Green buds

Environmental cost of growing indoors is luring the marijuana industry back into the sunshine

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Indoor (Purple Kush, left) and outdoor (Big Buddha Cheese): It's getting harder to tell the difference
PHOTOS COURTESY SPARC

steve@sfbg.com

CANNABIS Most marijuana sold in Bay Area dispensaries is grown indoors, where the ability to precisely control conditions creates the kind of buds — strong, dense, crystal-covered, fragrant, beautiful — that consumers have come to expect. But that perfection comes at a high price, both financially and environmentally.

So some local leaders in the medical marijuana movement have begun to nudge the industry to return to its roots, to the days before prohibition and the helicopter raids of the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting chased the pot growers indoors. They say it's time for California to start growing more of its cannabis outdoors again, in the soil and sunlight, just like the rest of the state's crops.

Growers have long known how inefficient it is to grow indoors. All they need to do is look at their huge monthly energy bills. Between the powerful grow lights, constantly running air conditioners, elaborate ventilation systems, pumps and water purifiers, and heaters used for drying and curing, this is an energy-intensive endeavor.

But a widely circulated study released in April — "Energy Up in Smoke: The Carbon Footprint of Indoor Cannabis Production" by Evan Mills, a researcher with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory — revealed just what a huge cumulative toll the practice was taking on California and the planet.

It found that indoor pot production accounts for about 8 percent of California household energy use, costing about $3 billion annually and producing about 4 millions tons of greenhouse gases each year, the equivalent of 1 million automobiles. Producing one joint was the equivalent of driving 15 miles in a 44 mpg car.

"The emergent industry of indoor Cannabis production results in prodigious energy use, costs, and greenhouse-gas pollution. Large-scale industrialized and highly energy-intensive indoor cultivation of cannabis is driven by criminalization, pursuit of security, and the desire for greater process control and yields," Mills wrote in the report's summary.

Yet while opponents of marijuana seized on the report to condemn the industry, proponents say there's a very simple solution to the problem: grow it outdoors. And with the artisanship and quality in the fields and greenhouses now rivaling that of indoor buds, the biggest barriers to moving most marijuana production outdoors are federal laws and the biases of pot consumers.

"There's a misconception out there that indoor is better marijuana than outdoor, but we don't think that's true," Erich Pearson, who runs the San Francisco Patient and Resource Center (SPARC) dispensary and sits on the city's Medical Cannabis Task Force. "Marijuana is a plant that came from the earth and that's where we should grow it, just like our food."

 

INDOOR VS. OUTDOOR

There are definitely some benefits to growing indoors, beyond just the ability to hide it from the prying eyes of law enforcement. The grow cycles are shorter, allowing for multiple harvests around the year. The generally small operations and precise control over growing conditions also tend to produce the best-looking buds, which command the highest prices and win the top prizes in competitions.

Kevin Reed, who runs Green Cross — a venerable medical marijuana delivery service that works closely with an established group of growers — told us there are several reasons why indoor buds have dominated the marketplace.

Comments

...which provides safe, clean access to product.

Why do you find it strange that they would reach out to patients in their own neighborhood? Hint: any given neighborhood has many people who either are patients, or ought to consider becoming patients.

Flyers are your smoking gun? I get annoying junkmail from Walgreens, etc., stuffed into my small mailbox: are they just trolling for druggies then? I also get nicer, upscale pamphlets from local hospitals: please consider spending your medical insurance dollars with us (should you be so fortunate).

Convalescent homes?! Again with the procrustean medical tropes! If medical cannabis doesn't fit your conventional notions of medicine (bleak and dire that such conventions are), it must be fraudulent and medically irrelevant?

The Haight, the Mission, Polk Gulch, SOMA, Oaktown all have one thing in common: low opposition to dispensaries. Y'know, tolerance.

Why is the Castro the Castro? That gratitude you likely have felt to the Castro at one time or another, cannabis people feel to the Haight. Yet, you bang on dismissively about stoners, stoner, stoners as if it were some sort of indictment of their trivial non-patient-ness. You might remember when it was socially acceptable to reduce and dismiss the concerns and aspirations of the entire gay community to what XXXXXXXXs do to get off, i.e. too base to bear serious consideration. Seeing a future beyond that was progressive, and for outsiders a considerable leap of faith. For cannabis people, this is how it is now.

Why then should you think yourself a fool that your vote may have had the side-effect of cannabis prohibition being undermined a bit, as if that's somehow a tragedy? This hardly makes it all a lie. It is, however, a glimpse of a progressive future, one well worth abetting.

Posted by Disappointed Reader on Aug. 24, 2011 @ 11:02 pm

A Ft. Bragg councilman was shot and killed after stumbling upon a pot-growing operation in Mendocino County. The suspect is an operator of the operation.

Click here:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/08/28/MNL11KT5H2.D...

Posted by Arthur Evans on Aug. 28, 2011 @ 7:30 pm

Thanks, Disappointed Reader, for your post above. Some comments follow –

You say:

“Why do you find it strange that they [the Vapor Room] would reach out to patients in their own neighborhood?”

Oh, please. They were reaching out to stoners, not patients.

Come take a walk some day along Haight Street from Masonic to GG Park. You’ll see lots of the stoners and dealers hanging out on the street.

The migratory street people get “medical marijuana cards” for themselves, buy “medical marijuana” from “dispensaries,” and then sell the pot to tourists and kids.

I was on the #33 Ashbury bus the other day. There were some school kids on it. They were laughing and joking about how “the homeless” in the Haight had tried to sell them pot.

Open and your eyes and see what’s coming down in this neighborhood.

You say:

“I get annoying junkmail from Walgreens, etc., stuffed into my small mailbox.”

You’re justifying the advertising from the cannabis capitalists by the propaganda you get from Walgreen’s?

You don’t see a certain irony here?

You say:

“If medical cannabis doesn't fit your conventional notions of medicine…”

Nonsense!

As I mentioned, I’ve helped take care of people who have died from AIDS who got medical benefit from pot.

However, the system as implement in SF is a fraud. It has very little to do with medicine and everything to do with consumerism and capitalism.

You say:

“Why is the Castro the Castro? That gratitude you likely have felt to the Castro at one time or another, cannabis people feel to the Haight.”

It’s fine with me that stoners admire the Haight. It’s not fine, though, that businesses are pretending to sell medicines when in fact they are marketing to a recreational drug crowd.

You say:

“You might remember when it was socially acceptable to reduce and dismiss the concerns and aspirations of the entire gay community…”

As I’ve said repeatedly, I support the full legalization of marijuana, just as I support the full legalization of gay relationships.

By the way, I’ve been arrested nine times in actions of peaceful disobedience on behalf of gay civil rights, also been attacked and beaten for standing up for the gay community.

I don’t remember seeing you on any of those occasions.

You're in no position to lecture me about the meaning of gay liberation.

You say:

“Why then should you think yourself a fool that your vote may have had the side-effect of cannabis prohibition being undermined a bit, as if that's somehow a tragedy?”

The “medical marijuana” system as it actually exists has served to turn certain neighborhoods, mostly marginal, into dumping grounds for drug-dealers and the drug trade.

A better solution is the full legalization of pot.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Aug. 28, 2011 @ 9:38 pm

Arthur Evans claims:
"A better solution is the full legalization of pot."

Decriminalization is the reasonable thing for the planet, our communities and our children.

Legalization will engender the status quo, ignorance and recidivism.

Marijuana has never needed some mythical "medical status" to engender the community it has. That is pure myth.

Let us be factual, accountable and truthful.

Posted by Nusfrat Jones on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 1:30 am

"Marijuana has never needed some mythical 'medical status' to engender the community it has."

- Nusfrat Jones

Then why have the cannabis capitalists pushed "medical marijuana"?

We all know the answer. The system now pushed under the name of "medical marijuana" is a scam.

It allows the cannabis capitalists to access the huge stoner market while pretending to meet the medical needs of patients. At the same time, the cannabis capitalists avoid the usual controls over the creation and distribution of medicines.

I say, legalize marijuana, and the let the stoners have their pot, for whatever reason they want.

I'm a firm believer in the inalienable right of people to dull their own minds as they see fit. The compelling urge to dull one's mind now finds many outlets: drugs, alcohol, TV, religious and political sects, popular music, public education, etc.

It's foolish to try and shut down these outlets. The effort to do so won't work. Among human beings, the only force stronger than the urge to dull one's mind is the hunger for sex.

Let them have what they crave, and give the rest of us a break.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 8:55 am

The pervasive desire among human beings to dull their minds has arisen because of a quirk in evolution.

The human species developed a powerful brain as part of the evolutionary process of gaining mastery over the natural environment. The new brain power accompanied the rise of tool use and language. All worked together to promote human survival and domination.

Then a funny thing happened. Humans with the newly developed brain power started to reflect on questions of meaning. And that development provoked what the existentialist philosophers of the 20th century called the existential crisis.

Thinking minds realized that human life and the cosmos have no meaning in and of themselves. All the horrendous suffering that we find throughout human history and among animal life in nature serve no grand purpose.

Likewise, the brute violence of cosmic processes, such as the formation and destruction of stars and entire galaxies, serve no higher end. The universe, in and of itself, is absurd.

This realization triggers the desire to dull the mind. The dulling process today is facilitated through drugs, alcohol, TV, religious and political sects, popular music, and public schools. All these offer strategies of denial for blocking out awareness of the existential crisis.

The proper antidote is to realize that meaning is humanly created, not naturally found. Meaning is created through cultivation of character, development of intellect, co-operation with others in promotion of the common good, and artistic and cultural creativeness.

The creation of meaning requires minds that are clear, sober, healthy, focused, energetic, inquiring, and critical.

The process of developing such a mind, and using it to create meaning, is enlightenment.

Drugs can’t compare.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 12:28 pm