(CBS Seattle) — Recreational marijuana will go on sale in Washington in a matter of months and dozens of stores will open, increasing the demand for suppliers and producers.
Growing pot plants may seem like a pretty eco-friendly business, but according to a recent article in Mother Jones, marijuana grows in the United States have a pretty significant negative impact on the environment. A large majority (80%) of all the marijuana in the US is grown in five states: Washington, California, Tennessee, Kentucky and Hawaii. Twenty-two million pounds of pot is grown in this country each year, most of it illegal. And all those plants are using a lot of resources.
The vastly unregulated pot growing industry is powered by diesel generators, plants are sprayed with pesticides and farmed on deforested land. An indoor grow with four plants uses as much electricity as 29 refrigerators and indoor growing operations across the country use enough electricity to power 1.7 million homes. For every one pound of pot that’s grown just in America, more than 4,500 pounds of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.
The energy needed to create one joint is the same as what’s needed for 18 pints of beer and creates the same amount of emissions created by powering a 100-watt lightbulb for 25 hours.
In drought-ridden California, outdoor marijuana grows use up 60 million gallons of water every day, which according to Mother Jones, is 50 percent more than the water used by everyone living in San Francisco.
Environmentalists in California told Mother Jones marijuana growing operations diverted enough water last summer to cause two dozen salmon streams to stop flowing. The Department of Fish and Wildlife said it considered pot grows to be the number one threat to salmon in northern California and the state spends millions of dollars a year restoring streams.
Even with increasing decriminalization and more regulation, experts say the black market for pot, and subsequently its toll on the environment, isn’t going anywhere.
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