Metro Vancouver plans more public engagement on cannabis emissions

Regional government plans additional engagement between November 2020 and February 2021

Current discharges of air contaminants from cannabis production and processing operations in B.C.’s Lower Mainland region are not legally authorized. Shutterstock

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Metro Vancouver intends to hold additional public engagement on regulating emissions by the cannabis industry.

These emissions come from production and processing operations.

The regional government holds the authority to manage air quality in B.C.’s Lower Mainland.

“Emissions from cannabis production and processing include volatile organic compounds (VOC) which contribute to the formation of harmful ground-level ozone,” staff wrote in a report.

Additionally, Metro Vancouver’s climate action committee received the report for information purposes.

The regional government will hold the engagement between November 2020 and February 2021.

To clarify, ground-level ozone affects human health. People at risk include those with asthma, as well as children and seniors. The presence of ozone in the air can cause chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and inflammation of the airway.

Moreover, ozone impacts vegetation, and can lessen the productivity of crops.

Emissions form harmful ozone

The pollutant forms when VOCs and nitrogen oxides (Nox) react in sunlight and stagnant air, the federal government explains online.

A consultation paper by Metro Vancouver notes that emissions “most notably occur during the flowering and harvesting phases” of cannabis.

As well, the document noted that this phase can produce “high levels of a group of VOC called terpenes ”.

“Terpenes are known for their strong odour and involvement in the production of secondary air contaminants,” the paper stated.

Additionally, power equipment used in cannabis production and processing generates emissions of nitrogen oxides.

The document recalled that a number of greenhouses formerly used for vegetable production have been retrofitted for cannabis production. However, these facilities do not have equipment to collect and treat air contaminants.

The paper stated that, without adequate emission control, cannabis production can “cause negative air quality impacts”. 

Discharges not authorized

Metro Vancouver staff members Julie Saxton and Arvind Saraswat prepared the report about the additional public engagement on cannabis emissions.

They noted the “absence of air discharge permits or an emission regulation bylaw” that covers the cannabis industry.

Therefore, it could not legally authorize “current discharges of air contaminants from many cannabis production and processing operations in the region”.

Saxton and Saraswat recalled that Metro Vancouver held a first round of public consultations from June to November 2019.

As part of the additional public engagement, topics include ways to regulate emissions and address odour issues.

A summary of the first round of public consultations notes “complaints about odorous emissions from cannabis production operations”.

Follow Carlito Pablo on Twitter at @carlitopablo

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