Marijuana Takes A Toll On The Environment

While the focus of a national debate over whether or not marijuana should be legalized has centered on health concerns, the quickly developing market for legal pot carries some very important environmental costs as well. States with a large number of growers are starting to find that the plants' water and light needs are starting to suck up natural resources at an alarming rate. Energy Concerns Growers who cultivate marijuana plants indoors require an array of lighting products that ensure the plants receive the necessary amount of artificial sunlight each day. However, these extra-strength bulbs have drawn some criticism from environmentalists who say the lack of regulations has allowed growers to significantly increase states' energy use. A study called "Carbon Footprint of Indoor Cannabis Production" estimates that indoor cannabis cultivation uses around $6 billion worth of electricity annually. That figure makes up one percent of the entire nation's usage. Water Intensive Marijuana also requires a great deal of water in order to thrive, a problem that some states whose water supplies are already tight are beginning to battle. Studies show that outdoor growers in California are using more water than can be naturally replaced, exacerbating worries about severe droughts. Each plant sucks up a surprising 22.7 liters or water per day, making it a difficult crop to cultivate in a dry climate. In California, many have attributed part of last year's extreme drought to the explosion in marijuana cultivation as more and more farmers looked to jump on board the growing industry. Regulations Needed The environmental effects of marijuana growing will need to be addressed as the industry gains popularity. Most are expecting state governments to deal with these issues by requiring growers to comply with environmental regulations and monitoring the number of plants produced. However with the industry still in its infancy, many expect that environmentally friendly growing practices are still a ways away.
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