By Marisa DeZara
Global climate change is good for cannabis. According to a recent study published in The Daily Climate, global warming could catalyze the already rapid increase in the potency of marijuana’s medicinal and psychoactive properties. However, there are two sides to this ironic story.
First, marijuana cultivation remains a considerable contributing factor to global warming. The energy used for growing cannabis accounts for approximately 9 percent of total household electricity use in California alone. Moreover, in California, nearly 60 million gallons of water are consumed each day to sustain outdoor growing. The accumulated waste from both electric and water used for growing marijuana is astronomical and agitates California’s ongoing drought.
On the other hand, while global temperatures increase, the strength of marijuana is expected to do the same. The plant thrives in areas where higher carbon dioxide concentrations coexist with sparse water conditions.
Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, led research on marijuana growth. He noted that “marijuana planted outdoors is likely to become stronger and need less water to grow.”
Ziska’s research focuses predominantly on atmospheric CO2 levels and its impact on plant life. The research shows most plants respond better to higher levels of CO2 and only about 4 percent of plant species have adapted to lower CO2 levels.
Thus, marijuana—among the majority of plants that have not adapted to lower CO2 levels—feels deprived of the optimal CO2 levels into which they were born, The Daily Climate reported.
When grown under harsh conditions, marijuana’s psychoactive properties may become more potent.
“Marijuana is a very drought-tolerant plant. It’s a weed, and they grow anywhere,” DEA agent Bill Weinman told the Rocky Mountain News in 2002. “Drought has little effect on pot crops: Plants prove hearty, surpassing yields of state’s other crops.”
James Duke, retired USDA ethno-botanist, said he has seen marijuana thrive in stressed outdoor settings before. In Fulton, Maryland, he conducted an experiment in which 300 native and non-native species of medicinal plants were researched for modern medicinal uses.
“Something we learned in the garden … is that the more stress a plant gets — heat or cold or disease or just plain beating it — the more medicinal and less edible it becomes,” Duke said.
Also, Ziska told The Daily Climate that psychotropic compounds, like THC, are produced from marijuana as a pest repellant. “Plants aren’t mobile, they can’t get up and move around, so they have to produce these chemicals to fight off pests and disease,” he said.
Although global warming and an increase in cannabis potency may go hand in hand, adopting sustainable growing methods is important. Groundbreaking technology is emerging from the marijuana sector at a rapid pace. If growers can make an easy switch to LED lighting systems, then tons of energy will be conserved. The earthy stereotype associated with marijuana could not be further from reality.