Metro Vancouver staff has told Maple Ridge council that the regional government will be managing emissions from marijuana greenhouse operations.
Metro’s Esther Berube told council Tuesday that Metro is responding to concerns about emissions from marijuana growing facilities. She noted operators across the region are retrofitting greenhouses, “but lacking appropriate controls” to capture emissions.
Metro has the authority to manage emissions that can reduce air quality. That authority trumps even right-to-farm legislation, said Ray Robb, Metro Vancouver’s environmental regulation manager. Metro has no authority over light, noise or nuisance from a cannabis-growing operation on farmland.
Berube said volatile organic compounds are emitted from marijuana greenhouses and can contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, which is hazardous to human health. It can cause wheezing, teary eyes and irritation.
She told council that cannabis plants emit more VOCs by weight than other plants. Metro materials show cannabis emits more than five times the amount of volatile organic compounds than Douglas fir trees, per kilogram, she said.
“As many people in the room are aware, these volatile organic compounds also have odourous properties, and as a result can have impacts on people who are closer to the facilities and are breathing in these emissions directly,” she said.
Tantalus Labs spokesman Dan Sutton acknowledged that cannabis emits a relatively high rate of volatile organic compounds, but noted the size of a Douglas fir means it is a much larger emitter than a cannabis plant.
Every leafy, green plant emits VOCs, so marijuana should not be considered toxic to the environment, he added.
“A tiny fraction of VOCs come from cannabis plants,” he said. “Every time you smell pine, you’re smelling volatile organic compounds.”
Metro’s aim is to limit emissions at facilities through measuring and monitoring. It also has the authority to fine for non-compliance.
“Metro Vancouver doesn’t prohibit industry, we simply require that businesses operate in a way that protects the environment and health, so manages the emissions properly, and we work with them to do that through the permits and regulations,” Berube said.
There have been approximately 90 Maple Ridge complaints in 2019 related to cannabis, as of July 5, and Tantalus was named as suspect source in more than 80, said Metro staff.
“We’ve been told there are three illegal ones (grow-ops) in the area. We’re not aware of them, but that’s what we’ve been told,” said Robb.
Robb said Metro needs to hear complaints and concerns from residents, who can call 604-436-6777 for odour complaints.
“We appreciate hearing how does it impact them,” he said. “Does it cause some discomfort? Does it cause headaches, nausea, those sorts of things, and does it cause them to fail to use their property the way they like?”
No cannabis facilities in Metro Vancouver currently have an emissions permit, but Robb said Tantalus is further along in the permitting process than any other facility.
Coun. Gordy Robson said marijuana greenhouses likely will have to install charcoal filters for their exhaust systems.
“I think it’s a positive thing. It’s going to set some ground rules down for people who’ve established these in residential areas,” Robson said.
Sutton said that Tantalus’s relationship with Metro is about 18 months old and that officials have been at Tantalus’s site in Whonnock a number of times for inspections, and so far found no infractions. He said the company has “industry leading compliance” with emissions standards and is cooperating with Metro.
“We’ve been working with Metro Vancouver since the inception of their permit and regulation development activities,” he said. “We’re ready to respond to concerns.”
Tantalus is ready to expand its greenhouse operations.