Is the Only Green Thing about Cannabis the Almighty Dollar?

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

In my day (“You were lucky!“) cannabis (we called it “marijuana,” or “dope,” and not “pot,”, or “weed,” although cannabis is a weed) seemed like a small-scale affair. One purchased a baggie and shared it with friends. Rolling a joint was a skill both necessary and shared with others. And the hit was a lot more like beer than spirits; you might lie down, but you wouldn’t fall down. And a bong was really advanced technology!

Fast forward to 2021, where cannabis is the #1 cash crop in the United States, valued at $35.8 billion (2006), compared to corn ($23.3 billion), and wheat ($7.5 billion). Then fast foward to 2021:06, vaccination summer. Forbes:

Ben Kovler, the founder and chief executive of Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries, a cannabis company with operations across 12 states, is getting ready to sell more weed than ever this summer.

On Wednesday, Kovler held a ribbon cutting after expanding capacity at GTI’s 250,000-square-foot production facility in Oglesby, Illinois, where his company grows -end cannabis flower, produces pre-rolled joints, manufactures THC-infused edibles, and runs a cannabis beverage line. Right before Memorial Day weekend, as Covid-19 restrictions around the country ease and nearly half of Americans are now vaccinated, Kovler says GTI is focused on its goal to produce as much as product as possible to keep up with what will be a summer-long surge of demand.

“The Roaring Twenties is on,” says Kovler. “It’s unprecedented demand and we’re making supply—nothing fancy from us.”

Throughout the pandemic, the cannabis industry saw record levels of consumption. Americans bought $17.5 billion worth of marijuana in 2020, a 46% increase from 2019, and annual legal sales will reach $41 billion by 2025, according to Cowen. Yet, now that the economy is opening back up another demand surge is hitting the cannabis industry. “People also want to consume during high-energy good times—it’s a tidal wave of demand,” says Kovler. “The sun is out, people are seeing friends they haven’t seen for a long time coming out of the pandemic. Cannabis is evolving the American experience.”

Nice little industry. The only cloud on the horizon is that “evolving the American experience” with cannabis is an ecological disaster, the very reverse of the green that the green leaves of cannabis suggests. From Jason Quinn and Hailey Summers in Nature, “The greenhouse gas emissions of indoor cannabis production in the United States“:

In this study we analysed the energy and materials required to grow cannabis indoors and quantified the corresponding greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions using life cycle assessment methodology for a cradle-to-gate system boundary. The analysis was performed across the United States, accounting for geographic variations in meteorological and electrical grid emissions data. The resulting life cycle GHG emissions range, based on location, from 2,283 to 5,184 kg CO2-equivalent per kg of dried flower. The life cycle GHG emissions are largely attributed to electricity production and natural gas consumption from indoor environmental controls, high-intensity grow lights and the supply of carbon dioxide for accelerated plant growth.

(Yes, they actually pump CO2 into the grow houses.) As far as energy consumption goes, from, “The Cannabis Industry’s Dirty Energy Secret” (from 2020, predating the Nature study):

In 2014, the NPCC worked out that it takes 4,000 to 6,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy to produce a single kilogram of marijuana product. Electricity costs can represent 20% of the total cost of cannabis production.

Back in 2015, it was estimated that a 5,000-square-foot indoor facility in Boulder County consumed ~41,808 kilowatt-hours per month–or nearly 66x the average consumption by a household in the county. More than two percent of the city’s electricity usage went to marijuana production.

Evan Mills, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, says that production of legal marijuana in the US consumes 1% of total electricity, or 41.71 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity, at a cost of $6 billion per year.

That’s enough energy to power 3.8 million homes or the entire State of Georgia. Generating that much electricity spews out 15m tons of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2), or about what three million average cars would produce in a year.

In fact, the figure could be much higher than 1%. In Massachusetts, from Cannabis Business Times:

Indoor cannabis cultivation facilities in Massachusetts are consuming about 10% of all industrial electricity consumption in the state, according to an estimate from the Northeast Sustainable Cannabis Project.

In Colorado, from CBS Denver:

According to a report from the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, electricity use from cannabis cultivation and other products grew from 1 percent to 4 percent of Denver’s total electricity consumption between 2013 and 2018.

The authors of the Nature article break down the energy issues[1] in The Conversation:

Indoor cannabis production is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, and the environmental effects vary significantly depending on where it is being grown, according to our new study.

The lights used to grow weed indoors use a lot of electricity, but facilities require a lot of energy to maintain a comfortable environment for the plants. That means air conditioners or heaters to maintain proper temperatures. Producers also pump carbon dioxide inside to increase plant growth. This accounts for 11% to 25% of facilities’ greenhouse gas emissions.

But the biggest energy use comes from the need to constantly bring fresh air into growing facilities. All of this outside air needs to be treated so that it is the correct temperature and humidity. This is a very energy-intensive process since the air exchange rate is typically so high.

And here is a handy diagram that breaks down how indoor cannabis growing uses all that energy, from a brilliant infographic at High Country News[2]:

(If you picture a brewery or a craft-beer[3] operation, the difference in energy consumption is easy to see.)

But, I hear you say, cannabis is a weed (“ditch weed,” in the United States). How on earth did we come to grow it inside high energy warehouses?[4] One superficially straightforward answer is yield. From a Dutch seed catalog:

All things being equal, growing indoors is 500/80 = 6.25 times the yield of growing outdoors. That pays for a lot of electricity.

However, matters aren’t quite so simple. Policy played a role to play in driving cannabis cultivation indoors, in at least four areas: Illegality, Federalism, state regulation, and lack of price protection.

1) Illegality. For most of the life of the industry, cannabis growth and use has been illegal. (Parenthetically, most of the pioneers of the industry are still in prison. It’s shameful that the industry isn’t campaigning to have them freed, and their records cleared.) It’s easier to conceal a cannabis “grow” indoors than outdoors, whether from prying neighbors or law enforcement. So all the practical skills needed for cultivating marijuana have been skewed indoors from the beginning, including seed selection.

2) Federalism. Slate explains:

Currently, because marijuana is not legal at the federal level, cannabis growers are not allowed to ship their products over state lines…. [C]annabis sold in any state where it’s legal must be grown in-state. Because not every state boasts the year-round warm climate that cannabis thrives in, the vast majority of cannabis is grown indoors in large facilities.

HCN provides a county map of energy consumption for cannabis growth. Wintry Penobscot County:

Sunny Los Angeles County:

Because cannabis is not legal at the Federal level, it’s inherently impossible to grow marijuana in the least energy-consuming states. There is no equivalent to “the Corn belt” for cannabis.

3) State regulation. Slate again explains:

[M]any jurisdictions structure regulations in ways that favor indoor cultivation, such as setting license fees by the size of the growing area (yields are higher per square foot indoors) or by requiring that cultivation be co-located with (typically urban) retail sales. Others forbid outdoor cultivation altogether, including all of Illinois, where one can find massive indoor grow facilities plunked onto beautiful farmland. Massachusetts has only recently begun to allow it, the first trials meeting with success despite the northern climate.

(Massachusetts, however, isn’t trying hard enough[5].)

4) Lack of price protection. From a local Texas paper, the Victoria Advocate:

When hemp was first legally grown in Texas in 2019, he said, hemp sold for about $4 per percentage point of CBD. It is now selling at about 25 cents, in the range of about 10 to 30 cents per percentage point of CBD.

Dollars per percentage point of CBD is one of the common measures of hemp in Texas because unlike many agricultural products, a common, federally set commodity or futures contract system has not been established.

Futures contracts for commodities are one of the main price protections, Benavidez said, to protect against price volatility. While the commoditization of agricultural products directly impacts the harvested plants, it also helps to protect against drastic or unexpected changes to the price of products produced by those plants.

It makes sense to grow marijuana indoors in a controlled environment because that minimizes risk, since cannabis growers don’t have the protections against risk that other farmers have.

Clearly, from a greenhouse gases standpoint, all these policies need to be changed to foster outdoor cultivation, starting with legalization at the Federal level[6]. From News4Jax, referring to the Nature study:

While farming cannabis indoors burns through electricity, shifting crops outdoors would help shrink the carbon footprint by 96%, researchers found. Using a greenhouse would cut emissions nearly in half.

Here is a sketch of what an outdoor cannabis growing utopia would look like to me. Besides Federal legalization, including price protection for growers:

  • Legal plots for individual use
  • Co-ops for cultivation at scale
  • Agricultural Extension Service directed to develop growing regimens adapted to local conditions (including seeds)
  • Seed exchanges
  • Prohibition of patents on cannabis seeds
  • Prohibition of cannabis advertising nationally, and digital generally
  • Subsidized cannabis advertising in local print media (this one, a two-fer, obviously

(Somebody smarter than me could figure out a tax regime to force the indoor growers to pay for their externalities, plus a comfortable margin for error. This utopian proposal also eliminate many of the dystopian aspects of “evolving the American experience” with legal cannabis, including corporate marketing, public relations, seed patents, Vegas, and Uber delivery.)

Better living through hand-waving, I know. I think the main issue is seeds, which are currently optimized for indoor growth. (I am guessing they are also optimized for strength, so people like Ben Kovler can put the smallest possible dose in every can of energy drink or whatever.) But I don’t accept the idea that “ditch weed” gives an inherently lesser high than indoor weed, because all the genetic work has been focused on indoor conditions. But Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire shows us that plants are reaching out to us — engineering our desires, if you will — just as much as we reach out to them, consuming and enjoying. So, intuitively, I am confident that excellent outdoor varietals can be bred and grown, adapted to particular regions (like wine, cannabis should really have the terroir no warehouse can give.) Herb gives a[n, er] potted history of breeding:

Today, there are nearly 800 known varieties of cannabis that have been bred to perfection, in spite of prohibition. But what makes a strain unique? And why are there so many varieties? Here’s everything you need to know about cannabis breeding.

The prohibition of cannabis contributed to this confusion in part because many illegal grow ops were driven underground. Here, cultivators began to mix strains to create hybrids, and the gene pool became murkier. With few opportunities to test illegal strains in a lab, the genetic origins of the plants were largely identified by tracing which parent strains were mixed to create the offspring. Most breeders focused on THC content as a major selling point and selectively bred strains to produce the highest levels of THC and inadvertently bred other traits out of the plants.

Decades of underground cultivation mean that much of what we know about cannabis breeding comes from those who have risked their freedom to perfect the art of growing. As a result, we are only beginning to understand the techniques behind creating new strains or breeding old ones. But with legalization spreading quickly across the US and the world, that art is becoming an exact science that could soon give us some of the world’s most powerful and iconic new strains.

I see no reason why this process will not work for outdoor strains, just as well as for indoor.

* * *

From President Biden:

If we think that the threat of climate change really is existential, then we need to act like that. One excellent way to start would be to eliminate as many indoor cannabis grows as we can, as rapidly as possible, in favor of outdoor growth.


[1] Water is also an environmental concern.

[2] “High” as in literal altitude. For pity’s sake.

[3] If the environment is your second priority after recreational intoxication, stick with alchohol or caffeine. The authors present this chart:

[4] There is an article to be written on large “box” buildings, dropped as if from the sky across America. They include, besides malls, grow houses, warehouses, and data centers. There are probably others.

[5] From WBZ News:

[The Northeast Sustainable Cannabis Project] says the state’s pesticide laws for cannabis farming are part of the problem. Lewis said he talked to many pot farmers who would like to grow their plants outside — and therefore use less energy. The farmers said they can’t protect their plants from bugs and diseases without organic pesticides, which the state doesn’t allow for marijuana growing.

What on earth was the state Legislature thinking?

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. JTMcPhee

    So we got blockchain and commercial pot, to go with fracking and deep water drilling and soil dissipation and moar war, gonna kill us with coolness…

    Any more good news today?

  2. Pricknick

    I was a gorilla grower for years. Hauled water over long distances, using different routes to hide what I did.
    Then came the equipment and ability to grow indoors. At first, I was willing to pay the extra for security. Then came all of the issues. Fresh air requirements, heat and moisture removal were huge. I spent as much on those as I did on lighting. I was not into it for the money but to supply myself and others with fun and medicinal properties.
    In 2008, Michigan legalized medicinal marijuana grows that allowed outdoor cultivation under a locked, secure system. The only issue is that the grow could not be viewed from private property lines. For me this required a plastic covered greenhouse. As such, I still required an efficient ventilation system and had to replace the covering every three to five years. Kind of a downer but still less power consuming then indoor lighting.
    Next came the auto flower lines of feminized strains. The plants rarely grow over three feet so a properly located greenhouse minimized visual identification. Wonderfull plants.
    2018 brought the apex of marijuana cultivation in Michigan. While we are still required to maintain a locked secured grow area, the grow only requires concealment from public areas.
    We also are allowed to transfer up to 2.5 ounces free.
    They can say all they want about indoor grows producing more and better.
    Sometimes it true. I can never achieve the THC levels of a properly done indoor grow. But it’s highly (pun intended) unlikely the can achieve the quantities I do outdoors from a single tree.
    I’m a happy hippy again.

    1. Abi

      My friends and I were trying to grow our own. Like you mentioned we’ve struggled with the quality with outdoor growing which we prefer. Your story has inspired me to keep going Thanks for this

    2. ramjam

      I also was a guerilla indoor grower for some years in the 80s and 90s and electricity is cheap in my part of the country. For the the question of yield the example in the graphic above is a bit misleading, as pricknick mentioned.

      If you want to grow from seed to bud in 9 weeks, indoors will give a much bigger yield — however if you grow outdoors without the 9-week time limit, the plants can become huge with a monster yield to match. Indoors you can grow around 4 crops a year, outdoors it is just a single harvest. However, it is so much cheaper all around to grow outdoors, you do not need a building, no lights, no ventilation systems etc. Indoor weed can be insanely strong, more than necessary IMO. Although not as powerful, outdoor pot smells and tastes better.

    3. Rod

      I do outdoors from a single tree.
      what a sight for you–
      ime–feels wierd having to get on a 8′ ladder to check on things though and really ratchets up the “illicit”

  3. HotFlash

    Best weed I ever encountered was from a personal grow under my bf’s father’s old mink cages. In Michigan. Strong, yes, but nuanced. Would have been ’68/’69. The modern stuff I find uninteresting. Perhaps it’s just my age…

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The modern stuff I find uninteresting

      Like Coors, Bud Lite, etc. I see a lot of verbiage about how different the strains are, but I would imagine that under corporate guidance the strains will all converge to maximize THC and minimize all other differentiation, like plonk. While retaining the verbiage for marketing purposes.

      > Best weed I ever encountered was from a personal grow

      Good. Let’s center policy on maximizing that, not indoor cannabis plantations.

      1. lordkoos

        The many “strains” (not a scientific term) of weed are mostly marketing hype. It’s not difficult to blend types of cannabis, although breeding a consistent and stable phenotype is a much bigger project than simply “chucking pollen” to create some hybrids.

  4. Scott1

    It would seem that what is commonly available is meant more for its medicinal properties than to really get a guy high.
    It has been 50 years since I got to smoke some Panama Red.
    Someone told Bush Jr. the US could just buy the opium and hashish crop of Afghanistan to end much of what was really driving the war. “But we have the Drug War.” he was said to have answered.
    As prisoners those charged with marijuana offenses make ideal prison labor. It is harder to love the US in consideration of its Drug War, a way to ruin lives the US has embraced since the McCarthy years.

  5. Michael McK

    Yes yes, of course, all weed should be grown outdoors, preferably in your or a friend’s backyard or balcony. The same issues are involved with the vertical vegi farms in cities concept I see bandied about sometimes.
    A couple quibbles however: The seed catalogue showing outdoors to be less productive is totally misconstrued. The plant yield is listed per square meter for indoors but per plant outdoors. Since it is a ruderallis autoflower strain (not day length dependent) you would have several plants per sqm outdoors. You could probably do 5 or 6 cycles indoors but only 3 or 4 outside so indoors wins there. Also, I don’t know what WBZ’s sources are talking about because outdoor grown plants (in a healthy ecosystem) do not need pesticides at all. Wasps, yellowjackets etc eat almost all soft insects on the plants and if you do get a bad mite outbreak there are predator bugs available on the internet or local garden stores in the right neighborhoods. In some places there may be more potential for mold than a (well managed) indoor scene but regular spraying with compost tea and pruning solve most of those problems.
    While indoor weed compared to beer might not stack up so well, outdoor weed is far better for the environment (nevermind society) than alcohol consumption. It takes about 300 gallons of water for a pound and few major stoners go through more than a few pounds a year needing only a couple hundred square feet max. Sustainable dry-farmed vineyards produce about 700 bottles per acre while an irrigated maxed out chemically powered one may do 1800. A bottle wine a day takes half an acre of land or less land but a ton of water.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The seed catalogue showing outdoors to be less productive is totally misconstrued.

      Ah, thank you. Having not followed cannabis developments for some decades, my technical knowledge was lacking.

      1. CuriosityConcern

        I’d like to echo Michael McK, outdoor plants grown to full size will yield more flower than an indoor, especially the varieties that grow large. Indoor growers keep their plants smaller to fit within the confines of the environment. I’ve heard of commercial growers getting 4 cycles per year indoor, but only the one cycle outdoor.
        I’ve also heard Northern California growers lament the regulatory and permitting process, in that they say it is difficult to obtain a growing licence. And there are many tales of people losing their farms due to increased competition from corporate farming concerns. The surviving farmers have seem to have an understanding that they could be next unless they adopt the same footing.
        This isn’t first hand knowledge on my part, merely the gleanings from a lot of grower roundtable videos.

  6. Christopher Horne

    In New England, a dish of small cod is called scrawd.
    There’s an old joke about a professor who goes to Boston
    and, finding a taxi driver, he asks him. “Do you know where in this
    town I can get scrawed? Taxi driver turns to him and says,
    “Buddy, I have been asked that question hundreds of times,
    but that is the first time I’ve ever heard it in the pluperfect subjunctive!”

    Welcome to America, home of the pluperfect subjunctive.

  7. Grateful Dude

    here in the Sierra Foothills, we see plants over 15′ tall outdoors that produce as much as 7 lbs of trimmed buds apiece. Bigger plants are possible, but they get too big to handle. Highly skilled and motivated growers can do well. Even though, big crops are spotted by helicopter, raided, and ripped out by the local county code enforcement cops; family grows are mostly left alone.

    Indoors, LED lights are much cooler and less expensive to operate than the ballast kind. Successful growers use solar power as much as possible. Ever see a $100,000 home electric bill? Neither have I, but I’ve heard those tales firsthand.

    Just let anyone grow a few plants, outdoors is good enough. But the same folks who wouldn’t let us have it and punished us harshly for even trying to get it , are now trying to corner the markets, but some 80% of ‘weed’ production is still underground, as in unregulated, or so I heard recently…

    1. fajensen

      Ever see a $100,000 home electric bill?

      No, but, I have seen a 140000 DKK one.

      The local utility replaced my electric meter, and I suspect that the new one rolled over due to some glitch. Being the local utility, they just cancelled the meter and replaced the meter again. Didn’t worry me much.

      I read later that Seas NVE, the not-local utility, took several people to court over the same thing, losing of course, because, amongst other things like the manufacturer of those meters doing a recall, the incoming fuses will not supply that kind of load in a residential property. So, Seas NVE is documented to be mean, stupid and incompetent in their business as an electrical utility!

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > some 80% of ‘weed’ production is still underground

      It’s not all gentle hippies that are growing it. I read there are problems with pesticides, problems with water theft, and of course the protection and money people aren’t always the nicest of characters.

      This does make me wonder about the numbers from Nature, though.

      1. Maritimer

        Underground indeed. Before Corp Takeover of Weed, they used to build underground growops in BC. These also were powered by generator to avoid power consumption detection.

        In my neighborhood, they used to hoist buckets of weed up and down in trees to water the plants and avoid detection.

        A humorous book about pre Corp Weed is Romancing Mary Jane.

        Like organic food, worst thing was to legalize and regulate it. Just plays into the hands of centralized racketeering.

        1. lordkoos

          Some years ago I heard about an illegal grow op where the people buried a couple of long semi trailers underground and ran electricity to them.

      2. John Emerson

        In my experience in OR illegal marijuana growing and distribution came under the control of organized crime sometime in the late 70s. I never was a grower but friends were. It stands to reason, since professional criminals have ways of dealing with law that nice hippies don’t.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Could some of those professional criminals have secret law-enforcement protection or even backing?

      3. Grateful Dude

        This is great grow country, with good water from wells. The folks I know are artisans supporting their families.

        It can be done well with well water out in the open – all crops are thirsty in this climate, even better I’d bet, organically. Zoom down in maps. Anybody who can probably is doing it.

        And any process of obtaining serious cash underground attracts real criminals as well as entrepreneurs. I read once about drive-by shootings in a small Canadian border town that was a port of entry for cigarettes from the US. You might have heard about the Rasta church shootout …

        But there is enforcement here for large crops. Greenhouses, however, are hidden and can scale, so I imagine there’s some real money to be made for the right investment.

        Again, as long as the laws and codes are too restrictive, people will work underground. Just let everybody grow.

  8. The Rev Kev

    Serious question here. So the US is finally getting out of Afghanistan and its wealth of poppy fields. Supposing the Taliban ban planting poppy crops like they did when they were running the show before the invasion, what happens then? Somebody has to make up for that shortfall because markets you know. Now that marijuana is legal to plant, would we then start to see a push to legalize planting poppy seeds across America then? It could happen. An article said that ‘There are two big reasons for this lack of agricultural (poppy) entrepreneurship: effective U.S. law enforcement and the ease of importing heroin made from opium poppies grown elsewhere.’ But if Afghanistan dries up, this could change-

  9. vlade

    In Europe the police routinely raids illegal growers identified by enormous electricity bills. The “smarter” growers solve it by illegaly connecting to the network, which often means being discovered even faster unless you’re nearby something that has massive electricity consumption in the first place.

    The really smart ones go for solar, but it doesn’t work all year round, but at least you don’t get large bills all year round so it’s less obvious.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      We’ve optimized growing a weed to require “enormous electricity bills.”

      Wherever you look, a new sign of insanity:

      ESTRAGON: I can’t go on like this.

      VLADIMIR: That’s what you think.

      It is to be hoped that Vladimir is wrong….

      1. vlade

        TBH, growing the weed at least produces _something_. Hashing out zeroes and ones to participate in the largest pyramid scheme ever doesn’t do anything that a random wealth distribution would not do better and cheaper.

        We’re a society optimised to go beyond our limits. I really liked that quote from Space Merchants yesterday, it’s one of my favourite books ever (Kornbluth was a genius, pity he died so young. But he was also really really weird).

        1. ambrit

          Kornbluth was wierd? You ain’t seen nothing yet. Consider, just for starters, Campbell, editor of Astounding magazine from 1937-1971. Or the ever inventive L Ron Hubberd, (Scientology,) or the Ultra Libertarian clique, (centred around Heinlein, [his ‘personal’ life doesn’t bear scrutiny]) etc. etc. etc.
          From his underlying ethos, I’d consider Kornbluth to be one of the more sane Science Fictioneers.

          1. vlade

            Well, there was a collection of weirdos there, but I still find Kornbluth’s green teeth pretty weird :D

    2. PlutoniumKun

      Back in the 1990’s a colleague involved in energy conservation showed me some aerial IR shots taken over the industrial urban area west of Birmingham (UK). The purpose of the survey was to persuade business owners that they should invest in energy conservation – a photo of their factory/office ‘glowing’ with wasted heat at night was a very useful means of getting their attention. This was in the early days of the internet, so there was still a lot of discussion over when (and how) to put material like this online, but it was the intention.

      However, when they looked at the survey they identified many intense pinprick glows all over the suburbs. These were all, presumably, domestic attic cannabis farms. After a lot of discussion it was decided that it was probably better for everyone that this information didn’t go public.

      On a related issue, a few years ago I was talking to an engineer in charge of a small peat thermal power plant in the Irish midlands. They’d looked into using the waste heat for greenhouse tomato growing, but they couldn’t make the figures work (imports from Spain and Holland are just too cheap). At the time, I assumed they heated the greenhouses with suplus heated water, but I was surprised when he told me they were looking at directly injecting exhaust gases from the plant into the glasshouses. Its only reading this that I realise that the virtue of this may be the additional CO2 (although no doubt even with scrubbing, there would be a lot of other gases pushed in too).

    3. PlutoniumKun

      Incidentally, on the subject of hiding power bills, I understand that in Ireland (where cannabis growing can be very profitable since as an island nation its harder to smuggle high volume drugs into the country) most growing is in small industrial buildings in anonymous estates. Nobody is surprised when one of those has a very high bill.

      A Vietnamese friend tells me that these are mostly operated by Vietnamese drug gangs – they set up a bed and fridge with a few months stock of food and bring in an illegal immigrant, preferably one who can’t speak English (or can claim not to) to live inside it for months, looking after the plants. The building can then more or less be sealed with no obvious ‘activity’ around it to draw attention. If its raided, all the police get is some miserable guy from a small town in Vietnam who will claim that he was forced to do it. Whether his silence is bought by bribes or threats to his family at home I don’t know, but its a very effective way of ensuring the main growers can’t be identified. The guy on the site usually gets a year or two in prison and a free ticket home.

      1. lordkoos

        A few years ago a ring of grow houses were busted in Renton, a suburb south of Seattle. The operation was run by Vietnamese immigrants. Not sure if the descriptor “drug gangs” is accurate… just people trying to make some money and as far as I know there was never any violence involved. I knew a couple of white Americans who had growing franchises too… they were never caught.

      2. eg

        The house six doors down (a rental at the time) was a Vietnamese grow-op which got busted over a decade ago — I’m fairly certain that it was thermal imaging that got them caught, because none of us neighbours had the slightest idea what was going on until the SWAT team showed up one day.

  10. the suck of sorrow

    This is a terrific critique of the commercial marijuana industry. I do have a question however. (It’s rhetorical, not a request for work!) If legal weed consumes 10% of Mass industrial electric use, then what comprises the other 90%?
    One small western Mass town with a triving pot business is closely located to a major defense contractor.

  11. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

    It’s totally legit here in Oregon. I know people who grew giant plants on the slopes of Mt. Hood. No artificial light, water or anything. They harvested the stuff in big canvas bags.
    Making anything an economy of scale industry is going to increase its ‘carbon footprint’. I predict Cargill will make genetically modfied cannabis and put all the little growers out of business.

  12. Bruno

    “What on earth was the state Legislature thinking?” A state Legislature thinking?? Oxymoron alert!

  13. Peter Pan

    The cannabis business is under pressure from the hemp business. Hemp is being processed into either CBD isolate or distillate. Using organic chemistry, the CBD can then be processed into synthetic delta-8, delta-9 and delta-10 THC as a distillate. This is less expensive than growing & processing cannabis.

    While there is a huge black market for this type of distillate, it’s also made it’s way into regulated markets. This is causing significant distress among cannabis growers, especially the smaller outdoor farms.

    The Cannabis Observer in WA has been reporting on this matter with insight from regulators, growers, processors, labs (testing) and scientists. Here’s an example of the complexity.

    WSLCB – Deliberative Dialogue – THC – Cannabis Plant Chemistry
    (June 3, 2021) – Summary:

    1. lordkoos

      I’m not sure I understand this — you are saying that CBD can be used to produce THC? That’s news to me.

  14. Henry

    With so much money at stake it won’t be long before bioengineering puts many of the producers out of business as the genes for THC and CBD are engineered into something that can be grown in a vat.

    I also imagine that you could solve the energy issue pretty quickly if you just allowed garden centers to sell a flat of cannabis starts to make it easier for people to grow a few plants in their backyard. I don’t know the shelf life, but I suspect that would be enough to get most users through the year. That of course would crash the market as well as the tax revenue so not likely to happen.

    1. jefemt

      Dunno. Perfectly legal to home brew and make one’s own wine and spirits, and lo and behold, not many Yankees actually doing it. Same with home gardens, putting food by.

      Comparative economic advantage meets sloth.

  15. drumlin woodchuckles

    ” (Somebody smarter than me could figure out a tax regime to force the indoor growers to pay for their externalities, plus a comfortable margin for error.” )

    Somebody smarter than a lot of us already figured it out. His name is James Hansen and he is a retired NASA atmospheric scientist. His plan is the FeeTax-Dividend charged against all fossil energy at the well head or mine mouth before permitting it to be sold onward. The FeeTax ( paid by the First Seller for permission to sell) will then be wrapped into the price-at-first-sale by the First Seller. Every subsequent seller or re-seller or user or re-user who had to pay the passed-along price of that FeeTax gets to pass-it-along further, all the way down to the very end purchaser of whatever.

    The fossil carbon FeeTax is supposed to be steadily raised to inconvenient, then burdensome, then tortorous, then exterminative , levels on the permission-to-make-the-first-sale on every fossil carbon product. The goal is to exterminate fossil carbon from the energy portfolio.

    The dividend ( exactly the same amount per person) goes to every legal resident of the United States.
    Hansen’s fond hope is that people receiving the dividend will spend it on low-fossil or no-fossil items where the money will “go farther”. Hansen’s long-range fond hope is that as the FeeTax rises high enough to exterminate the fossil carbon industry, the FeeTax receipts will shrink to eventual zero and so will the dividend, because it will no longer be needed because the fossil carbon industry will be exterminated.

    That over time would exterminate many of the externalities of energy-subsidized indoor drug-hemp growing.

    Hemp for fiber, seed, oil, etc. is already being grown outside anyway. Elements of the Acres USA community are already doing their own self-funded research on how to grow low-drug hemp for non-drug uses.

    The Michigan-legal law allows for any Michigan resident to grow up to 12 plants per year for individual use. So there is a little single state wide semi-topia right there.

  16. Sue inSoCal

    I took a gander at the cost of seeds. Holy moly!! Talk about prohibitively expensive. Better not have any germination failures! I would imagine big tobacco is going to take this over, unfortunately. (If you are pro reparations and/or a small business/co-op fan, this a perfect choice for these, imho, rather than creating yet another mega or global corporate behemoth.) You have two choices of this stuff now: stun and completely whacked out. No mild Gold or Panama Red or what was called “Tucson dirt weed” in the Jurassic Era. Never been a fan of the stuff personally, but I predict this is going to be our Soma and pain control while we continue the useless war on drugs. (And yes, free the old growers…)

    1. Copeland

      Yes! Holy $$$ the price of seed (they sell them in a “package of one”!)! I’ve never used and never grown cannabis but I have chronic pain & fatigue, and I’m a very experienced gardener so I reckoned, why not? So I looked into it since we live in a legal state (OR)…I nearly fell off my chair. So much for saving money by growing under Sol!

      1. lordkoos

        You need to make friends with some growers. Seed prices are ridiculous, but it’s also pretty easy to make your own. Buy seeds that are not feminized and they will yield female and male plants… breed them once and you will have hundreds seeds.

        An excellent documentary about the nexus of crime and marijuana growing in northern California is Netflix’ Murder Mountain.

  17. Skk

    But nobody has yet mentioned how beautiful a weed plant in flower looks! It’s called nub porn I’m told. I’m trying to grow the regulation 6 plants($5/seed if you buy 10, get 10 free), from seed, mannnn it’s slow outdoors in Socal. Compared to the sunflower from seed, and luffah from seedfor sure. Following and trading the cannabis stocks is an enormous education. Long term expectation? Imagine the growth of alcohol products from the end of prohibition 30s to Diageo, Constellation brands now.

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