The Washington State Liquor Control Board's decision to allow marijuana to be grown outdoors could have an unintended consequence for the environment—a good one. Some environmental advocates believe that this alone will reduce the electrical use and associated carbon emissions in our state; after all, indoor cannabis production is estimated to consume 3-5% of the state's electrical grid power. Being allowed to grow cannabis outdoors may help to significantly reduce the carbon dioxide emissions and help to conserve electricity, which in turn could lead to a lower cost to electrical ratepayers across the state.
Peer reviewed research published in the Journal of Energy Policy estimates that 1% of the nation's power is used for indoor cannabis production. This is valued at $6 billion annually and would be a significant reduction in our electrical consumption annually. Indoor cannabis production also produces 15 million metric tons of CO2 which is equivalent to 3 million cars on the road each year.
While the environmental impacts of being allowed to grow marijuana "out in the open" have not been extensively researched, environmental advocates will be watching Colorado and Washington with renewed interest. If the outdoor production of marijuana does indeed reduce CO2 emissions and electricity consumption, you can be sure other states are bound to follow in our "reduced" carbon footprints.