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

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

United Way celebrates seven decades of impact in Southern Interior

Organization sees issues with poverty, mental health and addictions, heighten during the pandemic

Primary Care Networks coming for Okanagan Nation Alliance communities

New partnerships will provide Syilx members with better, culturally-safe primary care

Okanagan rental housing market facing challenges due to COVID-19

The impact on real estate markets remains a wildcard

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

Public input sharpens vision of Oyama Ithmus Park

Proposed project to shape the long-term future of waterfront land in Lake Country

COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kelowna church service

Attendees of Calvary Chapel Kelowna’s Sept. 13 morning service may have been exposed

Kelowna man injured during arrest sues RCMP

Supreme Court civil claim alleges Dustin Blondin was the victim of an ‘unprovoked attack’

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

PHOTOS: Ghost sighting in Vernon’s Polson Park

Mom and daughter photoshoot brings joy and laughter to bystanders

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

2 British Columbians arrested, 3 at large in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

Parks Canada not responsible for Mount Kobau blockade

Nearby residents have been vocal about plans to turn the area into a national park

Most Read