Updated: Feb 3, 2021
New Adult-Use and Medical-Use cannabis regulations just became effective in Massachusetts. While there has been a lot of debate, and even rancor, over certain provisions, scant attention has been paid to other changes that will substantially impact licensees. Here are five new operating and record keeping requirements that every licensee should be addressing right now.
Prior versions of the Adult-Use and Medical-Use Regulations just required licensees to have workplace safety policies and procedures "consistent with applicable standards set by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration." The new versions of the Regulations make clear that all licensee employers and employees "shall comply" with OSHA standards and rules and regulations promulgated under them [see 95 CMR 500.105(1)(r) and 935 CMR 501.105(1)(r)]. This means, for example, that licensees with more than 10 employees must annually post a workplace-related illness and injury summary report for the prior year each February through April (OSHA Form 300A). If your company has more than 10 employees and you haven't already posted your OSHA Form 300A, here's a link where you can find step-by-step guidance.
Massachusetts Comprehensive Fire Code Compliance For Cultivation and Processing
The new versions of the Regulations require fire safety policies and procedures for cultivation and processing activities that meet the standards of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Fire Code [see 935 CMR 500. 120(12)(f) and 130(5)(i); 935 CMR 501.120(13)(f) and 130(5)(g)]. This means, for example, that licensees must comply with restrictions on building materials, ensure continuous staffing during some processes, and document equipment-specific training (see Fire Code Chapter 38). If you're involved in cultivation or processing and you don't already have a copy of the Fire Code, you can find it here.
A Code of Ethics
The new versions of the Regulations require every Adult-Use and Medical-Use licensee to have a Code of Ethics [see 935 CMR 500.105(9)(d)(4)a and 935 CMR 501.105(9)(d)(4)a].
A Whistleblower Policy
The new versions of the Regulations require every Adult-Use and Medical-Use licensee to have a Whistleblower Policy [see 935 CMR 500.105(9)(d)(4)b and 935 CMR 501.105(9)(d)(4)b]. Generally speaking, a whistleblower is someone who discloses an activity, policy or practice of the employer that the employee reasonably believes is in violation of law, or which the employee reasonably believes poses a risk to public health, safety or the environment. Massachusetts has laws that protect whistleblowers who are public employees (M.G.L. c. 149, sec. 185) and that criminalize the intimidation of public employee whistleblowers (M.G.L. c. 268, sec. 13(b)), but private workplaces are not covered. Keep in mind that you will probably need to develop internal reporting and investigation procedures as part of your whistleblower policy, so conferring with a qualified Massachusetts employment attorney on this topic is highly recommended.
A Policy Notifying Persons with Disabilities of Their Rights
The new versions of the Regulations require every Adult-Use and Medical-Use licensee to have a policy that notifies persons with disabilities of their rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), that provides employees with a link containing helpful information like this one from the Massachusetts Office on Disability, and includes provisions prohibiting discrimination and providing reasonable accommodations. Here's a helpful Disability Employment Information Guide that's available from the state. Here, too, getting advice from a qualified Massachusetts employment lawyer to ensure you understand your duty regarding reasonable accommodations is highly recommended.
While these new requirements may seem burdensome - especially in light of the host of requirements already imposed on licensees, they represent the gradual transition of our industry to the mainstream and enhance the safety and security of our workforce. As always, progress comes at a cost.