Cannabis Industry and Odour Regulations

At this point, air quality and related permitting regulations in Ontario and the rest of Canada have not been well established for the Cannabis industry but that should not stop the industry from moving forward on anticipated air quality concerns such as odour issues.    Below is some information to consider as you prepare to permit a new cannabis facility which may also be relevant to existing facilities.

One potential path that  Ontario could take is found in  Regulation 1/17 of the Environmental Protection Act which allows many low risk facilities to register and operate under the Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (“EASR”) instead of the more traditional Environmental Compliance Approval (“ECA”) process.  The EASR process is intended to be a more simplified and timely permitting process.  Facilities which register under the EASR must prepare an Emission Summary and Dispersion Modelling (ESDM) Report as well as a Noise Report and an Odour Screening Report.

An Odour Screening Report requires determination of the primary North American Industry Classification System (“NAICS”) code for the facility.  For a Licensed Producer (“LP”), the applicable NAICS code is likely to be 325411 “Medicinal chemicals, uncompounded, manufacturing” or 424210 “Botanical drugs and herbs merchant wholesalers”.  The next step in the odour screening process is to calculate the setback distance from the source of odour emissions to the closest point of odour reception beyond the facility property. This distance is compared with minimum setback distances for specific NAICS codes.  Although the above NAICS codes relevant to cannabis production are not currently included in the screening process, it is possible that regulators will create such set back distances in the coming months.  The screening process defines many types of odour receptors but generally includes places where the public live, work, worship, visit or may otherwise be present. 

A Best Management Practices Plan (“BMPP”) is required if the Odour Screening Report shows that there is insufficient setback distance between an odour emission source and the closest point of odour reception.  A BMPP for odour may be required for facilities whose operations are defined by specific NAICS codes. For each source of odour emissions from a facility, including fugitive sources, the BMPP must identify potential reasons why the odour emissions may increase occasionally, odour control measures already existing at the facility and procedures to ensure that the control measures are properly maintained, operated and monitored. The BMPP also requires that additional measures to control odours are identified and a schedule is prepared for their implementation.

For facilities with specific NAICS codes and insufficient setback distances, an Odour Control Report may also be required.  This report must include a list of odour control measures or process changes which are used at similar facilities with the same NAICS code in Ontario or elsewhere, determine which of those measures are technically applicable to the applicants facility and, if necessary, explain why the list of measures or changes may not be applicable for reducing or eliminating odour emissions. 

The path that regulators will eventually take to address air quality and odour emissions from the cannabis industry is evolving.  In addition to municipalities managing these issues through zoning and bylaws tools, it is still to be seen if and to what extent environmental regulators will engage and whether existing permitting tools such as the EASR process will apply.  We do know that historically odours has been a source of complaints in many communities and it is important for cannabis producers to be viewed as a good corporate citizen.  Whether it is the federal, provincial or municipal government, odour concerns will be part of the permitting process. 

ORTECH has been involved in odour assessments for a broad range of industrial, agricultural and other facilities for over forty years and is experienced in the operation and performance of air pollution control equipment for many different NAICS code operations.