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Marijuana Growers and Processors Must Be Aware of Applicable Environmental Laws

February 11, 2020
Environmental Law Advisory

Grower cutting marijuana plantIn a potentially under-appreciated risk for marijuana growers and processors in Michigan, there are important environmental laws and permits that must be complied with in order to avoid jeopardizing business operations and state-issued licenses.

As explained by state agencies at a recent meeting of the West Michigan Chapter of the Air & Waste Management Association, there are several environmental laws that apply to growers and processors, along with the various environmental permits that are needed. A representative from the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) explained that a verbal memorandum of understanding exists between the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) and EGLE, under which EGLE will notify MRA of any enforcement activities for violations of environmental laws. Such violations will be taken into account by MRA for licensing decisions.

Unbeknownst to some applicants, a license from the MRA is not a certification that the grower or processor is in compliance with environmental laws as enforced by EGLE. Even with an active license from MRA, the grower or processor may still need certain permits from EGLE, such as a permit to withdraw water, to use or build on certain lands (such as wetlands), to discharge wastewater (with pollutants such as those from fertilizer) or for waste management purposes. If the grower or processor is unaware they need a permit, they could find themselves in violation of various laws even if they are operating with a valid license. In fact, an EGLE representative at the meeting expressed concern about the large disconnect between licenses given by MRA and the number of environmental permits given by EGLE.

EGLE seems intent on notifying MRA of any violations they discover. If MRA is notified of a violation, it is clear the violation will be taken into account for licensing purposes. Growers and processors should ensure compliance with all environmental laws to avoid drastic consequences down the road. 

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