When Illinois’ new law legalizing recreational marijuana takes effect Jan. 1, growers will face some of the strongest energy efficiency and reporting requirements in the country. Marijuana can be an energy intensive crop. The new electricity load to power lighting, heating and ventilation for indoor grow facilities has strained the grid and even caused blackouts in other places after it was legalized.
The Illinois law seeks to avoid those problems by mandating efficiency standards and capping the amount of power used per square foot. Clean energy advocates said they were hopeful the law would lead other states to follow suit, though more work is needed between utilities and growers to manage power demand.
“I think that overall, we ended up in a very strong position with the environmental concerns regarding cannabis in this bill,” said Cary Shepherd, policy director at the Illinois Environmental Council. Shepherd helped draft the legislation’s efficiency requirements along with members of the University of Chicago Abrams Environmental Law Clinic and the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. He noted that Illinois likely won’t be the last state to have a law like this, and efficiency is “an issue that needs to be discussed more publicly.”