Eight is Great! Arizona is Latest State to Legalize Natural Organic Reduction

Funeral Industry News Laws & Regulations Products & Services April 16, 2024

Eight is Great! Arizona is Latest State to Legalize Natural Organic Reduction

The Grand Canyon State may have been one of the last to be admitted to the union, but Arizona can now proudly claim a spot as number eight in the list of trailblazing states that have officially legalized the process of natural organic reduction.

On March 29, 2024, Governor Katie Hobbs signed HB 2081 — alternately called the “Grandpa in the Garden” bill and the “Circle of Life” legislation — into law. The bill was introduced to the Arizona House in January, passing with 47 ayes and only 8 nays; it was equally successful in the Senate, passing that hurdle with a 26-to-2 aye-to-nay vote in February.

Representative Laurin Hendrix proposed the bill to give Arizonans a third disposition option, after burial and cremation (flame and liquid).

“I’m just trying to make it an option in Arizona,” said the bill’s proposer, Rep. Laurin Hendrix, in January. “It’s been done for quite some time; it just hasn’t been legal in Arizona. I’m not really advocating for it or against it, I’m just creating the option.”

Is it cremation?

The Arizona human composting legislation, like several other states’ versions, created an amendment to the state’s existing cremation laws. The text of the law was updated to remove the word “heating” from the definition of cremation and add the option of “or soil” to the final state of the human remains. The law also added a definition of natural organic reduction as “the contained, accelerated conversion of human remains to soil” — the widely-accepted industry language for the process.

Some states, including Oregon, opted to create entirely new legal language when introducing NOR rather than simply amending the definition of cremation. In fact, that state even provided a separate definition for alkaline hydrolysis, effectively forming four distinct disposition methods available to Oregonians. The term “cremated remains” was changed to the broader term “reduced remains” throughout the document to apply to all forms of remains.

New York, however, went another route, classifying natural organic reduction facilities as not-for-profit “cemetery corporations.” Senate Bill S5535 also created a distinction between crematories and natural organic reduction facilities, and among NOR, cremation, and burial. In actuality, New York legislators added nearly five pages of detailed text to accommodate NOR.

Will Delaware be number nine?

On March 21, 2024, Delaware press announced that they were the “8th State to Legalize Natural Organic Reduction.” While it is true that House Bill 182 overwhelmingly passed the Delaware Senate on that date after similar success in the House in January, the bill had not yet — and, as of this writing, still has not — been signed into law by the governor. 

To date, natural organic reduction has been legalized in Sweden, Germany, and the states of Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, California (to take effect in 2027), New York (still pending further regulatory action), Nevada, and now, Arizona. However, individuals from areas where NOR is not legal can still choose the process by arranging transport to a facility where NOR is offered. For example, Auburn, Washington-based Return Home has provided Terramation/NOR services to families from 26 state in the US as well as several locations across Canada.

According to NOR provider Earth, NOR bills have been introduced or are in progress in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia. Similar bills were introduced — but did not pass — in Hawaii and Pennsylvania.