City, News

Marijuana cultivation needs energy regulations, letter states

A letter written Friday by The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs proposed that the Cannabis Control Commission should enact certain environmental regulations on marijuana establishments across Massachusetts to thwart their unusually high energy usage and carbon footprint.

The cannabis industry’s particularly elevated energy consumption, especially by large-scale, indoor growing facilities, threatens the Commonwealth’s ability to meet its Global Warming Solution Act Goals, the letter states.

Written by Tori Kim, the attorney for the EEA, the letter suggests modifications to the industries “energy efficiency and environmental standards,” “leadership rating” and “waste disposal.”

Sam Milton, principal of the Climate Resources Group, an organization that works to avert the harmful impacts created by climate change, wrote in an email that indoor cannabis cultivation is approximately 8 to 10 times more energy intensive than the average commercial office building.

“Indoor growers need to effectively re-create a blazing sun for 12 to 24 hours a day, every day,” Milton wrote. “They do this by typically placing 1000 [watt] lamps every 4 or 5 feet in their grow rooms. But, of course you don’t want to burn and rot the plants, so you need to cool and dehumidify the grow rooms, which also takes enormous power.”

Milton wrote that state officials need to steer cannabis users toward more sustainable growers.

“The state is trying to find a balance between mandating growers to meet specific energy and environmental standards, while also providing consumers with the ability to differentiate between more environmentally friendly growers and manufacturers and the rest,” Milton wrote. “I think the state will need to [do] both, and only then will we see Massachusetts set the standard for responsible cannabis cultivation and manufacturing processes.”

High intensity lighting is the main energy producer during the cultivation process because it runs 12 to 24 hours daily. These beams use wasteful machinery typically found in old street lights and additionally require substantial cooling to counteract the heat from these lights.

Alexander Long, 48, of Jamaica Plain, said he thinks cannabis is vital for those who need it, and that the state should resolve this issue without delay.

“I think marijuana is really important for many people and it’s definitely a booming industry right now, so it makes sense that it might be a little bit inefficient in terms of energy efficiency,” Long said. “That’s something that the state’s going to have to get control of before it’s too late.”

Kamani Jefferson, president of the Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council, said he hopes the potentially high carbon footprint produced by marijuana farms doesn’t affect how the emerging industry is perceived.

“It’s definitely something we need to be cognizant of and we need to definitely ask questions and want to learn more about it,” Jefferson said. “When you’re rolling out a new industry, you definitely don’t want to cause more harm to this planet, so it’s definitely something to be on the lookout for.”

Jim Borghesani, the communications director for Yes on 4, the group behind the ballot question which legalized marijuana for recreational use, wrote in an email that singling out the marijuana industry as uncharacteristically energy inefficient is shortsighted due to how new it is.

“I think the cannabis industry … has the potential to establish cross-industry energy best practices, but those practices have to be based on practical data,” Borghesani wrote. “It’s unclear if the governor’s recommendations are based on practical data. I’m sure the Cannabis Control Commission will make that determination in the proper way.”

The state will continue to be a leader in energy efficiency, despite what the CCC decides, Borghesani wrote.

“The governor made his recommendations to the Cannabis Control Commission, and I’m sure the CCC will give those recommendations the consideration they deserve,” Borghesani wrote. “I have no doubt Massachusetts will be a national leader in industry energy practices whether or not the governor’s recommendations are adopted.”

Massachusetts has been ranked the number one energy-efficient economy by the American Council for the past seven years.

Diane Howard, 61, of West Roxbury, said the state’s frigid weather likely contributes to the industry’s wastefulness.

“I’m not surprised at this because those weed farms must be enormous,” Howard said. “Massachusetts is a generally cold state, so a lot of it has to be produced inside, so that takes up a whole lot of oomph.”

Roberta Wells, 65, of Back Bay, said this energy failure will not stop the thriving cannabis industry.

“Even with the energy efficiency of these farms going up, the industry should still continue to blossom,” Wells said. “It’s one of those businesses that will keep growing exponentially for a very long time, and something small like energy inefficiency will not slow it down.”


More Articles


  1. There are some pretty innovative efforts within the cannabis industry to solve this dirty little secret of massive energy use. Most industry experts agree that the future of cultivation is in hybrid lighting facility – mix of both natural sunlight & supplemental artificial light as needed. Typically, greenhouses are the first type of hybrid-lighting facilities considered in transitioning out of indoor ops. However, I recently became aware of Sungrown Indoor. This group of scientists researched using tubular daylighting products to grow cannabis. It looks unbelievable – but also the most efficient (cheapest) way to grow high quality bud year round. We are looking into getting one of our flower rooms converted into Sungrown Indoor tech to reduce our electrical bill & improve our operations sustainability. Happy to see Mass addressing this issue.

  2. When growing cannabis you need to have knowledge about it. It needs proper care and attention in order for you to have a very good result.

    medical marijuana