Dumpster diving for marijuana in Denver: Don’t do it
Technically, dumpster diving by itself is not illegal. And recreational pot is legal in Colorado. So, as you might expect, dumpster diving for weed occurs with some frequency in Colorado.
But it’s a bad idea. First, law requires that marijuana waste be “unrecognizable and unusable.” Smoking marijuana that has gone through that process could be toxic.
“The most sustainable way to accomplish this is by grinding plant debris with paper or cardboard waste, growing media or soil,” according to the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment. “Once this has been done, plant debris can be composted by a licensed commercial composter. There is an exemption to this 50/50 mixing rule that allows stalks and stems to be diverted from the waste stream if used specifically for industrial fiber recovery.”
‘Unrecognizable and unusable’According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, some dispensaries have difficulties making pot undesirable. They may mix it with bleach or ammonia to meet the requirement.
“The primary reason for this regulation is that lawmakers are worried that improper disposal could result in secondary and black-market cultivation,” according to International Enviro Gard, a company that makes protective clothing for workers who deal with waste, including marijuana cultivation. “For example, let's say that a marijuana farm tossed its leftover hemp and cannabis in a dumpster. Thieves could remove the materials and resell them as cannabis to unsuspecting buyers, or they could try to use the materials themselves.”
According to Enviro Gard, “Cannabis industry workers can be exposed to hazardous substances including fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides” at grow sites. Dumpster divers sometimes find disposable protective equipment such as gloves in the dumpsters. They may try to scrape off the keif. This is an arduous process. And there also is no way of knowing what else may have come in contact with the gloves, such as pesticides.
City of Denver encourages compostingThe cannabis industry is heavily regulated in Colorado. The City and County of Denver created a “best practices” brochure for marijuana disposal. “Unfortunately, landfilling is currently the main form of waste disposal in the cannabis industry,” according to Denver Department of Public Health and Environment. “Some recycling and composting do take place, but at a much smaller percentage of total waste.”
Denver encourages composting of cannabis. “Composting can take place on the licensed operator’s property or at a certified compost or waste operators facility,” according to the DDPHE website. “Bokashi is an anaerobic type of composting that can be done on site with a relatively small footprint. Bokashi can be thought of as a fermentation process that ‘pickles’ the organic material inside the composting container.”
Dumpster pot contaminatedMost dispensaries keep their dumpster under lock and key, but not because it contains a gold mine of marijuana. They know people suspect there could be marijuana in the bin, even if there isn’t. They don’t want people damaging their dumpster or creating a mess. Many dispensaries also have security cameras on their dumpsters. While dumpster diving in and of itself is not illegal, dumpsters divers can be prosecuted for other crimes.
Dumpster divers can be prosecuted for things such as trespassing or criminal mischief. A 2015 Facebook post by the Denver police department noted they arrested some marijuana dumpster divers for criminal mischief outside a dispensary in the 800 block of Navajo Street.
The bottom line is that marijuana from a dumpster likely is contaminated with something, even if it’s just garbage, and is not meant for human consumption. Dispensaries aren’t about to do anything with safely consumable marijuana other than sell it.