Marijuana Cultivation and Negative Externalities

Marijuana is used as a psychoactive drug or medicine. “Marijuana (herbal cannabis),consists of the dried flowers and subtending leaves and stems of the female Cannabis plant.” Marijuana can be produced in a number of different ways but the most prevalent method is outdoor or indoor cultivation.  Most of outdoor cannabis cultivation in the United States occurs on public lands. This allows cultivators take advantage of remote areas to minimize the risk of forfeiture from the government. In retrospect, home-grown cultivators have knowledge in breeding and nurturing a variety of different strains of marijuana. Cultivators concentrate on creating various types of marijuana by controlling the growth process.“This is done by using heating lamps, fluorescent bulbs, ventilation and soil nutrients, hydroponics (growing without soil by using a liquid solution which contains nutrients and minerals) and salt-free sand.” All these factor require a large amount of electricity.

The large amount of electricity needed for the cultivation of marijuana results in a negative externality because it uses an excessive amount of electricity. Four indoor plants sucks as much as much electricity as 29 refrigerators. A scientist, Evan Mills, discovered that “legalized indoor marijuana-growing operations account for 1% of total electricity use in the US, at a cost of $6bn per year. Annually, such consumption produces 15m tons of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2), equal to that of three million average cars.” The excessive amount of energy used results in large amounts of CO2 emission which is a negative externality.

Once the social cost is taken into account, the quantity of the goods consumed decreases. In order to account for the negative externality, in this case CO2 emissions, the price for the good increases which leads to a lower quantity being consumed.

Why Marijuana is Not Green


  1. Nicky Tynan Said,

    December 2, 2016 @ 4:13 pm

    Using a lot of electricity is not itself an externality. If buyers and sellers of marijuana know the costs of electricity and are paying for it in the price of marijuana it is not an external cost. The emissions from fossil fuel generated electricity may be the external cost but to be sure about this you need to know the source of electricity.

  2. colliag Said,

    December 3, 2016 @ 10:42 pm

    While this isn’t actually an externality because the producers are paying for the electricity and that is in turn charged to the consumer, this is really a quite incredible article. I’ve never thought of the energy or water use of marijuana as I know that I am not contributing to that market, yet it is important for me to know.

  3. haotian xia Said,

    December 9, 2016 @ 1:33 am

    these costs generated by domestical plantation of marijuana are not externalities as they are part of the trade. These things have simple raised the cost for domestic plantation, which as a result, increases the price of marijuna. In terms of externalities, the amount of pollutants emitted by generating electricity is an externality.

  4. oconnojo Said,

    December 10, 2016 @ 5:11 pm

    While using the electricity itself isn’t an externality the idea that marijuana isn’t green because the energy it demands is accurate. The high usage causes more energy to be created.

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Comment