The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission’s efforts to refine its regulations for energy and environmental performance for cultivation and product manufacturing facilities are now officially underway. Last week, the Commission convened the first meeting of its long-awaited Energy and Environment Working Group (EEWG). Membership in the group is so far limited to the bare minimum required by the law: designees from the Department of Energy Resources, Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Agricultural Resources. A CCC representative sits on the EEWG but does not have a vote.

The meeting itself was perfunctory, essentially a pre-game show to the main event. But it did reveal that the EEWG intends to inform itself to some degree through a series of listening sessions across the state. The Group proposed to itself a series of public listening sessions across the state later this summer with the stated objective of hearing from a range of stakeholders, including growers, ancillary service providers, other businesses and industries, and members of the general public.

Fundamentally, the Working Group has the task of sharpening and possibly reconsidering the nation’s toughest regulations for cannabis businesses for energy and environmental performance. Currently, cultivation and product manufacturing license applicants need to demonstrate in their applications that they have considered renewable energy and energy efficiency in their facility designs. More specifically, the law states that those facilities must include building envelope insulation and HVAC equipment that meet current code, and most controversially that growers need to use grow lights whose average Lighting Power Density (LPD) across mature canopy is no more powerful than 36 W per square foot. Some growers are claiming that the lighting standard in particular is unjust and puts their businesses at a disadvantage due to the relatively higher upfront cost for these more energy-efficient lights, while others shrug their shoulders and claim that the rules put them at no disadvantage whatsoever.

Over the proceedings of this Working Group, four key things I’m keeping our eyes open for are:

1) How detailed will their additional guidance be? For example, will applicants know how cultivators are expected to measure and report the LPD for their facilities; through which vehicle(s) (if any) will regulated businesses report their energy use; how are applicants’ energy plans expected to be judged during the approval process; what are penalties for non-compliance; what, if any, flexibility mechanisms are open to applicants to meet the LPD standard; what allowances are available to a non-confirming applicant, etc.?

2) To what degree will the EEWG suggest amending current rules, beyond clarifying process? And will the CCC push back on the EEWG’s recommendations for any reason?

3) Will the Commission provide growers and product manufacturers with greater flexibility to meet the LPD regulations?  Some potentially interesting flexibility mechanisms the Commission could offer growers include letting them weigh their energy footprint across their total facility, not just as a function of the installed grow lights; they could allow growers to offset their high power use with payments into a fund, or through procurement of renewable energy credits or carbon offsets; or they could allow growers and manufacturers to improve their average energy use intensity over a period of time, using their Year 1 energy use as a baseline.

4) Will industry show up to the discussion this time? You may recall that the established cannabis industry in Massachusetts appeared to be somewhat taken aback by the rules when the Commission announced its initial rules. In this instance, will growers, manufacturers and others come to the table to offer meaningful and substantive proposals to the CCC that will take seriously the state’s statutory obligation to advance economy-wide carbon standards?

Thanks for reading, and continue to qatch this space for updates.