According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, California became the fifth largest economy in the world earlier this year. It’s residents have loved marijuana for a long time by way of the Compassionate Use Act that created what is commonly referred to as the gray market. The non-profit collectives that made up the gray market are now being aggressively removed from the state’s economy with the passage of Prop. 64 and the regulated market that started at the beginning of this year for the commercial sale of cannabis. The elimination of the gray market and a new robust structured cannabis market has given birth to a whole new line of business, marijuana disposal companies.
As of July 1st, all cannabis that was improperly packaged, untested by a licensed lab or had too high of a THC concentration was to be destroyed. Estimations are that $367 million worth of cannabis is being lost due to the change in regulations. While the 5th largest economy in the world may be able to afford that sort of loss, it is a tough pill to swallow for individual companies. The result was a massive fire sale of the marijuana in stock before the July 1st deadline or desperate moves to have the marijuana repackaged in time.
But, like so much in life, what is one person’s loss is another’s gain. The creation of marijuana disposal companies may horrify many marijuana enthusiasts, but in regulated markets that are intended to protect consumers, disposal of outdated, tainted or improperly labeled products is simply a cost of doing business. The necessity for these companies will go beyond the immediate disposal of leftover cannabis from the gray market, but will continue to be a necessity going forward as well.
Laura Turner owns CWR, SoCal Inc., a cannabis composting company located in Murrieta that provides their clients with bins to dispose of marijuana plant material, edibles and even vape cartridges. A bran is added into the mixture and then Turner’s company adds more organic material, removes it and turns it into compost. Ms. Turner said to reporters, “It’s literally the part of the cannabis industry that nobody thinks about.” California state law mandates that all cannabis be rendered “unrecognizable and unusable” in an attempt to make sure that no excess cannabis makes it into the illicit market or gets any consumers sick.
I recently spoke to Laura about the changing cannabis industry in California and regulations concerning cannabis disposal. “There are many waste companies jumping on board to reap the benefits of hauling cannabis waste,” Laura told me. “Many business owners don’t care what happens to it once it is hauled. The problem is that with 9 out of 10 businesses not being familiar with CalRecycle’s 75% Diversion plan, many are still in jeopardy of being non-compliant. This plan states that any business disposing of 3,000+ pounds of waste on a weekly or monthly basis, must do so through an organics recycling program. CWR SoCal, Inc. is a green materials composting operation providing organics recycling through anaerobic fermentation. Not to mention, no one is mentioning solutions for end-user waste recycling. Pop top bottles, joint tubes, glass jars, exit and edibles packaging are forms of waste increasing en masse monthly. We’ve partnered with a national/international recycling company to provide a recycling option for this waste. We will be officially launching this program next month. The end-user waste recycling program will allow retail and distro businesses to create a loyalty and rewards program in-house too.” You can find out more about CWR SoCal services here.
There are other ways to dispose of the cannabis. One company, Cannabis Waste Solutions located in Lancaster and founded by Andrew McGinty, collects the excess cannabis and mixes it with wood chips which are then taken to a generator facility that burns it to generate electricity. It is easy to think that the excess cannabis could be used to provide veterans with medicine to help combat PTSD or chronic pain. Why couldn’t the excess cannabis go to patients that cannot afford cannabis? Unfortunately the answers are never easy. It’s the same question that could be asked of a restaurant that throws out its leftovers each night instead of giving it to the homeless.