Cultivators grow all of the cannabis plants that are harvested, sold as flower, and made into products. Their operations look like other agricultural operations in California. Cannabis cultivation is a multi-step process that includes:
- Preparing the soil and growing medium
- Planting seeds or clones
- Irrigating, fertilizing, and managing pests
- Harvesting plants
- Drying, curing and trimming plants
If you want to grow cannabis and sell it in California, you will need a cultivation license. The type of cultivation license you need depends on:
- The size of your canopy (the area where you grow mature plants)
- What kind of lighting is used
There are different licenses if you:
- Grow seedlings and immature plants only for use by other businesses or sale to consumers (nursery license)
- Dry, cure and trim cannabis after harvest; package cannabis; or make pre-rolls for other licensees (processor license)
Use of pesticides
You can use pesticides on cannabis plants if they meet guidelines set by the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR). DPR has resources about:
- What pesticides are okay to use
- What pesticides cannot be used
- Pest management practices
- Pesticide safety
Pesticide use is enforced by DPR and county agricultural commissioners. Contact your county agricultural commissioner if you have questions about pesticides.
Use of generators
Cannabis cultivators can use diesel-engine generators if they meet all state and local laws. These laws:
- Support responsible usage
- Limit air pollution
- Protect the environment.
DCC regulations include basic requirements for operating generators and reporting energy usage. However, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), your local Air Quality Management District (AQMD) and your local jurisdiction may have additional generator operating and permitting requirements that you must follow.
We strongly encourage you to reach out to your local air quality district and local jurisdiction to understand the rules in place for your specific region. If you intend to utilize a generator to supplement power provided by a utility provider, we also strongly encourage you to reach out to your utility provider to understand their interconnection requirements.
Requirements for generators
All generators must have a non-resettable hour meter. If a generator does not come equipped with one, you must install an aftermarket non-resettable hour meter (CCR Title 4, §16306(d)).
In addition, there are different requirements for generators based on their size and emissions, and installation and uses, as described below.
Larger industrial and commercial-type generators (50 hp or more)
Generators that are 50 hp or more must meet California’s Airborne Toxic Control Measure for stationary or portable engines. This means you need one of the following permits:
- Portable Equipment Registration Certificate (issued by CARB)
- Permit to Operate or other proof of engine registration (issued by local AQMD)
Smaller consumer-type generators (less than 50 hp)
Generators that are less than 50 hp don’t typically require permits from CARB or your local AQMD. However, they can only be used for one of the following circumstances:
- Emergency use, as defined in CARB regulations
- Limited use, which means they are used 80 hours or less in a calendar year
In addition, generators less than 50 hp must be built to one of the following standards:
- Tier 3 fuel standards (set by CARB) with Level 3 diesel particulate filter requirements (CCR Title 13, §§2700-2711); or
- Tier 4 fuel standards (set by the EPA) (CFR Title 40, Chapter I, Subchapter U, Part 1039, Subpart B, §1039.101), or current engine requirements if more stringent
What is an emergency use?
Emergency use cases are narrowly defined by state laws. Generally, emergencies are limited to situations where there is power loss to a building, or when there is an urgent need for water or sewage pumping, including for fire suppression or flood prevention. Read the definitions for “emergency” and “emergency use”:
- For portable engines: “Emergency” is defined in CCR Title 17, §93116.2(a)(12)
- For stationary engines: “Emergency use” is defined in CCR Title 17, §93115.4(a)(30)
Local AQMDs can set additional restrictions on the use of generators, such as a maximum number of hours per day that they can be run or limits on emissions. Reach out to your local AQMD for more information about requirements for your region.
Find your local AQMD or view a list of all local AQMDs.
Your local jurisdiction may have additional land-use and/or building code requirements related to your business or cannabis permit that affects your use of generators. Reach out to your local jurisdiction to learn if there are other local laws that apply to you.
Reporting energy sources to DCC
When applying for a license: Mixed-light and indoor cultivators must identify their power sources when they first apply for a state cannabis license (CCR Title 4, §15011(a)(5)). They also must get approval from DCC before changing their power sources (CCR Title 4, §15027(b)(2)).
When renewing a license: All cultivators must report their power sources when they renew their license (CCR Title 4, §15020(e)). This includes identifying use of generators and their greenhouse gas emission intensity.
Learn more about CARB’s Portable Equipment Registration Program.
Find your local AQMD or view a list of all local AQMDs.
Read DCC’s regulations for cannabis cultivators.
Electricity Usage Reporting Requirements
All cultivation and microbusiness licensees authorized to engage in cannabis cultivation are required to report total electricity use for each power source used to the DCC upon license renewal.
Renewable energy requirements
Beginning January 1, 2023, DCC cultivation and microbusiness licensees authorized to engage in indoor, tier 2 mixed-light cultivation, or nursery using indoor or tier 2 mixed-light techniques, are required to report total electricity for each power source used to the DCC upon license renewal and comply with the renewable energy requirements.
Examples of electrical equipment and devices typically used in these types of commercial cannabis cultivation operations include: grow lights, supplemental lighting, HVAC systems, dehumidifiers, fans, security cameras, and electrical pumps. Power sources that are typically used to supply power to these commercial cannabis cultivation operations, may include:
- Utility providers
- Zero net energy renewable sources (such as solar and wind)
- All other electricity sources (such as generators and fuel cells)
Please be aware that there may be other local rules, state laws or regulations that govern electricity use that licensees may be required to comply with as part of their day-to-day operations.
How to submit you reporting requirements
Cultivation, nursery, and processor licenses
Submit electricity usage information, such as the Electricity Reporting Worksheet, via a Science Amendment prior to the license expiration date.
Microbusiness licenses with cultivation activities
Email the electricity usage information, such as the Electricity Reporting Worksheet, to the Environmental Evaluation Office at email@example.com prior to the license expiration date.
Resources and guidance
There are resources to assist you:
- Guidance Document
- Optional Templates you can use to submit your reporting requirements.
Click to view electricity reporting FAQ
What is a greenhouse gas emissions intensity?
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity is a pollution rate. It measures the mass of GHGs that are emitted into the atmosphere to generate one megawatt hour (MWh) of electricity from a particular generation resource or portfolio of resources.
My electricity utility provider’s power content label reports the greenhouse gas emissions intensity in MWh not kWH.
MWh can be converted to kWh. To get kWh, divide the MWh value by 1000.
What if my utility meter is shared by other businesses? I am located in a warehouse and there is only one meter for the whole building, or I share a suite with another business and we only have one meter?
Licensees in this situation may want to consider installing a separate meter to distinguish between the cannabis electricity use and other non-cannabis electricity use. Alternatively, licensees may calculate the electricity used by using the percentage of the bill that you pay or use the Electricity Demand Spreadsheet.
What if I have more than one utility meter?
Licensees should include electricity used from all meters used for cultivation activities.
I have a utility provider and use solar panels; do I need to report my solar panels total electricity?
The regulations require that you report the total amount of electricity provided by the utility provider. To enable the Department of Cannabis Control accurately assess the total amount of electricity utilized on site, licensees should report the total electricity produced by solar panels and the total electricity provided by the utility.
How do I report a full 12 months of electricity usage if I renew my license early and I do not have a full 12 months of electricity usage data?
A licensee can provide the electricity data they do have.
What if I do not intend on renewing my license?
The electricity usage reporting would only occur at the time the licensee submits a renewal application.
Which license types does this apply to?
Electricity usage reporting requirements apply to licensees authorized to engage in cultivation activities.
If I am not using electricity during an off season, do I need to report electricity used during those days/ months?
Yes. Total annual electricity usage is required to be reported.
I have a residential home onsite and I am sharing the same utility provider for my cultivation license, how would I distinguish the amount of electricity used for residential and cannabis cultivation purposes?
Licensees may include residential usage in their electricity usage reporting. Alternatively, licensees in this situation may want to consider installing a separate meter to distinguish between the cannabis electricity use and their non-cannabis electricity use. To differentiate the amount of electricity used for cultivation purposes from residential or other non-cannabis purposes you may use the Electricity Demand Spreadsheet. The Electricity Demand Spreadsheet can be used to document the electricity usage of each electrical appliance in use for cultivation purposes.
What if I have multiple non-cannabis businesses using the same electricity source? How would I distinguish the amount of electricity used for cannabis?
Licensees in this situation may want to consider installing a separate meter to distinguish between the cannabis electricity use and their non-cannabis electricity use. To differentiate the amount of electricity used for cultivation purposes from residential or other non-cannabis purposes you may use the Electricity Demand Spreadsheet. The Electricity Demand Spreadsheet can be used to document the electricity usage of each electrical appliance in use for cultivation purposes.
I cultivated between 2020 and 2021 but can only find a power content label for year 2020, what do I do?
How do I calculate electrical demand for multiple sources if one is missing?
The Electricity Demand Spreadsheet was developed to assist licensees determine their total annual demand of electricity for the cannabis activities.
If multiple power sources were used and the electricity usage or production is unknown for one source, a licensee may calculate the unknown value.
- Determine the total electrical demand of their licensed cannabis cultivation activities.
- Determine how much electricity is provided by one or multiple sources
- Subtract that from the total demand
- This will provide the unknown electricity supplied by the source with missing usage information.
Cannabis cultivators have a responsibility to protect the environment and be responsible stewards of the land. That’s why it’s important to understand how your operations may impact the environment.
All agricultural operations in California are required to get permits and follow rules set by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the California Water Boards. These rules help protect water quality and conserve water resources.
CDFW and Water Board rules prevent:
- Degradation of water quality
- Excessive water diversions that can injure or kill fish or dry up small streams
- Sediment and debris being washed into waterways
- Changes to land that can harm streams and wildlife, like erosion or grading
- Damage to native fish and wildlife habitats
- Impacts to threatened or endangered species
Cannabis cultivators must have:
- A Lake or Streambed Alteration Agreement with CDFW or written confirmation that one is not needed
- Any permits required by the Water Board’s Cannabis Policy
CDFW has profiles of cannabis cultivators who use best practices and tips for managing your cultivation site in a wildlife-friendly way.
Appellations of Origin
For more information on California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) appellations program click here.