The Uk Independent reports
Human costs of using drugs are well-known – but the environmental impact is one of the best-kept secrets
We all know the perils of drug-taking, and most of us would immediately think of the human and social costs: addiction, disease, death – to name but a few.
But there’s another impact with huge ramifications: environmental harm. It’s one of the best-kept secrets, rarely getting an airing, though it’s easier than you might think to identify some of the ways in which drug use affects the planet, such as the need for paraphernalia that facilitates drug ingestion, like needles and syringes, through to the discarded nitrous oxide canisters that litter our city centres. However, it’s further up the supply chain where the really significant damage is done.
Even cannabis, with its relatively benign image, is an environmental thug. Production methods require significant energy input to support hydroponic cultivation. There’s been a radical shift in cannabis policy in America, where most states permit some type of access to the drug – yet it is estimated that 1 per cent of total energy consumption is due to cannabis production.
This method also produces 15 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide. To put it into context, one metric tonne is equivalent to the weight of more than 5,000 iPhones – making the carbon footprint of a single joint equivalent to a kilogram of potatoes.
Cannabis also requires twice as much water as grapes or tomatoes in order to grow. This thirst is problematic in areas of water shortage – and as cannabis is a more profitable product than vegetables, it’s easy to see how land is prioritised for its cultivation over food, even if it uses up scarce water supplies.
The continuation of the failing global “war on drugs” policy has had a significant environmental – as well as human – cost. The misguided strategy of eradicating coca crops, used in the production of cocaine, by spraying them with pesticides or burning them leaves an environmental legacy from which it takes years for agricultural land to heal. These chemicals also pollute local water supplies, and damage a range of animal species that may never recover.