Are you concerned about what Massachusetts’s energy and environmental regulations may mean for your young cannabis cultivation, extraction or dispensary business? My advice: inform yourself, do your homework, and don’t pack your bags.
Before you walk away in frustration, here are five things you should know about the current rules:
1. Yes, most of the regulations apply to ALL marijuana businesses planning to operate in Massachusetts. In section 500.105: General Operational Requirements for Marijuana Establishments (1) (p), the state calls for every marijuana business applicant – including cultivators, manufacturers, labs, retails, transporters, and researchers – to demonstrate consideration of energy efficiency, renewable energy and utility rebate programs. The state has not yet offered specific guidance on what might constitute an appropriate level of consideration in an application, but an effective response will show that you have thought about how you may:
- Integrate renewable energy into your power acquisition plan (and if not, why not),
- Deploy technologies or approaches to optimize your facility’s energy use,
- Keep your facility’s peak power demand as low as possible, and
- Utilize the state and utility incentives for energy efficient technologies.
If, like most cannabis entrepreneurs, you are not also an energy expert, a small investment in a cannabis energy professional’s time will significantly strengthen your application, helping you get to reduce your barriers to licensure.
2. Cultivators and product manufacturers in particular need to stay alert to the likely evolving rules. State law requires these potentially high energy users to “satisfy minimum energy efficiency and equipment standards [to be] established by the Commission…. and to use additional best management practices as determined by the Commission.” Again, the Commission has not yet fully developed these standards, and we’re not sure when they will. But they will eventually and you will need to be ready to respond. Don’t forget that you already need to “maintain written policies and procedures to reduce energy and water usage, engage in energy conservation and mitigate other environmental impacts.”
The good news is that the Commission has proven itself to be reasonable, eager to hearing stakeholders’ suggestions, and motivated to do what’s right for the industry, all the while creating a new industry that is legally compliant existing state energy efficiency and environmental laws.
3. The lighting rules for cultivators are more manageable then you might have feared, and despite initial reports, the Commission is NOT mandating LEDs. The Department of Energy Resource’s recommendations called for an absolute maximum lighting power density (LPD) of 36 W per square foot for all grows. The Commission largely adopted these in their final regulations announced in March, but allowed growers to meet the 36 W figure across an average of active and growing space canopy; facilities smaller that 10,000 square feet need only meet a 50 W per square foot standard. Using an average LPD figure should make it easier for growers to comply, since you can use any combination of lights (including HIDs!) to meet the LPD standard. The Commission will surely revisit this standard in the future and will offer guidance, but in the meantime, don’t panic, take time to learn about your options, and engage pros in the conversation who can help you navigate these waters.
4. The voluntary 100% renewable energy target for cultivators and product manufacturers who want to be exempted from the LPD and/or HVAC standards or earn an Environmental Leader label will be tough to hit, but not necessarily impossible. Massachusetts is blessed with ample renewable resources, from solar, low-impact hydro, and wind; the state offers guidance and incentives for companies wanting to adopt renewable energy, and you will likely find plenty of companies willing to work with you to help you plug into clean power.
5. Believe it or not, but you CAN turn your embrace of energy and environmental performance into your competitive advantage. Many less-than-savvy applicants will miss the mark in their initial submissions. And even applicants who manage to win a license without a compelling strategy to address energy will find themselves either at the mercy of the Commission upon inspection or will be stuck paying much higher bills than their compliant competitors. With a little preparation and willingness to embrace resource efficiency, you will be better positioned to breeze through the state licensing process and have a critical advantage over your competitors. We’re happy to help you understand your options – reach out for a free consult.