Supporters of growing marijuana, legally and illegally, tend to skew to the political left. Drilling down further, Gallup reported in a past poll that around 80 percent of Republicans were against the legalization of marijuana compared to 63 percent Democrats and 56 percent Independents.
The left also tends to have an environmentally friendly view on climate change and the reduction of emissions as evidenced in its support for government action on these issues, detailed here by a Pew Research Survey.
With these numbers in mind, it is difficult to reconcile these views in lieu of a new report from Vice which indicates growing marijuana produces a decidedly anti-environment effect.
— VICE Canada (@vicecanada) April 22, 2017
According to contributor James Wilt, there is ample research demonstrating that the act of growing marijuana has a harmful effect on the environment in ways that go beyond increased water and electricity usage.
Wilt’s argument does not ignore the harmful effects growing marijuana — even in a legal and regulated environment — might have on those two components. He shares reams of research demonstrating that 23 liters of water per day are needed to grow a single marijuana plant to maturity. Compare this to 13 liters for a wine grape plant, and you will see it is a significant increase.
On the electricity side, artificial indoor operations require the use of high-intensity bulbs, ventilation, dehumidifiers, and air conditioners — “an enormous amount of electricity,” Wilt notes.
To put into perspective just how much electricity that is, California reports that electricity usage devoted strictly to growing marijuana accounts for three percent of the state’s overall usage (or one percent of the United States’ total power consumption).
This figure results “in about 17 million tons of carbon dioxide per year or the output of seven sizable power plants,” Wilt writes.
Beyond these data, legalization will mean more cultivators end up growing marijuana outdoors as intended but even there, the environment will take a hit through an increase in deforestation and road construction.
These factors contribute to increases in “erosion, habitat destruction, river diversion, and forest fragmentation,” Wilt observes, arguing that growing marijuana outdoors will inevitably lead to pollution of lands and waters and that chemicals used will “poison wildlife through use of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and petroleum fuels.”
Furthermore, these poisons will make their way into the food chain, and this is a factor that marijuana cultivators are unlikely to fight against since restricting the use of chemicals dramatically reduces yield.
— annfro (@annfro) February 28, 2017
While a number of states across the U.S. have voted to legalize growing marijuana — at least for medical purposes, with fewer approving recreational — studies and columns like Wilt are sure to be fodder for opponents.
One such opponent is the current head of the U.S. Department of Justice, Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Maura Healey, lead prosecutor in Massachusetts, said in comments reported by MassLive that Sessions “is obsessed with marijuana.”
“I think if you go back and you look at any number of the statements that he’s made, the positions that he’s taken, he spends a tremendous amount of time focused on marijuana, where as a matter of law enforcement, where I see the issues right now, where I see the problems, are with fentanyl and heroin,” Healey said, adding that those areas are where she would “like to see more support and more focus and more attention.”
In light of this and the known harmful effects on the environment of growing marijuana, do you think states are wise to continue pursuing legalization? Sound off in the comments section below.