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Cannabis Law Blog

Environmental, Health & Safety Regulations in the Cannabis Industry

Cannabis Law Blog

News and analysis focusing on the full spectrum of cannabis-related issues facing businesses, investors, financial institutions and all levels of government throughout the United States


Environmental, Health & Safety Regulations in the Cannabis Industry

Blog Post is Co-Authored by Grant Gilezan and Jerry Hincka from EHS Support

Just because cannabis is federally illegal, doesn’t mean Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations aren’t applicable to your cannabis-related business. Federal employee and environmental protection regulations do apply and you should be aware of the inherent risks and regulatory fines associated with operating in the cannabis industry.

Understanding and complying with Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) regulations are often overlooked, but EHS regulations protect employees and the public from health and safety risks of the operation, such as potential injury, noise, exposure, and protect the community’s environment (air, water and soil) from hazards associated with the materials a company uses or disposes. 

While you might not think this is relevant to your cannabis business, there are five challenges you should know about before disregarding.

First, waste and wastewater are subject to regulatory requirements. Cannabis manufacturers use gases to extract oils from plants that tend to generate process waste, which is subject to recordkeeping, storage, transportation and disposal requirements due to its ignitable and hazardous characteristics.

Next, pesticide use on cannabis plants are typically prohibited by states in favor of natural pest-control options. There are pesticides approved for use on food products which cannabis growers are not allowed to use.

Third, the packaging of cannabis products with regard to child-resistant features don’t allow for easy recycling due to various layers of plastic, cardboard or zippers. Alternative recycle packages made from hemp plastics or all-cardboard are proving to be costly alternatives.

Another issue involves water usage for cannabis-growing businesses, especially in water sensitive regions. States like California have restrictions on drawing from surface water for outdoor irrigation and require groundwater usage subject to advance permitting at the state and local levels. 

Finally, indoor growing operations are heavy users of energy due to the climate necessary to grow the product. States are starting to require cannabis manufacturers to identify how they can reduce energy usage and have a plan in place on how to implement those opportunities and their utility providers’ greenhouse gas emissions requirements. 

The bottom line is that there are a whole host of EHS regulations cannabis companies need to comply with. Just because it is federally illegal, doesn’t mean you are exempt.

As always, check back with Dykema’s Cannabis Law Blog for further updates.