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Washington became one of the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use in 2012. But there are a lot of challenges ahead: the state must set up a licensing system for marijuana growers and sellers, the federal government may mount a challenge, the need to set a new limit on amount of marijuana in the bloodstream for safe driving. And medical marijuana is still in the picture.Over the next several months we will be exploring the issue and tracking the impact of I-502.

Indoor Pot Farms Are Energy Guzzlers, Research Shows

While the legalization of marijuana could be viewed as a liberal cause, the counterculture’s favorite herb isn’t exactly eco-friendly.

“Indoor pot farms are energy guzzlers,” said Seattle news analyst Joni Balter.

Californian scientist Dr. Evan Mills released a study indicating the staggering amount of energy that goes into indoor marijuana production.

“We’re talking about lighting levels that match hospital operating rooms, so that’s 500 times greater than what you and I need for reading,” Balter said.

Pot grown indoors can produce nearly three to four crops in a year while outdoor plants are limited to one or two, she said.

Due to the amount of rainfall and limited sunlight in the Northwest, Balter said the majority of Washington’s cannabis growth will remain indoors. However, the environmental research, like the one from Dr. Mills, has convinced the Washington State Liquor Control Board to also allow outdoor growth.

As the federal government watches the experiment unfold in Washington and Colorado, the state liquor board has set up regulations to secure outdoor plants from exposure to thieves. The facilities used for cannabis production are also limited to 30,000 square feet and must comply with the state’s agricultural rules.

From the marijuana growers’ perspective, the issue of energy usage is more complicated than simply swapping for LED grow lights. The pot growers, whom Balter spoke with, claim that the quality of LED marijuana isn’t very good.

Balter predicts that the consumers will eventually decide the debate between sun-grown and LED pot.

“This is sort of like the wine industry — how people pick boutique wines or organic produce,” she said.

Produced for the Web by Akiko Oda.

Year started with KUOW: 1985 – 1986, 1991 – 2004, 2012