By Adam R. Young and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: The State of  Michigan’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) Cannabis – State Emphasis Program (SEP) (August 28, 2023) was established to address safety and health hazards associated with the growing, harvesting, and processing of recreational cannabis (marijuana).

Marijuana is a booming business, in Michigan and nationally.  In November 2018, voters in Michigan “passed a proposal that legalized cannabis for recreational use and required the State to create a licensing system for growers, processors, and retailers.”  Since the implementation of the Michigan marijuana licensing system, the “number of growers in Michigan has swelled to over 1,000, and the state now has 228 processors and 1,040 dispensaries.”

According to a review by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), studies have found that workers in cultivation, harvesting, and processing of cannabis face dermal exposure to the “psychoactive and medicinal chemicals in cannabis, ergonomic stressors, and potential exposure to allergens and respiratory hazards through inhalation of organic dusts (such as fungi, bacteria, and endotoxins) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as diacetyl and 2, 3- pentanedione.”  The exposure to organic dusts and VOCs was found in the “decarboxylation and grinding of dried cannabis material, activities that produced elevated concentrations of VOCs and endotoxins.”  On top of that, the marijuana industry presents a range of safety issues associated horticulture, manufacturing, heavy equipment, logistics, and retail.  The industry regularly engages in cash transactions, creating an increased risk of workplace violence to workers handling cash.

The MIOSHA SEP is limited in scope to the “growing, harvesting, and processing of cannabis due to the occupational safety and health hazards found at those operations.”  The emphasis program will be the legal basis for programmed MIOSHA inspections, targeting worksites related to cannabis drawn from “public sources.”  As of June 2023, MIOSHA conducted “12 enforcement inspections of cannabis facilities and found 37 violations of MIOSHA regulations.” The deficiencies encompassed “respiratory protection, personal protective equipment, chemical hazard communication, eyewash facilities, the storage and handling of flammable liquids, electrical safety, equipment guarding, recording and reporting of occupational injuries and illnesses, and a chemical overexposure to peracetic acid.”

For more information this or any related topic please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) Team