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Occupational Health and Safety in the Cannabis Industry

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For centuries, the cannabis plant, typically Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, has been cultivated, processed, and utilized for religious, industrial, and therapeutic purposes (Mead, 2019). Hemp is a variety of C. sativa that contains minimal quantities of the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol, and is grown specifically for the industrial uses of its derived products (Small and Marcus, 2003). The psychoactive effects of cannabis were seen as antisocial or undesirable in many cultures, and in 1961 the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was enacted that prohibited the manufacture distribution and sale of cannabis (Mead, 2019).

Laws relating to production, possession, and use of cannabis have recently become more permissive in a number of countries (Mead, 2019; Hall and Lynskey, 2020; Queirolo, 2020). In the USA, cannabis remains illegal under federal law, however there are currently 33 states and 4 permanently inhabited US territories, and the District of Columbia that have passed initiatives to legalize the medical and/or recreational use of cannabis (NCSL, 2018). Commercial production of cannabis has expanded rapidly in concert with the more permissive regulatory environment. In the USA alone, cannabis-related companies now employ an estimated 100 000–150 000 full- and part-time workers (McVey, 2016). The industry is growing exponentially, and global sales exceeded $15 billion US in 2019 (Jergler, 2020).

Because of its history as an illegal drug, there has been limited scientific study of occupational health hazards within the cannabis industry. Many of the exposures in cannabis production are likely to be similar to those experienced in other agricultural or manufacturing operations. [Read More @ Oxford Academic]

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