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

Vernon family shares story of son’s cancer recovery to encourage blood donation

Finlay Ritson’s parents can’t donate blood, but hope his story will encourage others to do so

WATCH: North Okanagan seniors stay fit in self-isolation

Residents have taken to their balconies to follow along in exercise class

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: Kelowna woman worried over increased prescription dispensing fees

The Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

COVID-19: Online tool helps vulnerable people in North Okanagan receive aid

United Way’s tool connects those in need with pre-screened volunteers in the local area

General exposure to public low after inmate tests positive for COVID-19: Interior Health

The Okanagan Correctional Centre inmate is receiving appropriate care

‘Hold our line’: 29 new cases of COVID-19 announced in B.C.

Saturday’s number of new cases marks the lowest in weeks.

UPDATE: Coronavirus concerns prompt event cancellations across the Okanagan

This is a running list of events cancelled across the Okanagan

Critic, workers’ group ‘disappointed’ Trudeau chose Amazon to distribute PPE

Amazon Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that it is working with Canada Post, Purolator

COVID-19: ‘Think before you click,’ north Okanagan city says

City of Armstrong urges residents stay safe online as phone, email scams on rise amid pandemic

North Okanagan district discourages campfires amid COVID-19

Campfire ban in effect for RDCO but not for neighbour district in the north

Vernon Superstore sees long lineups amid COVID-19

Long lineups Saturday evidence customers following social-distancing protocols

Full World COVID-19 update: National Guard collect ventilators in New York; Spain, Italy improve

Comprehensive coronavirus update with news from around the world.

COVID-19: Upcoming season a question mark for Okanagan drive-in movie theatre

Enderby’s Starlight Drive In Theatre says it’s working on limiting capacity, among other safeguards

Two people fined after B.C. police spot online ads re-selling 5,000 surgical, N95 masks

Police confiscated the masks, being sold at inflated prices, and now working with Fraser Health

Most Read