Dealing with cannabis waste is much, much more than bag-and-toss — it’s a highly-regulated substance that has to be handled in specific ways. And because of the multiple state agencies involved, each with varying laws — as well as local regulations that often conflict with state-level rules — there is no one universal guideline.
For example, California has three different cannabis agencies, each with their own set of regulations for waste handling. This makes compliance more difficult to achieve than it should be.
So let’s try and make some sense of the basics. Anything that comes in contact with THC is considered to be cannabis waste, and that includes everything from unused dirt and plant debris to such items as unused wrappings, packaging, gloves, lab utensils and more. Even the water used for extraction and equipment cleaning has to be treated and can’t simply go down the drain. All of this has to be rendered “unusable and unrecognizable” before it can be disposed.
Nor can anybody just haul the waste away. Like hazardous chemicals and materials, everything must be tracked through a chain of custody — from storage to transportation to processing to final disposal. Whether your business is a grower, lab, producer, distributor, dispensary or even event planning, you are likely required to have a formal waste management plan on file with state regulators.
So whether you choose to have cannabis waste recycled or composted to reduce environmental impact, or merely hauled to landfills as is allowed, it’s up to you to employ properly licensed waste companies. What’s more, you have to be careful not to ask companies to perform duties outside of their licensing. While all this complexity tends to be a hurdle that new entrepreneurs often don’t think about, it is the only way to ensure that no material containing THC winds up in the hands of children, pets, or unauthorized users.