Colorado Exploring Adopting Sustainable Cannabis Certifications

Colorado Exploring Adopting Sustainable Cannabis Certifications

Colorado’s cannabis industry | https://www.westword.com/marijuana/colorado-explores-sustainable-marijuana-production-regulations-11774842 | has the potential to become more sustainable if it embraces a set of eco-friendly waste removal and packaging rules. 
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Wasteful Rules
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At present, Colorado’s commercial cannabis growers | Learn more on Commonshare | cannot simply dispose of their agricultural waste like any other leftover plant matter. Because of cannabis’s status as an intoxicant, Coloradoan growers have to document the disposal of agricultural wastes – unused plant matter and product – along with every other step of the plant’s lifecycle. 
Regulations on disposal require growers to take the unused plant matter and mix it with various materials, including sawdust, manure compost, bleach, coffee grounds, sand, glass, or shredded paper. The cannabis-to-waste ratio must be 50/50.
Problems with current regulations 
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There are two key problems with this approach: 1) it negates the chance to properly compost plant material, and 2) it means growers must send twice the amount of waste to city dumps, landfills, and pick-up services. 
Thus, in 2019 the industry generated 3,650 tons (7.3 million pounds) of cannabis plant waste. However, packaging requirements then increased that to 7,300 tones in order to meet the requirement for 50/50 cannabis wastes/other waste. 
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New Legislation Offers Alternatives 
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New bills that passed the Colorado Legislature in 2018 and 2019 created opportunities for the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division to create new recycling programs for the cannabis industry. However, at present the majority of cannabis growers are not taking advantage of these new rules. 
The state’s Department of Public Health and Environment (DPHE) held a meeting on August 11th to ask industry members and state officials how to increase participation in the recycling program. 
The California approach and other alternatives 
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At the meeting, DPHE small-business consultant Kaitlin Urso voiced support for the California approach. California allows cannabis cultivators to dispose of agricultural waste without diluting it with other trash. In some cases, growers can reuse and recycle their leftovers. 
Colorado’s regulators and law enforcement authorities want to ensure that cannabis agricultural wastes are not stolen or reused for black-market purposes. Accordingly, Urso suggested reducing the waste ratio from 50 percent to 30, 20, or even 10%. 
Urso said that doing this would eliminate about 122 metric tons of carbon dioxide from Colorado’s air.
Some cannabis growers suggested that the state should do away with the waste dilution requirement, stating their confidence in their ability to dispose of their trash securely. 
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Sustainability Concerns and Opportunities  
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Beyond plant matter disposal, the cannabis industry is also a polluter because of unique packaging and labeling regulations that create a requirement for extra layers of plastic and paper. Some dispensaries have dropboxes for recycling some of this packaging, but they can only handle a small amount of the total packaging they sell out of their stores. 
The Marijuana Enforcement Division will revisit the question of environmental sustainability in its rulemaking hearings later in August and in September.

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