Something Smells Funny In Spokane County

Citing the doubling of odor complaints from July 2014, the month when marijuana production and processing began in Spokane County, the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency (the “SRCAA”) is proposing new rules to address the perceived marijuana odor issue. SRCAA enforces federal, state and local regulations to reduce air pollution. Any business within Spokane County that emits any air contaminants is subject to the SRCAA’s jurisdiction. Thus, all marijuana producers (both indoor and outdoor) as well as marijuana processors in Spokane County need to comply with SRCAA’s regulations.

Under the proposed rules, all marijuana businesses would be required to register with the SRCAA, pay annual registration fees and be subject to periodic inspections. SRCAA’s proposed rules divide marijuana producers into 3 categories: Indoor Producer, Outdoor Producer and Other Producer. Registration fees differ as to each category with large scale outdoor operations using hoop houses or similar structures paying the highest fees.

The proposed rules also differ for Outdoor and Indoor Producers. For example, Indoor Producers would be required to prepare and follow an Operations and Maintenance plan for air pollution control. Outdoor Producers would not need to prepare a plan but would be required to provide a harvest schedule to SRCAA. Any indoor growing and/or propagation by an Indoor or Outdoor Producer would require air pollution control equipment and/or facility design to reduce odor.

Processors would similarly be required to prepare and follow an Operations and Maintenance plan for air pollution control and use air pollution control equipment and/or facility design to reduce odor. Processors, however, that only purchase marijuana oil to manufacture infused products would be able to apply for a processing exemption.

The question, however, especially for outdoor growers is whether the proposed fees and regulatory requirements will prove overly burdensome. The relatively new marijuana industry is already facing numerous hurdles including banking and financing difficulties resulting from the federal illegality of marijuana; and greater financial and regulatory burdens may further hamper the growth and success of these businesses.

It is likely that other regional air authorities will follow SRCAA’s lead in enacting new odor control rules and registration requirements. Consequently, even if your marijuana business is not located in Spokane County, marijuana licensees will want to pay close attention as to what happens with these proposed rules.

More information on the proposed rules can be found here. SRCAA will be holding a public hearing on its proposed rules on December 7th and will be accepting public comment through the hearing date.

For more information on the regulation of marijuana businesses in Washington State, please contact Heather Wolf.