The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality does not regulate the growing or processing of marijuana. However, marijuana businesses must abide by existing regulations designed to protect our air, land and water. DEQ has a regulatory role in air emissions, solid waste, hazardous waste and wastewater management.
DEQ does not have marijuana-specific requirements. As an agricultural operation, marijuana growing is exempt from many DEQ air quality regulations. DEQ has a role in ensuring marijuana businesses are in compliance with other applicable environmental regulations.
More resources for the public and consumers about applicable laws are available at the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
Permitting of marijuana businesses
The following are areas DEQ is aware of to date where a DEQ permit may apply to marijuana production:
- Installation of one or more boilers that total 10 million or more BTU/hour heat input.
- Using generators for electrical power; or emergency generators > 30,000 horsepower.
- Emission of 10 tons or more per year of volatile organic compounds (e.g., solvents).
- Burning waste (check with the local jurisdiction).
- Composting more than 100 tons per year of vegetative material or 20 tons per year of waste that includes meat, eggs, dairy or animal mortality.
- Disposing of wastewater to a surface water body.
- Wastewater discharge to a sanitary sewer or onsite septic system (contact the local jurisdiction).
- Land applying process wastewater.
If none of these apply to your operations, then most likely you do not need a DEQ permit.
Oregon’s Business Readiness Guidebook for Oregon Recreational Marijuana Operations
If a marijuana grow or processing site uses boilers or heating units the business may require:
- A Notice of Intent to Construct
- Registration of the unit
- An Air Contaminant Discharge Permit
Growers and Processors
- Odor Controls - Commercial/industrial facilities with a DEQ permit, such as an Air Contaminant Discharge Permit, are subject to DEQ’s Nuisance Odor Strategy.
- Volatile Organic Compounds: Marijuana processing may emit volatile organic compounds. Use of solvents for extraction is one example. While it’s unlikely the volume emitted from marijuana processing would exceed the criteria for an air permit (10 tons per year of volatile organic compounds emissions), businesses should be aware of the requirements.
- Burning: Processing waste is considered commercial waste, which may be prohibited from burning depending on location. Additionally, some materials are prohibited from outdoor burning including: plastic, solvents and wet garbage. Other materials may be burned under regulations administered by ODA, DEQ, cities, and counties.
Marijuana-related solid waste, such as vegetative material and used plant growth soil must be composted, processed for recovery/ reuse, or disposed of at solid waste facilities permitted by DEQ. Contact DEQ for information about options available in your area.
Composting facilities use microorganisms to decompose organic feedstocks such as vegetative debris, animal manures and discarded food. Compost enriches soil, improves drainage and reduces atmospheric carbon.
Growers and processors that have land, personnel, time and equipment can compost on their own property. Commercial composting facilities throughout the state are willing to accept waste from marijuana growing or processing as a feedstock as well. Learn more about DEQ’s composting contacts and information about composting requirements.
- Composting on-site: Facilities that compost more than 100 tons per year of feedstocks that include vegetative material or manures, or 20 tons per year of feedstocks that include meats, eggs, dairy, or animal parts must apply to DEQ for a composting facility permit, unless they meet certain exemptions.
Agricultural crop residues, including vegetative marijuana wastes, may be composted alone or with other organic materials. DEQ encourages potential composters to contact DEQ to determine if an application is necessary.
Used growing soil media generally does not compost but is an excellent amendment to finished compost or can be used as a fertilizer on other crops.
- Sending waste material to commercial composting facilities: Vegetative marijuana waste and used growing soil may be sent off site to a DEQ-permitted composting facility where it is processed into finished compost or reused.
Solid waste storage and collection
Counties and cities regulate solid waste storage and collection. Solid waste generators – including growers/ processors, waste haulers, composters and disposal facility operators – are responsible for complying with solid waste storage and collection regulations. Businesses should take reasonable measures and implement best management practices to prevent trespassing and scavenging. For more information about waste storage and collection in your area of business, contact your local garbage hauler.
Disposal at a Landfill
Disposal of solid waste at a landfill can be an option if no other composting or reuse options are feasible or available. Contact the local waste hauling company to make arrangements.
Marijuana production could generate hazardous waste. Businesses should be aware of the following potential hazardous wastes:
- Pressurized gas
- Used oil
- Used mercury containing lamps
- Waste pesticides – 3 percent or greater of any substance or mixture listed in 40 Code of Federal Regulations 261.33(e) or 10 percent or greater of any substance or mixture listed in §261.33(f)
- Reportable quantities of a pesticide spill - pesticide residues greater than
- 200 lbs or 25 gallons
Regulation of Wastewater Associated with Marijuana Growing and Processing Operations
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality does not directly regulate the growing or processing of marijuana. However, marijuana businesses must abide by existing regulations designed to protect our air, land and water. DEQ has a limited role in wastewater management associated with growing and processing operations, and the regulations differ depending on whether wastewater is associated with an agricultural operation or disposed via sanitary sewer or onsite septic system.
Additional information on Oregon laws and regulations relating to marijuana are available at the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
Wastewater from marijuana growing operations and marijuana processing operations are regulated differently.
Marijuana growing operations on agricultural lands are considered farm uses and therefore agricultural wastewater management falls under the authority of the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ORS 568.900 – 568.933). This applies to greenhouses and hydroponic operations as well as open air grow sites.
- House Bill 3400, passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2015, establishes that marijuana is a crop for the purposes of determining a “farm use” as defined in ORS 215.203.
- ORS 561.191 establishes that the Oregon Department of Agriculture is the lead agency for programs and rules that directly regulate farming practices related to water quality protection.
- See ODA’s website for more information on authorities and programs for regulating agricultural activities affecting water quality.
DEQ only has a regulatory role in managing wastewater from growing operations if it is being discharged into a sanitary sewer system, an onsite septic system, or being discharged directly into a surface water body through a pipe or ditch.
Municipal wastewater discharges
Growers and processors should contact the local sanitary authority for information about connecting or discharging wastewater to a sanitary sewer system. Under certain circumstances, DEQ pretreatment regulations may apply.
Onsite septic systems discharges
Wastewater from growing facilities and processing facilities may not be discharged into an onsite septic system designed to treat domestic (household) wastewater. In addition, planting and growing marijuana on top of a septic drainfield or irrigating and harvesting over a drainfield may impair a residential septic system’s performance. For more information contact the onsite septic system authority in your county
Surface water discharges
Wastewater from growing and processing facilities that discharge directly to a surface water through a ditch, channel, or pipe requires a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Contact DEQ for more information.
Wastewater from growing facilities and processing facilities may not be discharged underground. Underground Injection of wastewater may cause groundwater contamination which is costly, difficult, and sometimes impossible to clean up. For more information contact DEQ’s Underground Injection Control
Marijuana processing wastewater, including but not limited to wash water, process wastewater from extraction processes, and wastewater from food preparation may be subject to DEQ regulation. Contact DEQ for more information.
The following are contacts for questions regarding DEQ’s role in marijuana regulation:
- Air quality (boilers, generators or other sources of air emissions) - Northwest Region Air Quality Duty Officer, 503-229-5263;
or Western Region, Alex Haulman, 503-378-4996
- Composting and solid waste management – Bob Barrows, 541-687-7354
- Hazardous waste – Dan Lobato, 541-686-7998
- Wastewater management – Etsegenet Belete, 503-229-5586