Legal cannabis businesses: Comply with OSHA or face high fines

To be taken seriously, the legal cannabis industry needs to take all laws and regulations seriously. That includes keeping employees safe according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines.

“Cannabis businesses have experienced a growing number of OSHA inspections since 2011, and around 10 in Colorado within the past year.”

Cannabis businesses who violate OSHA rules could face fines, or worse, end up injuring employees. That’s the case in New Mexico, where an explosion at New MexiCann Natural Medicine injured two workers.

High fines

The federal agency fined New MexiCann $13,000, Marijuana Business Daily reports. That’s on the low side considering future fines: OSHA announced that fines will double Aug. 1 from $7,000 per violation per employee to between $12,000 and $13,000. Fines for repeat or willful violations could go as high $70,000 to $120,000.

Though it will be a while before OSHA does random inspections – because cannabis is not federally legal yet – cannabis businesses can avoid future violations by preventing safety hazards. Typical violations include electrical safety and misuse of respirators.

“Even though the sale of cannabis isn’t yet federally sanctioned, OSHA laws, both on the federal and state level are still enforceable as they apply to worker safety,” according to The Osha Connection, an organization that helps cannabis businesses navigate OSHA regulations.

In New Mexicann’s case, the two employees were making concentrated hash oil with butane when the explosion occurred. “The incident landed both employees in the hospital, one of whom was in critical condition for several weeks and had to undergo multiple surgeries. The other had to receive skin grafts on his hands, arms and legs,” according to MJ Biz Daily.

First people, then pesticides

While taking care of employees should be a no-brainer in any industry, other OSHA regulations that could concern the cannabis industry include pesticides.

Cannabis contaminated with certain pesticides poses a significant health risk to both those who work around the plant and patients who consume it.

“As medical cannabis patients already possess negative health complications, exposure to pesticides may create additional health complications and interfere with other health care approaches,” explained an article in the Journal of Toxicology.

The OSHA Connection predicts that use and storage of pesticides will be a “hot topic” as the industry grows.

OSHA compliance resources

It’s a good idea for cannabis businesses to review OSHA regulations to ensure safe work environments, maintain quality products and avoid heavy fines. These online resources will help cannabis business owners comply with OSHA regulations before it becomes a problem.

Jesse Carpender

Jesse Carpender is a cannabis industry reporter for Revolution Enterprises. When not covering the green rush, she's managing a team of craft and food bloggers for a leading digital publishing platform.