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Resale market for cannabis waste? WA lawmakers consider it

caption: Marijuana plants are shown in the flowering room on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018, at Grow Ambrosia in Seattle.
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Marijuana plants are shown in the flowering room on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018, at Grow Ambrosia in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Washington lawmakers are considering a brand-new type of cannabis market: resale of the plant waste.

Cannabis growers must currently dispose of any spent stalks and stems, or flowers that didn't pass testing. By state law, it has to be disposed of as dangerous waste, due to the material's possibly intoxicating effects.

But a bill in the Legislature would allow growers to sell this waste for re-purposing and the creation of new products.

Lawmakers heard testimony on the bill Tuesday, building on commentary they heard already at a January hearing.

Cannabis producer Lucas Hunter told lawmakers at the Jan. 30 hearing that his operation sees a lot of plant trimmings and stocks get trashed in the landfill, causing an unnecessary burden on the environment.

“We easily produce biomass that ends up going to waste," Hunter said.

"We end up having to pay employees to process [that waste], and that could just be sold for many other purposes, and we’re tired of producing waste in this industry when we really don’t have to.”

There are about 900 cannabis producers in the state. Zero Waste Washington says these farms can produce close to 500-1,000 pounds of green waste on a weekly basis. In one example, the large operation at Painted Rooster Cannabis Co reported generating about 6,000 pounds of green waste from cultivation last season.

The upcycled cannabis wouldn't be for consumption. Buyers could use the wasted greens to make fiber goods, bio-plastics, animal feed or compost.

Growers, and sponsoring lawmaker Sen. Derek Stanford (D-Bothell), say the bill would cut down on unnecessary landfill waste. Ezra Eickmeyer, of the group Producers Northwest, also testified in January.

"Our industry has quite the waste stream, and this bill tackles the organics side of it," Eickmeyer said. "It pains me to think of organic matter showing up in the landfill, like that should be going to the soils or something. So, this is a great bill and I urge passage."

Cannabis operations produce tens of thousands of pounds of plant waste each year, according to Washington state's records.

Current law requires it to be mixed with other waste, like food or cardboard, and disposed of as dangerous waste.

Supporters of the cannabis waste bill say it's one of the first needed steps in a journey to make the industry less wasteful and polluting. Another future target: plastic packaging refuse from edibles and dried flower.

The bill, SB5376, has bipartisan sponsors.

The legislation has already been passed out of its committee of origin, a first hurdle in the legislature, and is under review now by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

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