California Considers Public Comments on the Environmental Impact of Its Cannabis Regulations

The state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control held three public workshops in September and is also accepting comments through mail and email until Oct. 6.

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October 6, 2017
Melissa Schiller
Compliance Grower/Agriculture Legislation and regulation News State by State: California

The California Bureau of Cannabis Control held three public workshops in September to answer questions and receive comments about the release of its California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Initial Study and Proposed Negative Declaration (IS/ND) for its regulatory licensing and enforcement program for the cannabis industry, and is continuing to accept written and emailed comments through Oct. 6, according to a notice on the Bureau’s website.

Earlier this month, the Bureau released nearly 500 pages of proposed rules to regulate the state’s marijuana industry under the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA). The purpose of the regulations is to not only establish a licensing and enforcement program, but to also ensure that medicinal and adult-use cannabis activities do not harm the environment, industry employees or the public, according to the Bureau’s notice.

“We took a look at our regulatory program, what we were going to be specifically licensing at the Bureau, to determine if there was going to be a significant impact on the environment,” said the Bureau’s Assistant Chief Counsel Tamara Colson in an interview with Cannabis Business Times.

She said the licenses the Bureau issues will be varied in activity and location, and they wanted to look at the potential environmental impact of the regulatory program and the types of licenses they will be issuing.

“In doing that, we looked at impacts on public services and noise within neighboring communities, and many of those issues are addressed by some local ordinances already,” Colson said. “And then of course with transportation, we looked at air quality issues and emissions issues.”

The Bureau is also hoping to achieve several other objectives with the regulations, according to the Bureau’s Notice of Intent, including monitoring each plant through a “track and trace” system from seed to sale and ensuring that plants’ contamination levels are tested by state-certified laboratories.

Based on the IS/ND findings, the Bureau determined that the regulations would not have significant effects on the environment. The Bureau made the IS/ND available for public review and is considering public comments regarding the environmental analyses of the program. Three workshops were held in Long Beach, Fresno and Sacramento on Sept. 18, 20 and 21 where the public had the chance to ask questions about the IS/ND and submit comments.

Waste, packaging, emissions and odor have been issues raised during the public comment period thus far, Colson said. People wonder if waste created through cannabis activity will go to a landfill or be composted, and they have asked about plastic waste and whether biodegradable or reusable packaging should be required.

Another area is emissions,” Colson said. “There have been some questions about emissions and comments related to particularly transportation and what the emission impact with transportation for the cannabis industry might be.”

Colson also said there have been concerns about odor and how it might impact residents who live near licensed cannabis facilities. Another issue raised, she said, is the impact of cultivation facilities’ indoor, outdoor and mixed light on water and energy supplies.

“We seriously consider every single comment,” Colson said.” I can’t really say one comment’s more important than the other. Some of the comments we get aren’t specifically related to the environmental impact and the CEQA process itself, so … they’re general comments, [but] we will still look at those for our program.”

The formal comment period began on Sept. 6 and ends at 5 p.m. PST on Oct. 6. Written comments can be mailed to the Bureau of Cannabis Control to the attention of Sara Gardner at 1625 North Market Blvd., Ste. S-202, Sacramento, CA 95834. Comments are also accepted via email at BCC.CEQAcomments@dca.ca.gov.

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