Commercial cannabis grow house

Common Mitigation Issues with Cannabis Cultivation Facilities

By Dan Turpin | Published May 30, 2023

The legal cannabis industry has become a major market with the global medical cannabis market anticipated to be $20.24B in 2023 and $56.75B by 2028.1 Couple this with the ever expanding number of states legalizing recreational use of marijuana and losses to cultivation farms are going to become more frequent.

The insurance industry and their experts are still learning the nuances of these types of facilities and the learning curve can be long due to the many different grow operations currently in business in the U.S. Grow facilities range from converted vegetable green houses to sophisticated lab and growing rooms that rival big pharma research and development facilities. These sophisticated cultivation operations have their own set of idiosyncrasies and protocols that make mitigation and construction challenging, below are some of the most common areas of concern:

  • Know your client: Adjusters and vendors should spend the time needed with the management team and the lead technicians of the facility to understand the protocols and systems they have in place.
  • HVAC/ventilation: Many facilities have very sophisticated ventilation systems that operate from a central control point that may include not only ambient temperature adjustments, but also humidity, specific air turnover rates, and air filtration systems. Mitigation contractors need to understand the systems and proper cleaning protocols since many of the chemicals used in the remediation industry can have a negative impact on the ventilation systems.
  • Irrigation rooms: Many of the larger operations control their nutrient supply from a central room with very elaborate piping systems to each growing room/lab (fertilizer and watering are controlled from the main control center, along with the climate control systems). The piping and valves must be thoroughly inspected to ensure there are no contaminants in the piping or heat damage. Testing of plastic pipe performed after the 2017 Tubbs and 2018 Camp wildfires by the Royal Society of Chemistry showed that over 100 toxins are released when plastic piping is exposed to heat as low as 392 degrees Fahrenheit,2 including benzene levels that exceeded the EPA hazardous waste threshold of 500 parts per billion.3 Benzene was found at a level 8,000 times the federal drinking water limit. These toxins not only wreak havoc on the plants, they may also have adverse effects on humans consuming the product. In some instances, flushing will suffice, and other times replacement of areas that were exposed to heat will be required. The central fertilizer rooms house tanks of the various nutrients for the plants and should be inspected for any possible contamination from fire, this includes water that may have entered the area from sprinklers, firefighting, or possible contaminated water leaching from floors located above the room.
  • Cleaning/remediation: Vendors that are hired to mitigate water and especially fire damage, need to be knowledgeable about the chemicals they use for cleanup. Knowing which chemicals are being used is especially critical for certified organic facilities. The vendor should be able to provide MSDS sheets for the products they are using, and work closely with the facility QA team and/or a licensed industrial hygienist to ensure chemicals or deodorizing equipment will not be harmful to the facility or product. 
  • Lighting: The two most common lighting devices are halogen and LED bulbs, most facilities are moving to LED due to their longevity and lower heat generation, though many still have the old-style lighting that can be troublesome after a fire or water event. LED bulbs have a small electrode that snaps into the housing (very thin diameter wire connecter) and any significant water intrusion can cause these electrodes to oxidize or the connection points to rust, which can lead to arcing. Also, it's not uncommon for these fixtures to exceed 1000 degrees so any moisture or debris that causes the glass to burst will shower combustibles below with extremely hot particles. The best case is a damaged light fixture that will require replacement, the worst case is another fire. It is best to have an electrical engineer make the decision on lighting if any moisture is present.

The items listed above are not an exhaustive list by any means, these are just the most common areas that we see issues arise during our projects. Retaining knowledgeable experts (consultants, engineers, hygienists) and working closely with the facility is the best way to avoid many of the pitfalls surrounding complex marijuana projects.

This information is intended for informational purposes only. Each restoration project has unique properties and must be evaluated individually by knowledgeable consultants. RMC Group is not liable for any loss or damage arising out of or in connection with the use of this information.

1 Market Data Forecast, "Medical Cannabis Market," March 2023.
2 The Conversation, "Wildfires can leave toxic drinking water behind – here’s how to protect the public," September 17, 2020. 
3 EPA Toxicity Chart