The marijuana market is growing up and with that comes all kinds of new responsibilities. Until very recently, most marijuana farmers were mostly concerned with not getting caught and keeping their bongwater fresh. Now they got grown up jazz like paying taxes, payrolls, and now government inspection.
In an unprecedented move from the federal government, researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health spent a week hanging out and studying at a medical marijuana farm in Vancouver, Washington. While federal agencies don’t generally jive with cannabis cultivation (as weed is still a federally controlled substance, regardless of state laws), the NIOSH study doesn’t technically have anything to do with cannabis itself. It’s only concern is creating a safe and hospitable workplace for the nation’s legal marijuana workers.
“This is novel for us,” the lead researcher told KOMO News. The team equipped the farm’s employees with electronic air sniffers and specially designed gloves that measured the air quality of their workplace and stress on the workers’ hands and wrists while trimming. It’s common practice for when studying workplace environments, but the first study of its kind in a marijuana farm.
The study came about after the United Food and Commercial Workers Union petitioned the NIOSH and its parent agency the Center for Disease Control to create a set of standards for best practices in the cannabis industry. Since most weed cultivation in the past has been undocumented, no one had ever bothered to systematically determine whether it was as safe as it could be.
When Tom Lauermen, a Washington grower and marijuana advocate, learned of the study, he volunteered for his farm to be the first site studied. “I never thought in my life that by the time I’m 55 in the year 2015, that we would have federal agents welcomed onto my farm,” Lauermen told KOMO. “It just blows my mind.”
It’s important to farmers like Lauermen that industry workers be protected just like workers in other agricultural fields. “Nobody has any idea what makes a safe workplace, it’s a new industry,” he said. “I’m honored to have them here.”
Observers from the UFCW Union also showed up for the study. The results of the study won’t be published for at least another year.