Federal OSHA Officials Host Event On Marijuana Industry Worker Protections As More States Legalize - Read of Green
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Federal OSHA Officials Host Event On Marijuana Industry Worker Protections As More States Legalize

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Even as marijuana remains federally illegal, two representatives from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are set to present at a webinar next month about the federal agency’s latest guidance and enforcement priorities for “protecting workers within the cannabis industry” in the growing number of state-legal markets.

“This presentation will review OSHA’s enforcement and compliance resources and highlight a few recent OSHA inspections within this industry,” according to a description by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP), which organized the event scheduled for April 16.

“Research has shown that workers within the cannabis industry are at risk for developing occupational allergies due to allergens or biotoxins from cannabis plants,” the description says. “These workers may also become exposed to additional biological, chemical and physical workplace hazards associated with producing cannabis.”

In 2022, for example, a 27-year-old marijuana-industry worker in Massachusetts died after collapsing during a shift at a processing facility. The state’s Department of Public Health subsequently sent a bulletin to healthcare providers warning of asthma among cannabis employees.

Next month’s one-hour webinar will feature two OSHA representatives: Yasmine Daniels, an OSHA industrial hygienist, and Virginia Weaver, a doctor and OSHA medical officer.

“Although this is a relatively new industry and OSHA has no standards that are specific to occupational allergies to cannabis plants,” the event description says, “there are current OSHA standards that may help to reduce or prevent these occupational allergies from occurring and also protect workers from other hazards they may face within this industry.”

An OSHA official said last year that the federal government’s ongoing prohibition of marijuana makes the agency’s job “complicated” when it comes to ensuring the safety of workers in the cannabis industry.

Andrew Levinson, director of OSHA’s Directorate of Standards and Guidance, said at a late-May meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) that “the cannabis industry is a little bit complicated for federal agencies because cannabis is still illegal at the federal level.”

“So there’s kind of state activity going on. We still go out and deal with those issues, but the policy issues there are complicated,” he said, adding at the time that he wasn’t sure if there had been workplace fatalities in the marijuana sector.

As for the Massachusetts cannabis worker who died after collapsing at a facility operated by the multistate operator Trulieve, the company paid OSHA $14,502 to settle the case, also agreeing to conduct a study to “determine whether ground cannabis dust is required to be classified as a ‘hazardous chemical’ in the occupational setting,” according to a press release at the time.

At last year’s NACOSH meeting Levinson acknowledged the Massachusetts death and said that “we still go out when OSHA would normally go out, but from a policy perspective, the way that we develop materials for specific industries is a little bit complicated by the legal issues.”

In June of last year, the leader of one of the country’s largest labor unions is called on President Joe Biden to end federal marijuana prohibition—and he also urged the administration to allow OSHA to “immediately start work on a national workplace safety standard for legal cannabis business, using the regulations set by California as a model.”

Virginia GOP Governor Vetoes Marijuana Sales Legalization Bill, Along With Separate Measure To Resentence Prior Cannabis Convictions

Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

Source: Marijuana Moment

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