As concerns over climate change continue to mount, the cannabis industry faces many challenges. Here we’ll discuss the current movement by lawmakers and industry players to make cannabis production more sustainable.

State Lawmakers Leading the Way

The lack of a well-defined regulatory framework represents a major hurdle for limiting energy use and redefining growing practices. However, state lawmakers are now beginning to tackle the issue in a meaningful way. Two states in particular—Massachusetts and California—are on the forefront.

With the passage of the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), sustainability is now built into the way Massachusetts operates. In 2019, Massachusetts was named the most energy efficient state in the country for the ninth year in a row by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and placed a close second to California in 2020.

In response to increasing concerns about energy usage among cannabis growers, the Massachusetts Department of Energy and Resources released energy use recommendations for large growers in 2018, ruling out the use of lighting other than energy efficient light emitting diodes (LEDs). In 2020, the state’s Cannabis Control Commission introduced more comprehensive environmental guidelines, ensuring that the state’s cannabis industry would be in complete compliance with its GWSA standards from architectural design and lighting to transportation.

California is also taking the lead. In 2020, the California Department of Food and Agriculture drafted a new certification program (OCal) to encourage organic farming practices among cannabis growers in the state. The California Energy Commission has also proposed new standards for lighting efficiency and water reclamation practices that would apply to all of the state’s indoor cannabis growers.

Innovation Inside the Industry

There is also a significant push towards sustainability from inside the industry itself. Inspired by the state’s actions toward addressing climate change, one Massachusetts’ cannabis company is now the first in the nation to become completely energy independent.

Solar Therapeutics is a grower and manufacturer and also runs a cannabis dispensary in Somerset, Massachusetts. In addition to a significant solar farm, the company operates a microgrid composed of natural gas cogeneration units. Smart design choices including the use of LED lights and the utilization of waste heat and waste water allow the company to operate efficiently without drawing power from the local grid.

Others in the industry are looking for ways to reduce the waste created by the overabundance of product packaging. New plant-based alternatives to petroleum-based plastic packaging are now priced competitively with traditional types of packaging.

The Future of Sustainability and Cannabis

More and more states are legalizing recreational cannabis. As cannabis continues to grow in popularity, state and local leaders must work to craft new legislation to lift the standards of the industry.

Education will also play an important role. If consumers can come to the dispensary informed about the large carbon footprint of certain indoor growing practices, they’ll be more likely to seek out environmentally friendly products.