US (ME): "Energy prices doubled, while cannabis value is halved"

Rows of cannabis seedlings, 18 inches high and three weeks old, swayed recently in the breeze created by wall fans inside the nursery at Windhill Organics, a medical cannabis growing operation in the midcoast. Overhead, two 1,000-watt metal halide lamps cast a bright, blue-white light over the crop 18 hours a day. The temperature was around 75 degrees, the humidity 48 percent. "You're trying to simulate spring with the seedlings," said Arleigh Kraus, the owner of the business and a medical cannabis caregiver.

In a nearby room, dozens of flowering cannabis plants were lined up on racks under a blinding yellowish sun radiating from a dozen 1,000-watt high-pressure sodium lamps. A dozen oscillating wall fans, along with two large dehumidifiers and mini-split heat pumps, maintain the 500-square-foot flower room at the desired artificial climate year-round. Next door, an identical flower room was being cleaned and made ready for the maturing seedlings.

But creating ideal indoor growing conditions for cannabis comes at a high cost. When commercial electric rates peaked last January, Windhill Organics was shocked with a $10,000 monthly electric bill, way above its $4,500 monthly average.

High energy-supply rates this year have hit nearly anyone who pays for power in Maine, and there's no relief in sight for 2023. But the rate surge has delivered a one-two punch to cannabis growers. Just as electric rates are shooting up, wholesale cannabis prices are plunging off a cliff. It's the worst of both worlds: Energy prices have more than doubled, while the value of the commodity has been cut in half.

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