Cannabis Legalization Bill Passes with Nation-leading Environmental Protections

Illinois Poised to Enact the ‘Greenest’ Cannabis Legislation in U.S.

SPRINGFIELD, IL — Today, the Illinois State House of Representatives voted to pass HB1438, a bill legalizing the regulated, recreational use of cannabis that now includes nation-leading environmental and public health protections.

The Illinois Environmental Council (IEC) partnered with the University of Chicago’s Abrams Environmental Law Clinic to develop the new Illinois specific, nation-leading standards and administrative framework recently included in the cannabis bill.

The bill next heads to the governor’s desk after months of debate and negotiations. During that process, IEC worked with state legislators to include the new environmental provisions in the legislation reducing the environmental impacts of expanding the cannabis industry in Illinois.

“As Illinois is pushing towards a clean energy and low waste future, cannabis cultivation and processing has the potential to push us in the wrong direction,” said Cary Shepherd, policy director at the Illinois Environmental Council. “But there are ways to avoid this. By using energy efficiency technology, water conservation systems, and waste reduction techniques, environmental impacts can be significantly reduced.”

Cannabis cultivation can result in significant negative impacts to the environment and public health. For example, a typical 5,000-square-foot indoor cannabis cultivation facility uses 66 times more energy than the average U.S. household. The process requires 11 times the water needed to grow corn, and the manufacturing of certain cannabis products can even generate toxic waste or carcinogenic emissions.

The newly included environmental provisions reduce these negative impacts by requiring applicants for cannabis cultivation and craft grower permits to submit binding plans detailing how they will recycle, manage waste, use energy efficient technology and conserve water. Similar standards are required in the application plans for cannabis processors and transporters, where applicable.

Included in these requirements, IEC expects top-tier environmental protection standards such as the use of best-in-class energy efficient lighting systems, a comprehensive plan to use recyclable packaging materials and actually recycle those materials properly, minimized water runoff controlled by high-tech drip watering appliances, and climate control systems that filter any wastewater prior to discharge.

“When implemented properly, the Department of Agriculture will be reviewing these applications to ensure that applicants are doing more than checking boxes – they are proving themselves capable of doing the work properly,” Shepherd continued. “What’s more, many of these measures can actually save businesses money; by reducing waste and cutting utility bills, this regime has the potential to be a win-win for our state.”

Additionally, reporting data on energy usage will be required for cannabis cultivators and craft growers. Chicago has seen significant environmental benefits created by a similar data reporting program in the form of the energy benchmarking ordinance. With accurate data on the cannabis industry, state energy policy programs could identify those sites using higher than average energy usage and help them reduce energy, saving money and reducing carbon emissions.

“We are grateful for the leadership of the chief bill sponsors, Rep. Cassidy and Sen. Steans for their commitment to getting this right and reducing the environmental impacts of expanding the cannabis industry here in Illinois,” said Shepherd.


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