Conflicting marijuana laws at the federal and state levels are nothing new. Ever since Colorado and California began pushing to legalize pot back in the 1990s, the conflicts have been well-publicized. Now that those conflicts appear to be creating dangerous working conditions, maybe something will be done about it.
What are these dangerous working conditions? They are conditions found in large manufacturing facilities that, while they should be monitored for safety by OSHA, are not. A lack of OSHA oversight allows manufacturers to do as they please
An Unfortunate Death in MA
You will not find many news reports of hazardous working conditions at cannabis facilities. But is that because incidents are rare, or because no one wants to speak out against the industry? One way or the other, a 27-year-old cannabis worker died at work earlier in 2022.
The worker was grinding and packaging cannabis at a Massachusetts plant in early January when she began struggling to breathe because of the dust. A panic attack ensued, during which fellow employees did their best to extricate her from the building. It turns out she was having an asthma attack.
Unfortunately, though the young lady was rushed to the hospital and treated, she passed away. Now, former employees are speaking out about conditions at the plant. Some have allegedly been let go after raising their concerns.
A Largely Unregulated Industry
Due to the conflict in federal and state laws, cannabis remains a largely unregulated industry compared to others of a similar nature. States have their own rules and regulations, but they pale in comparison to the federal regulations that dominate so many other industries.
Just the fact that OSHA does not oversee safety at cannabis growing and processing operations is evidence of how little oversight there is. It seems like OSHA should step in and do its job. But it will not. Why? Because doing so would give tacit approval to growing and processing a plant that is still illegal under federal law.
A Confusing Industry to Be In
No doubt the cannabis industry is a confusing one to be engaged in. Not only do federal and state laws conflict, but there is also little standardization even among the states. Take Utah and Oklahoma, for instance.
Park City, Utah’s Deseret Wellness says there are only fifteen medical cannabis dispensaries to serve the entire state. Likewise, the number of licensed growers and processors is also limited. But in Oklahoma, cannabis businesses abound. In the Sooner State, there are more than 2,200 dispensaries. Growing and processing operations are abundant as well.
Recreational cannabis consumption is outlawed in Utah. Only medical consumption is allowed. Likewise for Oklahoma. So why does Oklahoma have thousands more dispensaries?
A Virtual Free-For-All
Utah has gone to great lengths to make sure its state medical cannabis program doesn’t become a free-for-all. Oklahoma is trying to reign their program in somewhat. But when you look at the entire picture from coast-to-coast, the free-for-all is easy to see. Every state is doing its own thing while Washington sits idly by and does nothing.
It is a wonder we haven’t seen more reports of hazardous health conditions in the cannabis industry. Here’s hoping that’s because operators of cannabis businesses are going the extra mile to make sure workers stay safe. But if it is only because hazardous conditions are not being reported, shame on all of us.
No industry is so valuable that it should be able to skirt safety responsibilities. Now that we know conflicting laws are creating hazardous working conditions in the cannabis industry, it’s time to do something about it.