What happens to marijuana and hemp waste?

What happens to marijuana and hemp waste?

Arkansas cannabis and hemp producers grow a lot of plants, creating plant waste that must be disposed of in accordance with rules set by state agencies. 

So what happens to parts of the plants growers can’t use? 

Medical marijuana 

Marijuana plants are regulated by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division and cannabis plant waste must be disposed of according to the agency’s rules. 

Marijuana waste that must be destroyed consists of the parts of the plant such as leaves, stalks, seeds, but does not include soil or growing mediums, according to Scott Hardin, spokesman for the state Medical Marijuana Commission and the ABC. 

Marijuana waste must be ground and mixed with another material such as food waste or yard waste so that the mixture is at least 50% noncannabis waste. That mixture must be disposed of and can’t be used in compost or fed to animals, Hardin said. 

Rule 20.1, section h of the ABC’s operational rule book addresses the ways in which medical marijuana waste must be rendered “unusable” and disposed of. 

“Ultimately, [the waste destruction process] is ensuring portions of the plant that are waste are destroyed so there isn’t any chance an attempt is made to make something out of it,” Hardin said. 

Hardin said the waste must be composted or taken to a landfill or incinerator but there is no rule that says a cultivator couldn’t purchase its own incinerator and, if approved, destroy waste on-site. 

“It would be possible for a cultivator to buy an incinerator to use on site,” Hardin said. “However, in order for ABC to approve it, it would have to meet all federal EPA guidelines. This would be a costly investment for a cultivator.”


Hemp, which is legally classified as cannabis plants with less than .3% THC, is regulated by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. The department’s disposal guidelines provide a variety of ways for farmers to dispose of hemp waste, including 

Plowing under




Bush mowing

Deep burial of at least 12 feet


Hemp waste is not officially defined by rule, law or guidelines from the state Department of Agriculture, Sarah Cato, public information officer with the department. Any hemp exceeding the .3% THC threshold, though, is considered Schedule I marijuana and the floral and leaf materials of the crop must be destroyed, she said. 

Hemp and hemp waste can not be fed to livestock. Hemp has not been officially approved as a feed ingredient for livestock or pets, according to Amy Lyman, director of marketing and communications for the department.