The Hippie Conundrum: Weed Requires Fossil Fuels

Hippie environmentalists recently made a sobering realization: Growing weed is not carbon neutral. Not at all. 

Recreational marijuana is some version of legal in several states, which has resulted in the mass production of cannabis. Unlike corn or tobacco, weed is not grown with sunshine and rain from Mother Earth. Instead, it is grown indoors under massive lamps that consume up to 2,000 watts of electricity per square meter–nearly 40 times the energy needed to grow lettuce indoors. 

According to a report from Politico, the marijuana industry accounts for as much as 1 percent of all electricity consumed in the states where it is grown. Considering the country is still powered by fossil fuels, that’s a lot of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere. Being carbon neutral and being baked appear to be mutually exclusive. 

This could be a shocking finding for environmentalists. After all, they’ve been pushing for “meatless Mondays” while selling “plant-based” goop burgers so that families can cut their emissions. Considering that environmentalists have been trying to micromanage menus to save the planet, one would think they would have their eyes set on preventing the legalization of recreational marijuana, but there’s been hardly a ripple. 

But the truth is, people shouldn’t really care about the emissions of either. 

Meat consumption and marijuana make almost no difference in the total amount of carbon used in the country. One study found that every American going vegan would only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2.6 percent in the United States. And that doesn’t consider the fact that Americans have little control over the coal-factory-building authoritarians in China who are — far and away — the globe’s biggest polluters. 

As with everything else in the agricultural sector, marijuana growers will likely develop more efficient ways to grow their crop if it becomes legal nationwide. In the same way that crops and cattle are being grown with less land, water, and fuel than ever before, marijuana will likely follow the same trajectory. 

Climate change is a global problem. Chomping on a steak or puffing on a joint really won’t make a difference.