Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Medical marijuana boom strains rural Oklahoma utilities

Medical marijuana has exploded in popularity since it became legal in Oklahoma in 2018. Nearly 10 percent of Oklahomans have a medical marijuana card, which has ushered in a boom in the cannabis industry: there are more than 8,000 growers statewide. But marijuana is a thirsty crop, and indoor operations need grow lights, so the higher demand for water and electricity is straining some rural utilities, Seth Bodine reports for Harvest Public Media.

Iris Farms, just north of Oklahoma City, outside Stillwater, is a good example. Head grower Adam Miller told Bodine the farm raises about 5,000 cannabis plants, and says his electric bill can be up to $3,000 a month. But his water bill isn't too bad because the plants are raised indoors, where they can keep the plants watered more efficiently.

Sheldon Tatum, a rural water district manager in Hughes County, southeast of Oklahoma City, "says one of the eight growers that recently moved to his area used 223,000 gallons last month. Compare that to an average household of four that uses about 10,000 gallons a month," Bodine reports. "Tatum worries the surge in water demand could cause old pipes to break, raising maintenance costs that will lead to higher utility bills for everyone."

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