You can’t say they didn’t warn us.
Three years ago the state’s Executive Office of Environmental Affairs cautioned about the pitfalls of going green as far as legal marijuana was concerned.
The energy demands of indoor pot farms — with high-intensity lighting and intricate heating and cooling systems — are enormous, environmental officials warned. They pointed to the need to set tight restrictions on the industry’s energy use.
Well, limits were set, and the growing operations are still an electricity sink.
The Cannabis Control Commission has allowed more than 1.1 million square feet of indoor marijuana cultivation space, according to a report this week by State House News Service, or nearly four times the space allowed for outdoor growing. And that indoor space is responsible for an eye-popping 10% of industrial electrical consumption in Massachusetts, according to an estimate cited by the News Service.
The figure was offered by a group advocating new rules for the kinds of pesticides that may be used by organic farmers who grow marijuana outside. It’s a compelling bit of data that suggests the state should do all that it can to encourage outdoor pot farms, as opposed to indoor ones, including by allowing Massachusetts cultivators to use the same materials as those used by their counterparts in other states where pot is legal.
But that data should also be a warning to a state committed to reducing its carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions. It’s time for a serious look at how much energy the marijuana industry is using. That investigation should be driven by pot growers, the cannabis commission and state environmental and energy experts.
Now that legal pot has taken root in Massachusetts, it behooves all of us to ensure this growing industry is on a path toward an energy sustainable future.