The Marijuana Industry Needs to be concerned about Federal agents, but not the ones you think.
The Cannabis industry is quickly becoming mainstream as more states continue to legalize recreational sales. Most dispensary owners are aware of the risk that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) could come knocking on the door but many cannabis growers don’t worry enough about OSHA. Even though the production and sale of cannabis is not federally sanctioned yet, OSHA laws are still enforceable to ensure worker safety.
Marijuana production can be a very high risk process and being that it is a young industry, there is not a lot of information yet on the safe procedures. Not to mention that OSHA just raised penalties for violations – by up to 400% in some categories – so it would be wise for marijuana producers to start looking to improve safety now.
Growing marijuana in your backyard is not particularly dangerous. However, when mass production gets involved it becomes high risk. So far we are seeing a lot of violations involving electrical safety. It is not uncommon for mass growers to have extension cords connected to equipment and lighting. This is an illegal and unsafe practice that results in fines that can reach as much as $17,000 per infraction. Along with the fines, owners will still need to install hard wiring making this a costly oversight.
Cannabis products can be extremely high risk to produce, particularly with oils, waxes and butters used to create edibles. The extraction process is comparable to industrial kitchens or pharmaceutical companies and is very dangerous. The process involves running butane or another solvent through a tube with dried marijuana clippings. The solvent strips the THC (the psychoactive compound) out of the plants, leaving behind an oily liquid that can be solidified by heating the mixture to evaporate the butane. When this process goes wrong it can cause a fireball or flash fire that blows out windows and doors and is therefore extremely dangerous. Colorado alone had 32 confirmed oil extraction explosions and 30 injuries in 2014.
The Dangers of a “Cash only” Business
For those of you who have visited a dispensary, you probably noticed the armed mercenary at the door checking ID’s. Since banks across the country have made it clear that they will not get involved in the Marijuana industry until the federal government gives the all clear, it leaves a lot of risk of violence for the employees, consumers and communities involved. Similar to banks and convenience stores who carry large amounts of cash. These types of locations are dealing with safe exits and emergency preparedness measures in order to keep employees safe. In 2016, $1.2 billion in cash will be transacted by the cannabis industry in Colorado. That’s mostly in $20 bills. Some people worry that it won’t be until there is a serious amount of violence that we will see banks begin to accept marijuana money.
It is important that equipment must be in good working order, chemicals must be labelled properly, personal protective equipment must be used and training programs need to be in place and documented. There will be a lot of debate to come over the safety of marijuana production, hopefully getting it closer to zero workplace injuries. Today, oil extraction explosions and injuries have decreased significantly as producers have become more cautious. However, as in any industry, Marijuana producers should be continuing to improve safety.