How much do air quality permits cost a cannabis facility?

Written By: Doug Ruhlin | Jul 13, 2022

Time to Read 7 Minutes





Learn initial & annual price factors for obtaining & staying in compliance with an air permit at a cannabis facility.

When it comes to getting into environmental compliance at a cannabis facility, one of the most confusing and head-scratching regulations that apply to operations are air quality permits.

Over the years, we’ve worked with cannabis facilities across the United States, and when we tell them they’re going to need an air permit, usually their first question is simply – how much is an air permit going to cost me?

We get it. If you work at a cannabis business, you’re probably already tired of jumping through regulatory hoops from various levels of government agencies. In fact, despite in some states being a brand-new thing, the cannabis industry overall is one of the most regulated industries within the United States. With a plethora of existing regulations to deal with dating back decades (such as the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, which is where we get air permits from essentially), and new rules and regulations being added every year, it’s no wonder people are budget conscious and ask what the price of an air permit for a cannabis grow facility can be.

If you’re already feeling a little overwhelmed by the idea of another regulation, another invoice, another “thing” to deal with, at your cannabis growing or processing operation – don’t worry! We’re about to look at what you can expect to pay for an air permit in this short read!

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How much is an air permit going to cost for a cannabis operation?

Okay, so you need an air permit, and there’s no getting around it. But how much is that going to cost?

As a ballpark estimate, air permits for a cannabis facility can cost anywhere between $1,000 and $50,000+ up front.

Ongoing/annual/long-term costs again range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars per year, all depending on various factors. These things can include permit renewals, monitoring, testing, analysis, training, and other ongoing compliance costs.

We know, that’s a wide range and doesn’t clear things up very much, but just like anything else out there, the answer is always it depends, until we start narrowing down a fair amount of information.

The question is like asking how much a car costs. Are we talking a barely running decades-old hunk-of-junk or a brand new Ferrari?

The costs of hiring an air permit consultant to help out your cannabis facility.

One more thing to consider when thinking about the cost of an air permit at a cannabis facility is whether or not you’re going to do it all on your own. If you do, you’ll save a couple of bucks instead of paying a consultant to do it for you. How much you’ll save is again going to depend on these variables we’ve been discussing.

However, you probably also want to take into account the time and effort it’s going to take to figure all this stuff out. As you can see, air permits can be pretty complicated, and as the saying goes, time is money!

A good consultant can figure out what type of permit you need, meet with your permitting agency if necessary, and prepare and submit your permit application for you – that’s their job!

So how much will it cost to hire a consultant to take the weight of all this air permitting business off your shoulders? Well… it depends! Again, there are a lot of factors (including the ones we just covered!) that will impact the cost you’ll pay for a consultant’s help.

Here at RMA, we generally charge between $1,500 and $45,000 to help cannabis operations with their air permit(s), again depending on numerous factors.

Again, if you need long-term help, such as inspections, help with renewals, testing, etc., and need to hire an outside expert, you can expect to spend a few hundred to several thousand dollars every year, all depending on what you need help with.

Here’s how the location of your cannabis facility impacts air permits.

Often, the biggest factor that is going to impact the cost of your air permit will be the location of your facility, and therefore, which regulatory agency is requiring you to get an air permit!

Air permits are going to be state-specific, meaning if you operate in two neighboring states, you’re dealing with two different agencies, two different types of permits, etc. Additionally, air permits can vary quite a bit from region to region, county to county, city to city, and even vary within those respective areas themselves!

The point is, the cost of your air permit, at first glance, is highly dependent on the location of the facility.

The first step in narrowing down the price you’ll pay for an air permit at your cannabis operation is figuring out which permitting agency you’ll be dealing with, which is going to depend on your geographic location. There’s not a whole lot of rhyme or reason when it comes to why some agencies charge more than others, but as a general rule of thumb, places that are more stringent about air quality (think California, New Jersey, etc.), are going to be more expensive than states with less focus on air quality, like Idaho, for example.

Air Permits at Cannabis Facilities

Cannabis facilities need different types of air permits.

Piggybacking off that last point, the type of permit you’re going to need (which is going to depend on where you are and what your permitting agency offers) is going to have a big impact on the price you’ll pay.

Maybe you’re thinking – wait a minute, I know I need an air permit! Right you are!

However, like everything regulation-wise, it’s not quite that simple. Most states have different types of air permits, sort of like how there are different types of driver’s licenses (learners permits, regular license, motorcycle, moped, CDL, etc.). The same goes with air permits.

When it comes to the installation/construction of equipment at your facility, you may need a "construction" air permit. These initial permits are basically an 'OK' to construct or install something on site (in this instance, think of the installation of a generator), and will cover details on what you can and can't do regarding the installation, and when you'll need to "flip" your air permit into an operational permit (when you turn the generator on and run it as it's intended).

When it comes to the operational side of things, some states offer what’s known as “general air permits”, which, as the name implies, apply to general industry, pieces of equipment, or processes. These are usually the cheapest and easiest permits to get, so if you qualify for a general permit, you’re in luck! You’ll probably have the best shot of qualifying for a general permit when it comes to your backup emergency or supplemental generators since they are used across a wide number of industries.

Unfortunately, since the cannabis industry is so new, and regulatory agencies are usually slow-moving, you’re probably going to be hard-pressed to find a general permit that applies to your extraction or distillation process.

Your next option is usually what’s known as an “individual” or “case-by-case” permit. Again, as the name suggests, these permits are unique to you and your specific operation. That means long hours compiling information about your facility, going back and forth with your permitting agency, and generally more work for everyone. And that usually translates into one thing – they’re more expensive!

Some permitting agencies may offer other types of air plans, approvals, or some other form of documentation at varying price points, so again, it’s really just going to depend on what’s available to you.

The operational setup and scale of your cannabis facility will impact your air permit, and thereby costs.

Are you a small “mom & pop” style grower, or a massive warehouse-style operation that grows and distills thousands of pounds of cannabis? It makes a difference!

As you’d probably imagine, the larger your operation and the more equipment you use will also (generally!) increase the cost of your air permit. Some permitting agencies are going to require you to pay for each individual piece of equipment, whereas other agencies will let you permit everything under one “facility lump sum”. Again, it all depends!

Another big thing to consider is the setup of your facility. Do you use carbon scrubbers to clean the air that is released into the environment? Do you have a low stack (the thing that vents out emissions) on your generator? Some regulatory agencies may require some additional tests or assessments depending on your likelihood to pollute and impact your neighbors. And that usually means, drumroll, you’ll need to spend more. For example, in Massachusetts, the stack on your generator needs to be at least 1.5 times higher than any structure in a certain radius. If it’s not, you’re going to need to hire someone to do air dispersion modeling, which is going to cost you!

Get help with air quality permits at your cannabis facility.

Getting your facility properly permitted isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. For some, the best way to get things done correctly is to hire outside help. Just like how many organizations hire an accountant(s) to help with financial regulations, many cannabis facilities find value in hiring outside help in the form of environmental consultants, especially when it comes to the somewhat confusing world of air quality permits.

If this sounds familiar and you need a hand, let’s talk. To learn how we can help get your cannabis facility into compliance with environmental regulations such as air quality permits, and stay out of trouble, either fill out the form below to reach out to us directly, click here to contact us, call us anytime at 888-RMA-0230, or shoot us an email at info@rmagreen.com to talk.

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