Last time we counted, recreational marijuana is now legal in 21 states. Vermont is destined to add itself to the list this fall (2022); and the District of Columbia as early as August 2022, although a proposed budget amendment in Congress could nix weed in the capital city and halls of government.
So what might this have to do with hazardous waste management? Check out these Q&As:
- Has recreational marijuana cultivation been deregulated?
- What is a Schedule 1 controlled substance?
- What does recreational marijuana have to do with hazardous waste management?
- What are some typical state-level cannabis waste management laws?
- What is the degree of risk concerning cannabis waste management?
- What’s the upshot on cannabis waste management?
Has recreational marijuana cultivation been deregulated?
Not a chance. The regulations impacting recreational marijuana are specific to the 31 states that have legalized it, including how you get rid of cannabis waste. So what’s legal in one state isn’t in another.
If that’s not confusing enough, pot remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law (see 2). That means it’s technically illegal all across the USA, so far as your Uncle Sam is concerned.
But as the iconic Sam has bigger things on his plate, he’s unlikely to litigate against anyone who toking up in a state where reefer is legal—unless it suits one of his other agendas.
What is a Schedule 1 controlled substance?
The DEA maintains five schedules of drugs, substances, or chemicals, across which there are descending degrees of restriction on research, supply, and access. (A “schedule” is what most English-speaking people would call a “list.” But let’s not quibble with the DEA.) Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 are the strictest, and Schedule 5 the least so.
You might protest that ganja—medical marijuana—has been shown to have health and curative benefits, and it’s nowadays routinely prescribed by medical professionals. But again, you would be quibbling with the DEA. And they have even less of a sense of humor than the EPA functionaries you’ve come to know and love.
In case you’re interested, we’ve listed the remaining four schedules. They are:
- Schedule 2. Having analgesic or other medicinal value, but a high potential for severe physical or psychological dependence (E.g. cocaine, methadone, Dilaudid, Demerol, oxycodone, Dexedrine, Ritalin)
- Schedule 3. Having analgesic or other medicinal value, with a moderate-to-low potential for physical or psychological dependence (E.g. Tylenol with codeine, ketamine, anabolic steroids)
- Schedule 4. Having analgesic or other medicinal value, with a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence (E.g. Xanax, Soma, Darvon, Darvocet, Valium, Ativan, Talwin, Ambien, Tramadol)
- Schedule 5. Used for antidiarrheal, cough-suppressant, and analgesic purposes, these are preparations that contain limited quantities of certain narcotics (E.g. Robitussin AC, Lomotil, Motofen, Lyrica, Parepectolin)
What does recreational marijuana have to do with hazardous waste management?
Waste generated from cannabis cultivation differs radically from other kinds of commercial or industrial byproducts requiring hazardous waste disposal. This is because such waste might contain regulated substances under federal law, particularly the DEA Schedule 1 (see 2).
Also, spent chemicals used to extract plant oils might themselves require hazardous waste removal. And residual tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the chemical that gets you high—can poison animals and have adverse effects on the local ecology if disposed of improperly.
In fact, treated as regular garbage, cannabis waste can be subject to search and seizure—without a warrant—instigating a costly legal nightmare for whoever is doing the dumping. Don’t let that be you. If you’re into recreational marijuana cultivation, you need a cannabis waste management protocol. And you can get expert help here.
What are some typical state-level cannabis waste management laws?
Cue the Rocky Mountain High cassette; we’ll use Colorado as an example.
In Colorado, the state M.E.D. (aka Marijuana Enforcement Department) requires all cannabis waste to be rendered unrecognizable and unusable; combined with other waste so the resulting mixture is at least 50 percent marijuana free, and secured in a locked container.
As well, any instance of cannabis waste disposal must be entered into a written log for the current year, citing the specific individual responsible for that instance, along with the weight, time, and date of its occurrence.
The written log must be extant fully three years afterward for viewing upon demand by various authorities. In addition, information entered into the log must be redundantly e-filed onto a MEC website created for that purpose.
Doesn’t that sound laidback, Dude? And it’s not just Colorado. Consider:
Because of the localized nature of hazardous waste enforcement, byproducts from marijuana production and processing must be evaluated against state and regional regulations as well as federal ones. Typically, jurisdictions within and across states consider marijuana flowers, trim, roots, stalks, leaves, and residue to require RCRA cannabis waste management.
Wastewater generated during marijuana production and processing is also considered hazardous waste. (If a marijuana byproduct is determined to be nonhazardous, it’s usually only subject to the applicable standards for non-hazardous waste.)
What is the degree of risk concerning cannabis waste management?
Given that the major contaminant in marijuana byproducts is a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law, the case for extreme caution is obvious. Tightening the federal enforcement of eco-laws that directly affect cannabis waste management can be a politically expedient way to thwart the growth of marijuana cultivation without directly addressing the hot-button issues that surround it, whether pro or con.
What’s the upshot on cannabis waste management?
When it comes to cultivating recreational marijuana, the public’s impression might best be exemplified by Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury, wherein comic strip characters Zonker and Zipper enjoy a laidback life growing “weed,” more or less as they have all their lives—but now legally, on a grander scale, and unfettered by government interference.
Be advised: Nothing could be further from reality.
Commercial cultivation of recreational marijuana is wrought with regulatory hazards, and arguably more so than any other category of agribusiness requiring hazardous waste disposal. Thereby, the need for extra caution and expert advice is crucial.
In sum, it’s crucial to get expert advice.
And thank you for reading our blog!