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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 03 Jun 2019

Submitted as: research article | 03 Jun 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Potential Regional Air Quality Impacts of Cannabis Cultivation Facilities in Denver, Colorado

Chi-Tsan Wang1, Christine Wiedinmyer2, Kirsti Ashworth3, Peter C. Harley4, John Ortega5, Quazi Z. Rasool1, and William Vizuete1 Chi-Tsan Wang et al.
  • 1Department of Environmental Sciences & Engineering, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
  • 2Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 3Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, UK
  • 4Denver, Colorado
  • 5University of California Irvine, CA, USA

Abstract. The legal commercialization of cannabis for recreational and medical use has effectively created a new and almost unregulated cultivation industry. In 2018, within the Denver County limits, there were more than 600 registered cannabis cultivation facilities (CCFs) for recreational and medical use, mostly housed in commercial warehouses. Measurements have found concentrations of highly reactive terpenes from the headspace above cannabis plants that, when released in the atmosphere, could impact air quality. Here we developed the first emission inventory for cannabis emissions of terpenes. The range of possible emissions from these facilities was 66–657 metric tons/year of terpenes across the state of Colorado; half of the emissions are from Denver County. Our estimates are based on the best available information and highlight the critical data gaps needed to reduce uncertainties. These realizations of inventories were then used with a regulatory air quality model, developed by the State of Colorado to predict regional ozone impacts. It was found that most of the predicted changes occur in the vicinity of CCFs concentrated in Denver. An increase of 362 metric tons/year of terpene emissions in Denver County resulted in increases of up to 0.34 ppb in hourly ozone concentrations during the morning and 0.67 ppb at night. Model predictions indicate that in Denver County every 1,000 metric tons/year increase of terpenes results in 1 ppb increase in daytime hourly ozone concentrations and a maximum daily 8-hour average (MDA8) increase of 0.3 ppb. The emission inventories developed here are highly uncertain, but highlight the need for more detailed cannabis and CCFs data to fully understand the possible impacts of this new industry on regional air quality.

Chi-Tsan Wang et al.
Interactive discussion
Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
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Chi-Tsan Wang et al.
Chi-Tsan Wang et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
The legal commercialization of cannabis has created a new and almost unregulated industry. Here we present the first inventory of volatile organic compound emissions from cannabis cultivation facilities (CCFs) for Colorado. When applied within a regulatory air quality model to predict regional ozone impacts, our inventory results in net ozone formation near CCFs with the largest increases in Denver county. However, our inventory is highly uncertain and we identify future critical data needs.
The legal commercialization of cannabis has created a new and almost unregulated industry. Here...