While the rapid growth of the cannabis industry in Canada has created new and exciting opportunities, this breakneck pace raises questions regarding the management of cannabis-related waste.
Cannabis production generates a significant amount of waste in the form of almost all of the by-products of production, including plant discards, air emissions, wastewater and other solid waste. Some estimates have found that Canada’s cannabis industry will generate up to 6,000 tonnes of cannabis waste in 2020.
However, despite the general emphasis of regulators on the importance of proper waste management, there is little guidance from either the federal or the provincial governments on this issue specific to the cannabis industry.
Generally, the production of cannabis is regulated by the federal government under the Cannabis Act and Cannabis Regulations. Cannabis producers are subject to strict requirements regarding licensing, security, production standards and product quality.
The Cannabis Act provides for a comprehensive definition of “cannabis”, which in effect includes any part of the cannabis plant, any substance or mixture that contains or has on it any part of the plant, and any substance that is identical to any phytocannabinoid (e.g. THC or CBD) produced by or found in such a plant. Schedule 2 excludes certain parts of the plant, including non-viable seeds, mature stalks without leaves, flowers, seeds or branches, fibres derived from any items listed in Schedule 2 and the root or any part of the root of the plant.
The federal Cannabis Regulations provide that any unused cannabis must be “destroyed”. The method of destruction, however, is not set out. Nevertheless, cannabis may only be destroyed by methods that comply with otherwise applicable federal, provincial and municipal laws. For example, destruction must not result in anyone being exposed to cannabis or cannabis vapour, must take place in the presence of two witnesses and producers are to record every instance of destruction and keep these records for a minimum of two years.
With the exception of destruction of unused cannabis, the Cannabis Act and Regulationsdo not address the management of the waste resulting from the production of cannabis.