Assuring Needed Water Is Legally Obtained

Cannabis is an agricultural crop and, of course, needs water to grow. Before investing in a growing operation or entering into a long-term supply contract with a grower, prospective investors should examine whether the operation has the necessary water rights and that they are intact. This can be done by conducting a water rights audit to confirm the water rights or identify problems that need fixing.

For more information on how water rights affect cannabis operations, click here.

The cannabis industry should pay particular attention to water rights in California, where the state has adopted a water policy that treats cannabis operations differently from any other agricultural crop. The policy prohibits cannabis cultivators from diverting any surface water during the dry season (April 1 through October 31) and, instead, they may only irrigate using water stored during the wet season or groundwater.

Restrictions also apply to the use of groundwater, or the flow of water that riparian rights holders may divert during the wet season. The policy also places numerous limitations on grading and other work near surface water bodies to address erosion concerns.

Handling Waste Legally

Cannabis industry waste includes:

  • Non-flower plant material - which must be ground up and destroyed;
  • Waste lab materials used for testing;
  • Methane and butane used to extract oil for certain products;
  • Facility wastewater stream where plants are grown indoors;
  • Plant waxes and fats which contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and other cannabinoids and solvents; and
  • Electronic waste from vaporizer cartridges and pens. 

These wastes may be hazardous (flammable) or toxic (lithium batteries) and impermissible to ship. THC-containing waste may also be illegal for interstate shipment.

OSHA Compliance

All employers are required to:

  • Identify and prevent potential workplace hazards;
  • Provide to employees safety measures protecting their health and safety in all situations where hazards are inherent in the job or otherwise unavoidable; and
  • Report to OSHA within eight hours of serious incidents such as those involving the death of an employee or multiple injuries or within 24 hours of any employee being hospitalized.

Any business with more than 10 employees is subject to an array of requirements including safety committee meetings, injury log tracking and posting, and hazardous material training.

Cannabis producers are subject to OSHA agricultural rules, including those related to:

  • Machine guarding;
  • Mold exposure;
  • Electrical hazards; and
  • Heat exposure.

Cannabis processors must comply with requirements regarding handling of extraction chemicals, and all laboratories are heavily regulated.

Retail operators must ensure employees are safe from slips, trips, and falls.

In addition to these reporting requirements, employers with 10 or more employees must record their injuries and illnesses that are a result of the work environment on a form called the OSHA 300 Log. Employers must also summarize and post a log.