Illinois’ new cannabis legislation legalizing recreational cannabis is lauded as the “greenest in the nation” for its integrated environmental protections. The act’s energy efficiency, water conservation, and waste reduction requirements set the bar high for Illinois cannabis cultivators, transporters, and dispensaries. Applicants seeking to best position themselves for one of the initial 75 dispensing licenses are advised to provide an environmental plan of action (Environmental Plan) that demonstrates how the applicant will “minimize the carbon footprint, environmental impact, and resource needs for the dispensary.”

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) will award dispensary licenses based on a 250-point scale. Each portion of the application is assigned a number of points, and the IDFPR will rank applicants according to how well they satisfy the required elements. The Environmental Plan, Exhibit R of the application, is optional. However, the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act assigns it a total of five points. While this is a small percentage of the 250 points available, the application process will be competitive, and to be successful, applicants must submit the best and most complete application possible.

The application provides applicants with little direction as to what should be contained in the Environmental Plan. To demonstrate how the applicant’s dispensing facility will minimize its environmental impact and carbon footprint, the following actions items might be considered:

  • Establish a “take-back and recycle” program. Commit to take back packaging and empty cartridges for free recycling in coordination with cultivation centers. Under the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, cultivation centers must describe how they plan to reduce waste, for example, by recycling purchaser packaging, including cartridges. Dispensaries could boost their own Environmental Plans by establishing a program for receiving packaging and cartridges for recycling.
  • Commit to energy efficiency measures. Create a plan to install energy efficient lighting, HVAC systems, and incorporate any other building technologies that effectively reduce the carbon footprint of the dispensary.
  • Discuss other operations that minimize the dispensary’s carbon footprint. For example, commitments to exclusively rely on electric vehicles to transport cannabis or cannabis-infused product, or locating cultivation centers close to distribution centers and points of retail sale can both reduce carbon emissions attributable to transportation.

The IDFPR will award up to 75 conditional adult use dispensing organization licenses by May 1, 2020. They are accepting applications from December 10 until noon on January 2, 2020.

In January 2020, the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) plans to release an application to allow craft growers to cultivate, process, and transport cannabis products. The IDOA application will also require applicants to submit an Environmental Plan showing how cultivation centers will meet the prescriptive energy efficiency, water conservation, and waste reduction standards set forth in the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. The IDOA must issue up to 40 craft grower licenses by July 1, 2020.