With the passing of Proposition 64 last year, and what is expected to be the world’s biggest regulated market coming next year, Golden State growers are finally getting a taste of the benefits awarded to the rest of the state’s farmers.
According to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), California’s largest public utility provider, will award the same discounts enjoyed by the state’s mainstream agricultural businesses to commercial cannabis cultivators.
"Cannabis is a legal crop in our state, like almonds and tomatoes.” Deborah Affonsa, vice president of customer service at PG&E, said in a statement released last week. “Agricultural growers now will be eligible for the same rate and energy efficiency programs as farmers of other crops,"
To qualify for the discounts, growers will need to prove that at least 70% of their energy use comes from direct agricultural activity, such as electricity to power grow lights and water for irrigation. The newly adjusted rates will not help non-commercial home grows or cannabis product producers such as extraction labs.
For California’s commercial growers, though, PG&E’s newfound inclusiveness is yet another example of how the once illicit cash crop is slowly but surely finding a place in mainstream society.
“PG&E’s move is a small but noteworthy sign of marijuana’s normalization.” Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, a trade group that represents cannabis farmers, said. “It’s another one of those reminders that we are making progress.”
Affonsa issued similar sentiments in the energy company’s official statement.
"We've met with representatives of the emerging legal cannabis industry and listened to their needs.” Affonsa said. “We are here to help our customers make smart, efficient and affordable energy choices. Now that cannabis is in California's future, our next step is to work with these new agricultural customers and make this industry as energy efficient as possible."
Allen estimates that the agricultural discounts could save cultivators up to 40 or 60 percent of their energy bill.
For now, the slashed rates will be available to both indoor and outdoor growers, but with an ongoing discussion about best practices and environmental impact, that could change down the line.
“This week marked the beginning of a conversation about energy efficiency among cannabis farmers,” Allen said.