The EPA has estimated that the greenhouse gas emissions from the cultivation of cannabis are approximately 40% lower than those of traditional outdoor cannabis cultivation. According to their analysis, the use of LED lighting, hydroponic systems and indoor aquaponics could significantly reduce these emissions.

According to a new study, New Mexico’s geographical location may make it a desirable location for cultivating cannabis, that, when grown in the right environment, could help deliver a greener product. New Mexico’s climate is considered to be conducive to growing cannabis, as it is located at a latitude that is relatively close to the equator, and therefore has a warm and dry climate, which is conducive for the plant.

New Mexico has already proven itself as one of the best states in the country for growing cannabis, according to a report from Green Market Report. While states like Colorado, Oregon and Washington have the reputation for being cannabis-friendly, New Mexico is often overlooked when people talk about the best places in the country to grow. The state boasts 17 years of medical marijuana experience and has a light-touch regulatory system that is generally seen as the most “business-friendly” of the lot.

New-Mexicos-climate-may-lend-to-a-smaller-carbon-footprint

 

One of the main areas of concern while the New Mexico Legislature was contemplating a measure that ultimately became the Cannabis Regulation Act was water usage. Finally, legislators decided that cannabis producers would have to show that they have legal access to water.

However, one problem that was not addressed, at least not in depth, was the amount of electricity required to run potentially hundreds of grow operations throughout the state. According to a research published in March of this year, as states come closer to legalizing adult-use cannabis, greenhouse gas emissions and energy usage have increased. The research also revealed that some of the highest energy-use locations in the United States were in the southwest and midwest. While state authorities do not have any particular energy limits for cannabis producers, two individuals acquainted with the business say the state’s climate will likely play a significant role in keeping cannabis’ carbon impact low. 

Indoor growth, where temperature control is dependent on fans, high-powered lighting, and produced carbon dioxide, produces significant amounts of greenhouse emissions and unnecessary energy usage, according to a research published earlier this year. 

There are presently no limits or guidelines for energy usage, according to a spokesman for the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department, which supervises the state’s Cannabis Control Division.

Even though there are no present limits on cannabis energy usage, Susan Torres, a spokeswoman for the state’s Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Agency, said the department would “search for methods to monitor [growers’] energy effect on the state.” 

“It’s essential to remember that the industry’s carbon impact is linked to the power mix, and with the adoption of the Energy Transition Act, New Mexico is already on a zero-carbon path,” Torres said. “Through programs like the Solar Market Development Tax Credit, which aims to make solar installations more cheap, New Mexico has already started to encourage local companies to install solar panels.”

The state’s sunny days and general environment, according to Wylie Atherton, director of cultivation at medical cannabis producer Seven Point Farm, make it an ideal location to use outdoor grows rather than indoor grows, which need more supplementary lighting, dehumidifiers, and artificial wind. 

“We’re very well-suited here in New Mexico to have a much smaller footprint for energy usage,” Atherton said. 

Following a nationwide crackdown on outdoor grows in the 1970s, Atherton claims that many individuals started bringing their illicit plants inside, necessitating the creation of an artificial habitat that resembled outdoor settings. He claims that indoor farming may offer a “fairly fine degree of control for the cultivator,” and that some New Mexico farmers are moving to growing in greenhouses or completely outdoors after decades of cultivating inside due to the threat of significant criminal fines. 

Indoor farming, according to Atherton, is a long cry from conventional farming. 

“[Indoor grows] are much more like a data center than a farm,” he said. “They have to illuminate every square foot of their warehouse, or whatever their manufacturing plant looks like. Every square foot they illuminate consumes energy, not only for lighting but also for environmental control.”

Even in New Mexico, though, it is not possible to grow fully outdoors all of the time. Shorter light hours and freezing temperatures in the winter have driven many plants into greenhouses, where they can be grown with less additional lighting, according to Atherton.  

Even if farmers of what Atheron referred to as a “light-hungry” plant aren’t particularly concerned about energy use and its effect on climate change, money may force them outside. 

It doesn’t make sense to run a large-scale grow in the constraints of a warehouse, according to Duke Rodriguez, president and CEO of Ultra Health.   

“In the beginning, we used a warehouse-style grow, which is when you take a commercial facility and add lights to it, and it’s a terrible model,” Rodriguez said. “It began that way in Colorado, and they soon realized it wasn’t cost-effective.”

However, it is more practical for smaller grow operations, according to Rodriguez, and he expects that many companies with microbusiness licenses would choose to grow inside. 

Increasing the size of operations, however, would be tough for companies that want to expand within, according to Rodriguez. 

Outdoor growth has the potential to be scaled, according to Rodriguez. “If you utilize a building in a city, you are fairly limited to the scale of that structure.” 

However, the size of the cannabis business in New Mexico is still unknown. There are now over 30 approved medicinal cannabis growers in the state, each with a different size of grow facility. State authorities have until January 1, 2022 to begin granting licenses, and legal sales must begin by April 1, 2022, according to legislation. It will most likely take months of data to get a comprehensive picture of how cannabis affects energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in New Mexico. 

Indoor grows, on the other hand, Rodriguez believes will be obsolete in a few years. 

“Within a decade, and perhaps as soon as five years, I believe it is very unlikely that a single warehouse will develop in New Mexico.”

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • what is carbon footprint
  • carbon neutral
  • carbon offset
  • ghg emissions
  • carbon footprint for kids
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