Cannabis worker health and safety resource page
Leafly’s two-part series of investigations, Death of a Trimmer, uncovered a number of previously little-known hazards that thousands of marijuana workers encounter on the job.
Much research needs to be done on workplace health and safety protocols, but resources are now available for workers, employers and regulators.
We have collected many of these resources here.
Death of a trimmer: The death of a cannabis worker went unnoticed for months. Now it’s sounding the alarm in the industry.
Start with Leaflys Guide to Cannabis Allergy 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 following study, published in the medical journal Asthma in January 2022, provides the most up-to-date information on cannabis-related allergies and the ways that plant dust and fibers can affect the body.
Cannabis-Related Allergies: An International Review and Consensus Recommendations (Asthma, Jan 2022, Isabel J. Skypala, et al.)
A guide to cannabis allergies and symptoms
NIOSH reports on safety in the workplace with cannabis
NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, is a sub-agency of the Centers for Disease Control. Her health hazard assessment department 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 grow or work with marijuana. They just want to protect the workers.
NIOSH Contact Information
Overview: NIOSH’s Health Hazard Evaluation program will work with individual companies or government agencies to resolve specific worker health and safety questions, issues and concerns at no cost.
Contact the NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation Program:
(513) 841-4382, MF, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST
Online Inquiry Form
NIOSH Cannabis Safety Reports
Harvesting, trimming in the indoor grow facility (2022): Advice for workers and managers in indoor cannabis cultivation facilities.
Cultivation, harvesting, processing of medical cannabis (2018): Advice for workers and managers in indoor and outdoor medical cannabis facilities.
Harvesting, processing on an outdoor organic cannabis farm (2017): Advice for farmers and workers on an outdoor organic cannabis farm.
OSHA: Occupational Safety and Health Administration
OSHA is the federal agency that oversees worker health and safety issues and is based within the Department of Labor.
workers.gov is a good place to start, with a page on workplace safety rights.
OSHA has a searchable website. Type “cannabis” and all sorts of helpful results will appear.
Complimentary onsite OSHA consultation available
Like NIOSH, OSHA offers free consultations for cannabis companies looking to improve their workplace safety programs and protocols.
Start here at the OSHA On-Site Consultation webpage. We can’t stress this enough: OSHA doesn’t care if you work with marijuana. They enjoy working with cannabis companies (see Acres Cultivation below) and don’t care about federal cannabis laws.
OSHA Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP)
OSHA operates a free counseling program called SHARP This leads the agency’s experts to work with small and medium-sized companies. The program is available to federally licensed cannabis businesses.
There is a nice description here on Acres Cultivation, a subsidiary of Curaleaf. In April 2022, Acres became the first Nevada-based cannabis company to receive SHARP designation from OSHA.
Acres Cultivation of Nevada partnered with OSHA to strengthen their occupational safety program and achieve SHARP status. (Photo: OSHA)
Farmer Tom Lauerman
Tom Lauerman, a longtime cannabis grower in southern Washington state, has become one of the industry’s foremost experts on occupational health and safety in the fields of cultivation and processing.
Lauerman maintains a website, farmertomorganics, with online resources. He also offers consulting services to companies and government agencies interested in learning more about best health and safety practices in the cannabis workplace.
dope magazine: special 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 pot farm in Washington
Washington State reports on occupational safety
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries has published a helpful guide to cannabis work, available here.
Washington State studies to also consult:
Allergic and respiratory symptoms in indoor cannabis cultivation facility workers (Study 2020)
Surveillance of work-related asthma, including the occurrence of a cannabis-associated case in Washington state (Study 2021)
Health and Safety Guide for Cannabis Workers in Colorado
The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment published this 78-page guide in 2017, and its recommendations are still fully relevant today.
California resources for cannabis businesses 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 30-hour Cal/OSHA general industry training course.
To find authorized training providers, please visit OSHA’s Find-a-Trainer website.
To locate OTI Authorized Training Centers, please visit OSHA’s current list of Federal OSHA Authorized OTI Training Centers.
Many training providers listed on these websites offer both Cal/OSHA 30-hour general industry courses and state OSHA 30-hour general industry courses, which vary. Be sure to take the Cal/OSHA course if required by regulations in your workplace.
In 2018, a Cal/OSHA committee recommended creating specific workplace safety regulations for the cannabis industry. You can find this 12-page recommendation here. It is unclear whether this recommendation will be followed.
Additional Resources: Studies and Articles
safety and health Magazine: “Job Stress in the Cannabis Industry”
Journal of Agricultural Medicine: “Health and Safety of Cannabis Industry Workers: Time for Action”
New solutionsMagazine for occupational safety and health protection: “Health and safety in the legal cannabis industry before and during COVID-19”
Annals of workload and health: “Occupational Health and Safety in the Cannabis Industry”