On June 15, 2017, California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board adopted the advisory committee recommendation that there is no current need for industry-specific regulations related to the activities of facilities licensed under the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act. But while the decision is good news for the industry, the findings leading to the recommendation reveal that the medical marijuana industry as a whole lacks a basic understanding of the rules that govern it and its obligations under them.
The decision not to develop new rules for the medical marijuana industry follows extensive research by the Cal/OSHA staff into other states’ experiences with occupational safety and health issues in their own cannabis industries. Specifically, Cal/OSHA spoke with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Those meetings revealed that while the cannabis industry is prone to a unique set of safety and health concerns—e.g., repetitive stress injuries related to trimming plants and respiratory issues—none are outside the regulatory framework already in place in California.
Cal/OSHA also held a well-attended meeting last October, seeking input from marijuana industry stakeholders into whether there are unique health and safety issues associated with working in the cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, or sale of medical marijuana. That meeting, and especially the comments that followed, revealed that while there is no regulatory gap that fails to cover the medical marijuana industry, an educational gap exists within the industry about what regulations are already in place, what employer responsibilities exist, and what workers’ rights are. In fact, many of the questions at the October meeting referenced the anticipated passage of “new” health and safety regulations, seemingly without an appreciation that Cal/OSHA already covers the industry.
So while California’s medical marijuana industry can breathe a sigh of relief that there will be no new regulations coming from Cal/OSHA, Cal/OSHA’s findings reveal that many within the industry should carefully examine their existing practices. Besides the most basic regulations promulgated by Cal/OSHA, there are also the Injury and Illness Prevention Program, the Hazard Communication Standard, and Heat Illness Prevention standards. Seyfarth attorneys are available to answer your questions and address your concerns on these and related issues.