Cannabis cultivation in the United States this year will consume 1.8 million megawatt-hours of electricity, about as much as the nation’s 15,000 Starbucks stores. And next year it’ll be even more, according to a report from analytics firm New Frontier Data estimating just how much power it takes to produce the nation’s cannabis crop. Yet even as they’ve welcomed it into the regulatory fold, states legalizing cannabis so far have done little to limit or even track the huge amounts of energy needed to grow it indoors. Among the 11 states to permit recreational use of cannabis, only Massachusetts and now Illinois, which did so this week, have included energy-efficiency standards for indoor cultivation, a practice that requires nearly nonstop use of lights and various heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
One other state, Oregon, requires simply that growers estimate and then report back on their energy use. Even this small step will help regulators there and in other states to better manage an industry whose electricity demand has long been kept as hidden as its product, says report co-author Derek Smith of Resource Innovation Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes resource conservation in the cannabis industry.