“Death of a Trimmer,” Leafly’s two-part investigative series, uncovered a number of previously little-known hazards that thousands of marijuana workers encounter on the job.
Much research remains to be done on workplace health and safety protocols, but there are resources now available for workers, employers, and regulators.
We’ve gathered many of those resources here.
Cannabis-related allergies and asthma
Start with Leafly’s Guide to Cannabis Allergies and Symptoms.
The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology has a resource page on cannabis and asthma.
This overview in the journal Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology was published in 2020: An Emerging Allergen: Cannabis Sativa.
Also helpful: This Allergy & Asthma Network post, Marijuana Allergy Is No Laughing Matter.
The study below, published in Jan. 2022 in the medical journal Asthma, offers the most up-to-date information about cannabis-related allergies and the ways in which plant dust and fibers can affect the body.
Cannabis-related allergies: An international overview and consensus recommendations (Asthma, Jan. 2022, Isabel J. Skypala, et al.)
NIOSH reports on cannabis workplace safety
NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, is a sub-agency of the Centers for Disease Control. Their Health Hazard Evaluation branch has worked with a handful of marijuana companies to identify hazards and create policies to keep workers safe.
NIOSH is a federal agency, but they don’t care if you’re growing or working with marijuana. They just want to keep workers safe.
NIOSH Contact Information
Overview: NIOSH’s Health Hazard Evaluation program will work with individual companies or government agencies to address specific questions, issues, and concerns about worker health and safety, at no cost.
Contact NIOSH’s Health Hazard Evaluation program:
(513) 841-4382, M-F, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST
Online request form
NIOSH Cannabis Safety Reports
Harvesting, Trimming at Indoor Cultivation Facility (2022): Advice for workers and managers at indoor cannabis grow facilities.
Growing, Harvesting, Processing Medical Cannabis (2018): Advice for workers and managers at indoor and outdoor medical cannabis facilities.
Harvesting, Processing at an Outdoor Organic Cannabis Farm (2017): Advice for farmers and workers at an outdoor organic cannabis farm.
OSHA: Occupational Safety and Health Administration
OSHA is the federal agency that oversees worker health and safety issues, located within the Department of Labor.
Worker.gov is a good place to start, with a page on Worker Safety Rights.
OSHA has a searchable web site. Type in “cannabis” and all sorts of helpful results will come up.
Free onsite OSHA consultations available
Like NIOSH, OSHA offers free consultations for cannabis companies looking to step up their worker safety programs and protocols.
Start here at the OSHA On-Site Consultation web page. We can’t stress this enough: OSHA doesn’t care if you’re working with marijuana. They’re happy to work with cannabis companies (see Acres Cultivation, below), and don’t care about federal cannabis laws.
OSHA Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP)
OSHA runs a free consulting program called SHARP that brings the agency’s experts to work with small to medium-size businesses. The program is available to state-licensed cannabis companies.
There’s a nice writeup here on Acres Cultivation, a subsidiary of Curaleaf. In April 2022, Acres became the first Nevada-based cannabis company to earn SHARP status from OSHA.
Farmer Tom Lauerman
Tom Lauerman, a longtime cannabis grower in southern Washington State, has emerged as one of the industry’s leading experts on workplace health and safety in the areas of growing and processing.
Lauerman maintains a website, farmertomorganics, with online resources. He also offers consulting services for companies and government agencies seeking to learn more about best health and safety practices in the cannabis workplace.
Dope Magazine: Featureabout Lauerman’s work with NIOSH
MJ News Network: Farmer Tom Calls for a Safer Cannabis Workplace
KOMO News: Feds Spend a Week on a Washington Pot Farm
Washington State reports on worker safety
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries has issued a helpful guidance on cannabis work, available here.
Washington State studies also worth consulting:
Allergic and Respiratory Symptoms in Employees of Indoor Cannabis Grow Facilities (2020 study)
Surveillance of Work-Related Asthma Including the Emergence of a Cannabis-Associated Case in Washington State (2021 study)
Colorado cannabis worker health and safety guide
Colorado’s Department of Public Health & Environment published this 78-page guide in 2017, and its recommendations remain fully relevant today.
California resources for cannabis companies and workers
A good starting point: The Cal/OSHA Cannabis Industry Health and Safety page.
In California, companies with two or more employees must ensure that at least one supervisor and one employee have completed a Cal/OSHA 30-hour general industry training course.
To find authorized training providers, please visit federal OSHA’s Find a Trainer webpage.
To find authorized OTI educational centers, please visit federal OSHA’s Current List of Authorized OTI Education Centers webpage.
Many training providers listed on these webpages offer both Cal/OSHA 30-hour general industry and federal OSHA 30-hour general industry courses, which are different. Be sure to attend the Cal/OSHA course if required by regulations that apply to your workplace.
In 2018, a Cal/OSHA committee recommended the creation of specific workplace safety regulations for the cannabis industry. That 12-page recommendation can be found here. It’s unclear whether that recommendation is being followed up.
More resources: Studies and articles
Safety and Health magazine: “Workplace Exposures in the Cannabis Industry”
Journal of Agromedicine: “Cannabis Industry Worker Health and Safety: Time for Action”
New Solutions, journal of occupational health and safety: “Health and Safety in the Legal Cannabis Industry Before and During COVID-19”
Annals of Work Exposure and Health: “Occupational Health and Safety in the Cannabis Industry”