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).
- Plant waste from indoor growing operations is considered commercial waste and may be burned depending on location. Materials such as plastic, solvents and wet garbage are prohibited from outdoor burning everywhere in Oregon. Other materials may be burned under regulations administered by DEQ, cities, and counties. For more information on restrictions and requirements for disposal by burning, check with your local fire department and review the Oregon Outdoor Burning Guide. In the Willamette Valley, call the Agricultural Burn Line at 503‐986‐4755 and follow the burn recommendations provided on the daily updated recording.
- 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. Make sure to render the marijuana unfit for human or animal consumption before disposal. (See information below) Contact DEQ for information about disposal options available in your area.
Composting facilities use microorganisms to break down 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 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 materials such as vegetative material or manure, or 20 tons per year of material containing 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 mineral 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.
How to make items unfit for consumption
The following guidelines provide processors guidance on how to render items unfit for consumption and provide information on how to dispose of them. OLCC also provides guidance on how to keep such material secure.
- Plants and usable marijuana
The material should be composted or disposed of in a landfill if composting isn’t available. To render it unfit for consumption, use one of the following methods:
- For composting - Mix with yard debris, wood chips, sawdust or manure
- For landfill disposal - Mix with soil, sand or other garbage
- Burn if permitted by law
- Liquid or solid concentrates or extracts
Determine if the material is hazardous waste. For more guidance on how to make such determinations, see the hazardous waste section above or contact DEQ for assistance and information on proper disposal.
If the material is not hazardous waste, mix it with cat litter, sand or another type of absorbent material if it is liquid. For larger amounts of liquid that are impractical to absorb, contact DEQ for assistance. If it is solid, it can be mixed with one of those substances or garbage or soil and can be disposed of in landfills.
Facilities that generate industrial waste, such as cannabis extraction facilities, must determine if that waste is classified as hazardous waste, which requires special management and regulation. In most cases, cannabis extracts are not considered hazardous waste.
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 220 lbs or 25 gallons
- Extraction process residues
For more guidance on how to make such determinations, contact DEQ for assistance and information on proper disposal.
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.