Dyer: Bunker cannabis is the opposite of green

Kristy Dyer is a new columnist to Black Press Media who writes about the environment

Legalization of cannabis has undoubtedly been a good thing. Legalization is bringing hidden economies out of the dark, and an entire generation of cannabis enthusiasts are trying on entrepreneurship or gainfully employed with benefits. I recently listened to a passionate speech about the importance of organic cannabis. So it was a shock to discover that legal cannabis, rather than being part of a green future, is going to set us back by being an energy hog.

Data from Report of Findings: Greenhouse Energy Profile Study 2019/09/27 by The Posterity Group Ottawa, ON

Reading websites and shareholder reports I discovered “cultivation” is totally unlike any other agriculture. Company web pages and shareholder reports actually boast about “controlled environment”; the cannabis is grown without any input from nature. Really, these companies are legal replicas of illegal underground bunkers.

Data from Report of Findings: Greenhouse energy profile study 2019/09/27 by The Posterity Group Ottawa, ON

Bunkers are not the only way to grow cannabis. Cannabis can be grown in lit greenhouses where the sun can provide most of the lighting and the heat. It can be grown in a traditional greenhouse, which extends the natural growing season, using a small amount of heat to prevent freezing. And like 90% of our food crops, it could be grown outdoors. Remember these are not winter tomatoes, shipped fresh to the store. The final product is dried so there’s no special value in having a plant mature in January.

Data from Report of Findings: Greenhouse energy profile study 2019/09/27 by The Posterity Group Ottawa, ON

Bunkers use almost twice the electricity of lit greenhouses and twenty times that of a traditional greenhouse. It’s worth noting that there are some environmental improvements over illegal bunkers. Growers are limited to chemicals considered safe for consumption. 100% of illegal-bunker heat, lights, and ventilation fans were run by propane generators. Now legal bunkers can use grid electricity: if your electricity is primarily hydropower, even better.

Some growers recognize the problem. Freedom Cannabis (bunker cultivation), outside Edmonton, Canada, has built a solar array which produces 1.8 gigawatts. Unfortunately that is a drop in the bucket: 1.8 gigawatts covers 8% of its power needs.

There are tools for improving energy efficiency: Cannabis PowerScore allows growers to enter details (anonymously so it won’t affect your stock price) and show where you could apply energy efficiency improvements. However, it benchmarks you to similar growers, so it doesn’t change the basic fact that bunker-grown cannabis uses a lot more electricity than greenhouse or outdoor cultivation. Consumers need a different handle on energy use: preferably energy per ounce of dried weed.

Bunker-grown cannabis uses a lot more electricity

As a consumer, if you shop farmer’s markets or buy organic, you should know how your weed is grown. If you can smoke weed from a traditional greenhouse or lit greenhouse (lit, get it?) then your cannabis will be in line with your values. Better yet, grow your own outdoors. The “Golden Mile” of the British Columbia Kootenays had a reputation throughout North America of producing the best cannabis. That’s outdoor cultivation and good for the planet.

Missed a column?

Dyer: What should you do with the climate action plan?

About Kristy Dyer:

Kristy Dyer has a background in art and physics and consulted for Silicon Valley clean energy firms before moving (happily!) to sunny Penticton. Comments to Kristy.Dyer+BP@gmail.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Majority of Salmon Arm shoppers aren’t objecting to mandatory masks

Two of the businesses requiring masks say most customers don’t mind but one person spit at employee

‘Schools are healthy’: IH medical health officer

Children have a low risk of catching and spreading COVID-19

North Okanagan-Shuswap MP: Throne speech shows failures in COVID-19 response

Mel Arnold critical of Trudeau government’s throne speech Wednesday

2020 overdose death toll rises to 73 in the Okanagan

Just under half of the deaths occurred in Kelowna

COVID-19 picture ‘much clearer,’ says Interior Health president

As fall routines set in, IH CEO Susan Brown reminds public to be vigilant in preventative practices

Kamloops Mounties happened upon alleged gang-related robbery, kidnapping

Michael Mathieson is charged with armed robbery, unlawful confinement and kidnapping

Pandemic derails CP Holiday Train

Canadian Pacific will work to get donations to food banks while also producing an online music concert

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Interior Health reports five new COVID-19 cases

Across the region, 34 cases are active

Vanderhoof’s Brian Frenkel takes on top job in tough times

We can get through this, new local government leader says

Penticton quadruple murder trial begins in Kelowna next month

John Brittain, 69, is facing three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder

Historic BC Tree Fruits head office in Okanagan for sale

The company’s CEO said the decision was necessary due to a fickle fruit market

Local councils important, Horgan says as municipal conference ends

B.C. NDP leader says ‘speed dating’ vital, online or in person

Most Read