Recreational cannabis hasn’t been legal for very long in Canada, but regions like Metro Vancouver have already received a lot of complaints about the smog and skunky smells coming from commercial marijuana growing and processing operations.
Last week, Metro Vancouver began working with local cannabis companies and other stakeholders on regulations to reduce the amount of pollution and unpleasant smells generated by grow ops during the flowering and harvesting period of the crops. The Metro Vancouver board is concerned that the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by these cannabis farms are reacting with sunlight and nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere to form ozone, which pollutes the environment and is harmful to people with respiratory issues.
“During the summertime, where we see the discoloured haze, … a lot of that is from ozone,” said Roger Quan – Metro Vancouver’s Director of Air Quality and Climate Change – told The Globe and Mail. “In the past, we had summers where we issued quite a few advisories about ozone levels exceeding the Canadian standards.”
Metro Vancouver combated that problem in the past by imposing stricter regulations on oil refineries and vehicle emissions, and the board is ready to do the same with the cannabis industry in response to complaints from residents. Over the past year, Metro Vancouver has received 326 complaints about either the smell of the cannabis itself or chemicals used to mask those odors. Most of these complaints have been lodged against Canopy Growth Corp.’s facility in the Township of Langley, one of the world’s largest legal cannabis farms. Quan said the company appeared to be using bulk amounts of a Febreze-like spray to try to cover up the strong skunky smell of cannabis. Canopy Growth, however, denied this claim.
“We’ve listened to residents, we take their concerns seriously and intend on continuing to work with them and Metro Vancouver to find solutions to address any further issues,” said Canopy Growth spokesperson Aly-Kahn Virani.
Regardless of whether or not Canopy is using odor-masking chemicals, the sheer number of complaints about the smell of their facility means that something needs to change. As Allan Rewak—Executive Director of Cannabis Council, an industry lobbying group—said, cannabis businesses are very interested in trying to appease the local communities they work in and eager to work with Metro Vancouver on fixing this problem.
However, Quan fears that Metro Vancouver doesn’t have the power necessary to eliminate the odor and pollution problems on its own, so the board will also be sending a letter to Health Canada pushing for odor regulations to be put in place on a federal level. While there are currently federal odor control and pollution regulations in place for commercial cannabis growers, they aren’t very clear and do not appear to be effectively addressing the issue.