In order for an individual to legally cultivate cannabis, they are required to create a physical space for indoor cultivation. This is a very resource intensive process, which requires electricity for a range of purposes, such as ventilation fans, heaters and lighting systems, among others. It has been documented that the electricity consumption of indoor grow centers is significantly higher than average, considering the size of some of these facilities, with some of them consuming more than 10% of all the electricity used by industrial corporations in Massachusetts, according to the state’s Department of Energy Resources.
“It’s common knowledge that almost all of the electricity used in the U.S. comes from burning fossil fuels. But if you’re a cannabis farmer, that’s not quite true.”
Indoor cannabis cultivation accounts for about 10 percent of Massachusetts’ industrial electricity use, a spokesman for the Northeast Sustainable Cannabis Project estimated Tuesday, urging lawmakers to allow marijuana and cannabis growers to use organic growing methods that move some of the cultivation outside and into the sun. Growing cannabis indoors offers growers a more predictable (and potentially more profitable) environment, but it’s an energy-intensive operation – powerful lights help plants grow, and HVAC systems run around the clock to maintain temperature and humidity. Sanford Lewis, general counsel of the Amherst-based group, said the proliferation of energy-intensive indoor grow centers is at odds with the state’s recent climate law and its goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He informed the Joint Cannabis Policy Committee that his estimate that indoor cultivation represents 10% of industrial electricity consumption is based on current indoor lighting standards and the assumption that half of the Authority-approved cultivation area is used. Senate Co-Chair Sonia Chang-Diaz called the prediction remarkable. Since the cannabis sector could triple in size by the time supply and demand are matched, the impact is likely to be much greater, he said. This means that while other industries are working to reduce their impact on the climate, energy-intensive indoor cannabis has begun to undermine Massachusetts’ goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Cannabis Control Board has approved more than 1.1 million square feet of indoor marijuana cultivation, compared to 285,000 square feet outdoors, according to permit data, and has set energy standards for those who grow marijuana indoors. In 2018, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources said the energy needed to power 660,000 square feet of cannabis lighting could offset the energy savings from DOER’s $11 million program to convert more than 130,000 streetlights in the state to LED. Lewis was among those who on Tuesday urged the Cannabis Policy Committee to pass a bill (H 168) by Rep. Paul Mark from Peru would support allowing hemp and marijuana growers to use organic and botanical pesticides deemed appropriate for organic farming. John Piasecki, who he says is the smallest recreational cannabis grower allowed to grow outdoors in Massachusetts, said he and other outdoor cannabis growers have many problems with powdery mildew and other fungi that cause bud rot. To combat these problems, CCC regulations allow gardeners to use only products that are on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 25(b) list. Some of them are not effective. One I’d really like to use is on the inert list. This is potassium bicarbonate, which is widely used in all organic practices in the country, including for cannabis … Again, it’s on the inert 25(b) list, and I can’t use it anyway, he said. added Piasecki: I implore you to consider allowing us to use what every other organic farmer in the country can use. The marker design directs the Department of Agriculture and its Pesticide Agency to approve organic and botanical pesticides deemed suitable for use in organic agriculture, provided that EPA allows the use of the product’s active and inert ingredients on food and tobacco crops and has not established a federal acceptability limit. Lewis said Colorado, California and Oregon already allow marijuana growers to use organic products, and Mark’s bill specifically asks MDAR to review regulations in those three states. The bill was also supported by the Northeast Organic Farming Association. Current Massachusetts regulations, including the Pesticide Board’s flawed restrictions that this bill seeks to remedy, force cannabis to be grown indoors and thus increase greenhouse gas emissions, he said. Last summer, the Cannabis Control Board fined Garden Remedies $200,000 after investigators discovered the company had been using the banned pesticide Clonex Rooting Gel since December 2017, and fined Healthy Pharms $350,000 for subsequent pesticide violations, the Boston Globe reported.