Air Quality and Marijuana Cultivation

Marijuana Growing and Air Pollution: Discussion Paper from The Communications Institute



One of untold stories about the environmental impact of marijuana production is the air pollution it causes both in exterior and interior cultivation. Many state and local governments have taken action to deal with the problem while other local and state governments like Calaveras County and the State of California have totally ignored the impact of the repulsive odor from the plants.   

The San Luis Obispo Tribune reported “Denise and Mike Shandroff’s home office overlooks the neighbors’ backyard. “The plants were five to six feet tall and up to five feet in diameter,” Denise Shandroff said. “It looked like an orchard. The larger they got and the closer to harvest, the smellier it got, and the odor was overwhelming.” City Attorney Christine Dietrick said that the Shandroffs’ concerns were enough to prompt the City Council to ask for an ordinance to be drafted. In describing the odor, they noted “……and the smell — it was just over the top.”  In March a new ordinance approved was in City San Luis Obispo, originally stemming from complaints about medical marijuana cultivation, would regulate any offensive and persistent odors that waft across property lines. 

One Mokelume Hill property owner in Calaveras County reports that his home has been surrounded by multiple marijuana groves. He told the Institute “These groves smell like skunks at a magnitude of 10!”    

Other governments report identical air quality issues. The following is from Vancouver Canada:   “Several Metro Vancouver municipalities are having to deal with a crop of complaints from residents over the smell from medical marijuana-growing operations,” she reports, “Burnaby, Langley Township, Maple Ridge and Surrey have had to grapple with the problem. Last year, Surrey shut down three grow-ops for odor and forced four others to clean up their act, using a nuisance by-law as ammunition.” 

The most noticeable problem with B.C.’s groves Zacharias highlights, is the smell. She reveals that “Langley Township recently introduced a bylaw that would permit bylaw officers to issue tickets of up to $500 a day for foul smells from these production facilities.” But as annoying as the smell of marijuana grow-ops can be to neighbours, the health effects that these facilities can have on future residents is even more alarming.”   

Here are some other complaints around the nation found in one report:  

In Colorado…For example, in this June 2015 article neighbors are worried and complaining about home values. The farm is 20 miles outside of Basalt(Aspen), CO. Click here or here to read more. 

In Oregon… The Oregon city of Medford, where officials say residents have long grumbled about the odor of marijuana growing operations, is considering a regulation that would fine pot growers if their marijuana is too smelly, city officials said on Wednesday. Read more here. Medford City Council bans the growing of both medical and recreational marijuana. To read more, click here

In Washington…Washington State requires businesses that may create air pollution — including the emission of strong odors — to get air quality permits. “Washington State specifically identifies smell as an air contaminant in the Washington State Clean Air Act”, said Carole Cenci, senior engineer with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. “If you’re going to grow or process marijuana, you need an air quality permit, before you buy equipment, before you even design your system,” Cenci said. Read the full article here. 

Washington States Aggressive Control On Marijuana Air Pollution   

The Washington Clean Air Act was amended to now govern air from the production and processing of marijuana. The Washington Department of Ecology and all seven regional clean air agencies that also have regulatory authority. The bottom line for any marijuana production and processing facility is that some level of compliance with odor and other emissions limits is required. That has not included in most cannabis air quality discussions in California.    

On the Olympic Peninsula authorities affirmed a penalty for failing to comply, saying that there was sufficient evidence the marijuana odor unreasonably interfered with the neighbor’s use and enjoyment of her property. According to WAC 173-400-040(8) prohibits odors that unreasonably interfere with another property owner’s use and enjoyment of their property. Washington State law recognizes that a marijuana production or a processing facility regardless of its location in the state are subject to air pollution regulations that can be used to enforce limits on odors and other emissions from the facility.   

Big Fines -- The on Puget Sound Clean Air Regulations on Cannabis levy big fines for noncompliance with these laws. For those businesses that do not comply with regulations, the Puget Sound air quality agency can levy fines of up to $10,000 per day.    

Background - 

Environmental Check List  

The Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency also has strong requirements too. The agency has declared that the production and processing of marijuana can impact air quality. Recreational and/or medical marijuana businesses involved in either process are subject to air quality requirements.  Marijuana producers and processors are required to comply with state and local air quality regulations prohibiting nuisance1 odors. This requires control of emissions consistent with best management practices for the industry (Reg. I, Art. VI, Sect. 6.04). Failure to comply may result in enforcement action.  

Air Quality Issues Paper: 

Examining The Impact of Marijuana Grow-Ops On Air Quality