Massachusetts tackles carbon emissions from pot after legalization
Mike Dundas, CEO of Sira Naturals, looks over plants at the company's facility in Milford, Massachusetts, on June 19, 2018. Photo: Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
After legalizing adult use almost two years ago, Massachusetts opened the state’s first two recreational marijuana stores last month, which sold more than $2.2 million in product on their first day. The retail sales from recreational marijuana could generate an estimated $219 million in taxes for the state over the next two years.
Yes, but: The state's Cannabis Control Commission’s Energy Working Group (CCCEWG) is concerned with skyrocketing greenhouse gas emissions from the cultivating facilities. Massachusetts aims to cut statewide emissions by 25% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. As of 2017, the state was at a 21% reduction, and many fear that the cultivation facilities' increasing energy demands may put the 25% goal at risk.
In cultivation facilities, marijuana producers commonly employ dehumidifiers and high-intensity discharge (HID) lights, which use 80 times the energy of a 100-watt LED bulb. HIDs also generate a significant amount of heat, which then requires ventilation and air conditioning to keep the plants at optimal temperatures.
- The energy use of a marijuana-growing facility is 8–10 times that of a normal office of similar size.
- Producing one pound of cannabis can contribute 3,000–5,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of about 2,670 vehicle miles.
- 3% of electricity use in California goes to growing marijuana, while the city of Denver devotes 4% of its total used energy to cultivation facilities.
To curb emissions, cultivation facilities will need to adopt more efficient (and more expensive) LED lighting and building improvements.
Where it stands: In March, the CCCEWG — which has been tasked with studying and outlining new regulations for energy use for both adult recreational and medical marijuana — put in place new electricity caps and lighting-power density standards that favor LEDs over HIDs.
What's next: The regulations are spurring innovation in sustainable growing technology, LED lighting and hydroponics, to name a few. While these efforts will initially be used in the cannabis industry, they could also benefit other agricultural industries, especially in areas without stable electricity access.