Indoor marijuana growing operations in the United States are massive energy hogs, consuming some $5 billion worth of electricity each year, according to a new report.
That's about 1 percent of the nation's total power consumption.
The problem, according to efficiency firm Energy Associates, is that the pot industry is almost entirely prohibited in the U.S., keeping it hidden from regulators and, by extension, efficiencies in agricultural production.
Study author and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientist Evan Mills writes that the average grow operation approaches 200 watts per square foot -- enough to power a modern data center.
What's more, a single joint contains the equivalent of about 2 lbs. of carbon dioxide emissions.
Mills writes (.pdf):
If improved practices applicable to commercial agricultural greenhouses are any indication, such large amounts of energy are not required for indoor cannabis production. Cost-effective efficiency improvements of 75 percent are conceivable.
Marijuana is considered the nation's largest cash crop, with an estimated production value of $40 billion annually. At that scale, energy savings are significant: California's indoor cultivation alone results in a carbon emissions equivalent of putting an additional 1 million cars on the road for a year.
It's an interesting catch-22: if an industry is out of sight, can it really be regulated?