Hazy Regulations: Cannabis and the Environment
The U.S. legal cannabis market is an estimated $60 billion industry, with approximately 28,000 businesses operating and employing upwards of 300,000 people, and growing rapidly. Large-scale cultivation requires significant energy usage, nutrient and pesticide inputs, and water usage, resulting in cumulative environmental impacts. Addressing these concerns raises complex legal issues because of cannabis’ federal classification as a Schedule 1 narcotic, which prevents federal agencies from collecting data on, providing guidance to, or regulating the industry. This has led to fragmented state regulations that differ widely in regulating its impacts. On July 7, 2022, the Environmental Law Institute hosted a panel of experts who explored these legal and technical challenges, the environmental impacts of cannabis production, and opportunities to improve sustainability. Below, we present a transcript of that discussion, which has been edited for style, clarity, and space considerations.