Unlike most marijuana products, edibles come with an expiration date, but disposing of expired or unused edibles isn’t as simple as just chucking them in the garbage.

Even in states where recreational marijuana is legal, you can get in serious trouble for discarding cannabis in a way that makes it accessible to children, animals, or others who aren’t supposed to get their hands on it. And if you’re a marijuana business owner, the regulations are especially stringent. We’re here to clear up the confusion regarding how to dispose of edibles.

How to Dispose of Edibles as an Individual

If you’re a recreational or medicinal user and you need to discard a magic brownie that has surpassed its shelf life, what do you do? The answer depends on the laws in your state and local jurisdiction. Still, there are some basic trends that can help point you in the right direction.

Render Your Edibles Unusable and Unrecognizable

Most states impose some type of “unusable and unrecognizable” requirement for cannabis consumers. While the term is generally used in the business world to describe the required rendering process for on-site cannabis waste, it has applications in the consumer market as well.

Rendering cannabis unusable and unrecognizable generally means to destroy the product, break it down, and mix it with non-cannabis waste so that it can’t be identified or used by anyone who stumbles upon it.

The rendering requirements for businesses are very specific and legally binding, but individual consumers typically aren’t held to the same standard. As long as you do the following, you should be covered in most jurisdictions:

  • Remove the packaging. This should be discarded separately.
  • Crush or grind down the edible product, leaving behind only unidentifiable pieces.
  • Mix the pieces with at least 50% non-cannabis waste.

Be sure to consult your local laws, as these general guidelines may not be legally sufficient in some locations.

Take it to a Composting Facility

For greater assurance, you can avoid discarding the edible yourself and instead submit it for composting. Make a couple of phone calls to determine if your local composting facilities accept marijuana products. This is becoming increasingly common in the age of legal marijuana.

You may still need to grind down your edibles and render them first. Ask the facility what it requires before you show up with expired edibles or any other cannabis waste.

Discard Your Edibles at the Airport

States like California, Colorado, and Nevada are facing a new issue: cannabis tourism. Travelers visit the Emerald Triangle and the Vegas Strip to enjoy cannabis freely, but then they have to discard any unused goods before catching their flight back to South Carolina. Transporting marijuana across state lines is a federal crime, but some airports have come up with a solution: amnesty boxes.

You’ll find amnesty boxes in a growing number of local and international airports, including McCarran (Las Vegas), O’Hare (Chicago), Colorado Springs (Colorado), Aspen/Pitkin County (Colorado), and numerous others. If you happen to be catching a flight out of town, just drop your unused edibles into the box and continue on your way—no rendering required.

Before traveling, make sure to confirm that your airport of departure has amnesty boxes in place. Some airports, like Denver International Airport, still prohibit all cannabis possession, so don’t automatically assume that it’s safe to stroll into the building with a backpack full of expired gummies.

Return it to a Dispensary

Some dispensaries offer cannabis disposal free of charge. This allows the facility to discard the product in accordance with the law while also recycling any packaging and other renewable components.

Some dispensaries even offer perks to customers who return their unused cannabis, vape pens, and other disposables. You may be able to earn free products, reward points, and valuable discounts. Make sure to call before visiting.

How to Dispose of Edibles as a Business

Businesses must store all cannabis waste (including edibles) in a secure, limited-access area on the licensed premises. Edibles can be discarded with general, non-hazardous plant waste. They should never be discarded with hazardous waste like solvent wipes and high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps—these need to be discarded separately and treated at an authorized hazardous waste facility.

For dispensaries, manufacturers, and other canna-businesses, the “unusable and unrecognizable” standard is more than just a guideline. It’s a hard rule that must be followed to the letter. Different jurisdictions have different standards and definitions to satisfy this requirement, but most often, the product is ground down and mixed with large quantities of non-cannabis waste, often detergent or other toxic substances.

California law is particularly vague about what constitutes “unusable and unrecognizable,” and it’s generally assessed on a case-by-case basis. Other states are much more specific. For instance, in Oregon, edibles must “mix with soil, slack lime, garbage or similar substance.” In Colorado, businesses are expressly required to grind all marijuana waste and mix it with any non-consumable, solid wastes that appear on the state’s approved list. At least 50% of the waste must be non-cannabis.

To complicate matters even more, all waste must be weighed and documented on site and again at its final destination. The rendering process must be documented for the official record, such as by video recording. Finally, it must be discarded at an authorized landfill, composting facility, or recycling facility.

When it comes to edible waste and all forms of cannabis waste, the requirements for businesses can be exhaustive and confusing. That’s why it’s incredibly important to work with a respected cannabis waste management provider.

How to Dispose of CBD Edibles

It’s important to note that CBD edibles—like CBD gummies and beverages—are not subject to the same restrictions as cannabis edibles, just as long as they’re derived from hemp. Industrial hemp is legally defined as any cannabis cultivar that contains .3% THC or less. So as long as your CBD edibles meet this standard, they can be discarded just like any other household garbage.

If your CBD products are cannabis-based (containing more than .3% THC), they must be treated as cannabis edibles, subject to all of the restrictions and protocols outlined above.

The Penalties for Improper Disposal of Marijuana Edibles

The penalties for improper disposal can vary, but businesses need to be especially diligent. If business owners fail to follow the required protocols to the letter, they can face exorbitant fines and even loss of licensure.

In California, for example, businesses may face fines of $25,000 per day for improper storage and removal of solid waste. And when it comes to hazardous waste, fines can reach up to up to $70,000 per day. It’s not worth the risk.

We realize that the different rules and requirements can be confusing and even overwhelming. If you have any additional questions about how to dispose of edibles or any other cannabis products, please contact GAIACA. We would be happy to assist.