October 17, 2017

Cannabis Control Commission
One Ashburton Place, Room 313
Boston, MA 02108

Via email to CannabisCommission@State.MA.US

ATTN: Regulations

Dear Members of the Cannabis Control Commission,

My name is Sam Milton, Principal of Climate Resources Group, a consulting firm based in Arlington, Massachusetts. These comments pertain to the development of regulations for the adult use of marijuana in Massachusetts, and I am submitting them on behalf of the firm.

We are grateful for the work of the Cannabis Control Commission and its commitment to meet the objectives laid out in Chapter 55 of the Acts of 2017.  The purpose of these comments is to highlight two of the legislature’s mandates and to underscore their importance to the Commission’s overall success:

SECTION 57.  “The Massachusetts cannabis control commission … shall provide recommendations to ensure farmers’ access to marijuana licenses and to allow for the growth, cultivation, production and harvest of marijuana on farm or agricultural lands…”

SECTION 78. “The Massachusetts cannabis control commission shall establish energy and environmental standards … and shall establish a working group that shall … provide recommendations to the commission on: (i) ways to reduce energy and water usage in the marijuana industry; (ii) mitigating other environmental impacts; (iii) annual energy audits, energy efficiency measures, energy conservation measures and energy conservation projects as defined in section 1 of chapter 164 of General Laws; (iv) additional best practices that would ensure marijuana establishment compliance with [said] standards.”

As the Cannabis Control Commission deliberates, we encourage it to consider the following facts:

* Indoor marijuana cultivation can be extremely energy intensive. It is hard to grasp just how alarming an increase in electric demand is expected from indoor cultivation. Such increase in electric demand would bring negative consequences to the state’s power grid, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, and progress toward overall energy efficiency targets.[1][2]

* Massachusetts has some of the highest electricity rates in the nation.[3]

* The 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) requires the state to pursue reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of 25% below the 1990 baseline emission level in 2020 and at least an 80% reduction in 2050.[4] It should be noted that the 2020 target as codified in the GWSA may yet be achievable under current conditions, but the Administration’s assumptions therein did not anticipate any growth of emissions attributable to commercial-scale indoor cannabis cultivation. Thus, unless Massachusetts’ cultivation facilities adopt deep energy efficiency and/or clean energy strategies, the GWSA targets will likely be well out of reach, and the Baker Administration will be in violation of Kain et al. v. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

* The Green Communities Act requires that electric and gas utilities procure all cost-effective energy efficiency before more expense supply resources, and the state’s current three-year plan calls for an already-ambitious savings target of 2.95% of annual sales in 2018.[5] This target may be out of reach if energy demand increases beyond the levels anticipated by the Massachusetts Energy Efficiency Council.

* Cannabis cultivation can be very water intensive, and Massachusetts has a history of drought.[6]

* Unregulated outdoor and indoor cannabis cultivation can lead to water pollution.

With these facts in mind, we propose that the Cannabis Control Commission implement the following measures:

Regulation Development

* Include on relevant working groups one or more individuals with familiarity and relevant insights into the energy and environmental impacts of cannabis cultivation.

* Actively solicit and incorporate guidance and advice from industry experts into relevant working group proceedings.


Establish aggressive energy performance standards for indoor warehouse-style and greenhouse cultivation facilities.  Standards could be set based on overall energy performance targets, achieved via a kWh/gram flower standard, energy efficiency requirements for specific types of equipment (e.g., a lighting standard could be micromoles of photons emitted per Joule of energy input[7]), or mandated use of renewable energy equal to a given percentage of total electricity demand.  Such standards will help ensure that the state remains on track to hit its already-established energy goals. Alternatively, cultivators could pay into a fund whose sole purpose is to reduce the industry’s energy and carbon footprint.

* Direct Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to collect data on the energy impact of cannabis cultivation, study the effects of different energy interventions, and increase energy performance standards at regular intervals.

* Permit a meaningful level of commercial-scale outdoor cultivation of cannabis for medical, recreational, and/or industrial use. Expanded outdoor growing will reduce the amount of cannabis grown indoors, reducing the industry’s total energy demand and carbon footprint.


* Establish overall carbon performance standards for indoor and greenhouse cultivators (e.g., lbs C/gram flower). A carbon standard will help ensure that the state’s greenhouse gas reduction targets remain achievable. Alternatively, cultivators could pay into a fund whose sole purpose is to reduce the industry’s energy and carbon footprint.

Air and Water

*Establish wastewater discharge standards for all cultivators or require adoption of specific water efficient practices. Standards addressing wastewater quality and volume will protect the state’s drinking water supplies.


* Establish standards for handling solid waste, including composting organic waste (e.g., spent vegetation and soils, etc.) and recycling e-waste (e.g., spent lights, etc.) and other non-compostable materials. Solid waste handling standards will minimize the impact on Massachusetts and regional landfills and air quality.

Promulgating effective standards for environmental and energy performance in commercial cannabis cultivation facilities will go a long way toward minimizing the industry’s negative impact on the Commonwealth’s resources. Further, by pushing cultivators to adopt more energy- and water-efficient practices, they will be more competitive, will have more funds to spend on other priorities, and will be allied with relevant state regulators and in compliance with existing regulations.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Cannabis Control Commission’s regulatory development process. If you have any questions about any of the above comments, please feel free to contact me for further discussion. My contact information is sam@climateresourcesgroup.com or 617-902-0515.


Sam Milton

[1] The carbon footprint of indoor Cannabis production. Energy Policy, 46, 58–67. Available at http://evanmills.lbl.gov/pubs/pdf/cannabis-carbon-footprint.pdf.

[2] SDG&E Cannabis Agriculture Energy Demand Study Final Report. (2016, July 15) p. 10. Available at http://www.energydataweb.com/cpuc/search.aspx.

[3] https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.php?t=epmt_5_6_a

[4] http://www.mass.gov/eea/air-water-climate-change/climate-change/massachusetts-global-warming-solutions-act/

[5] http://database.aceee.org/state/massachusetts

[6] http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/dcr/watersupply/rainfall/drought-status-history.pdf

[7] https://newbuildings.org/indoor-agriculture-energy-footprint/