possibly. Indoor marijuana growing operations account for about 1% of all electric consumption in the U.S., according to a study by Evan Mills, a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researcher (he did the study on his own time).

Marijuana production accounts for 3% of California’s electricity useTweet this quote

A typical indoor grow room for marijuana has the same power density – about 200 watts per square foot – as a data center, according to the study, published in 2012…

Environmental Impacts of Illegal Marijuana Cultivation
Conservation Frontiers 2017, January

California voters legalized marijuana for medical use in 1996. The U.S. Department of Justice
and other experts have estimated that 60-70% of all marijuana consumed in the U.S. is grown in California. This cultivation, which occurs primarily
outdoors, is having a deep, broad and devastating impact on our state’s natural resources.
Lands protected for conservation purposes are not only impacted – they are often the targets for illegal cultivation…

Hikers’ rescued from Soberanes Fire were illegal marijuana growers
KSBW 2016, June 29

BIG SUR, Calif. – Illegal marijuana growers found themselves in a heated situation when flames from the massive Soberanes Fire raced toward their valuable crops.

Sprawling pot grows are common and hidden within forests stretching down Big Sur’s coast…

Blame pot, not almonds, for Calif. water woes
The Baltimore Sun 2015, April 14

Almonds continue to be farmed in California, yet this crop is a big consumer of precious water during a time of dire drought. But the larger story the editors should have run with is the much more serious use of water by large scale marijuana farms in the same state.

The scientific journal PLOSone recently published an article showing the impact of marijuana farming to be a potential death blow to the California watershed, as reported in USA Today: “Smoked dry: Massive marijuana cultivation has ‘lethal’ impact on California water supply — study”(March 29, 2015). As compared to almonds, marijuana is not a staple food product nor has it yet been shown to be medically essential for any condition that afflicts man…

Pot growers endangering California watersheds and wildlife
2015, April 13

This cultivation, which occurs primarily
outdoors, is having a deep, broad and devastating impact on our state’s natural resources.

It is critical that land trusts and natural
resources managers understand the scope
and nature of the environmental effects of
marijuana cultivation, how this impacts
land and water stewardship, the elements
of responsible regulations and how to
draft and interpret easements in light of
marijuana cultivation in California…

24 Mind-Blowing Facts About Marijuana Production in America
Mother Jones 2014, April

You thought your pot came from environmentally conscious hippies? Think again. The way marijuana is grown in America, it turns out, is anything but sustainable and organic…

Gone to Pot
Huff Post 2014, October 24

The old expression about everything being bigger in Texas just got trumped by what’s happening in California. It’s the latest trend in pot farms, or what are increasingly looking like pot plantations! So how’d they get so big? Sheriff Allman says it’s a combination of genetic modification, fertilizers, pesticides, California’s ideal growing climate and water, lots of water…