I'm hoping someone here can help me identify a potential OSHA violation. In these pictures the Kentucky State Police Cannabis Suppression Branch has went on somebody's land and destroyed some cannabis plants. As you can see from the pictures, these plants are fully mature. According to this article about the Indiana division, burning mature plants is a common practice. One of the officers says...

"If we don't have a suspect and aren't going to be able to make an arrest, obviously we don't want them to get it, so we will wait as long as we can and then we'll whack it," Bennett said.

This means every time the officers burn these plants, they wait until they are fully mature with massive buds on them.

If you look at the pictures, none of these officers are wearing any sort of masks or protection. They are being fully exposed to "toxic fumes" from a Schedule 1 substance that Jeff Sessions said is "only a little better than heroin".

Are these officers violating any OSHA rules? If not, should something like this be brought to OSHA's attention?

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    You're making a big jump from if we don't have a suspect to every time. If they've got their suspect, they can burn the plants while young. Still, as far as OSHA is concerned, that's insufficient excuse. This appears to be another case where LEO's think the law doesn't apply to them. – MSalters Mar 27 '17 at 15:24
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    I doubt that we will be able to answer this question with a clear yes or no. I would not expect OSHA regulations to say anything as clear as "when burning marijuana a respirator is required". They will say something like "a respirator is required in any smoke environment where concentration of substances XXX exceeds YYY", or a vaguer standard like "where smoke is imminently hazardous". Whether the situation you describe meets those criteria is more about science than law. Maybe there has been a previous case to establish precedent and guidelines but I would not bet on it. – Nate Eldredge Mar 27 '17 at 15:25
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    I did find fs.fed.us/eng/pubs/pdf/hi_res/07511301hi.pdf which discusses the use of respirators in wildland firefighting, but it doesn't really seem to resolve this question. – Nate Eldredge Mar 27 '17 at 15:27
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    Anyway, I don't think the Schedule I classification is necessarily relevant here. I don't think OSHA is necessarily required to use that as the basis for rulemaking. Yes, there might be an inconsistency between DEA and OSHA rules, but that doesn't render either of them illegal. And the remarks of Jeff Sessions have no legal force or relevance at all. – Nate Eldredge Mar 27 '17 at 15:30
  • @msalter Yeah that was a pretty big jump, but it definitely seems like these guys got smart and figured out they'd get a better buzz if they just wait. – Cannabijoy Mar 28 '17 at 16:59

OSHA has jurisdiction only over private sector employers and not over public sector employers, although there are coordinated state programs in Kentucky:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have jurisdiction over State and local government employees (firemen and policemen). If, however, a State administers its own occupational safety and health program, in accordance with Section 18 of the Act, the State must cover State and local employees. Twenty-three States and two territories cover State and local government employees under a plan approved and monitored by OSHA. These States are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.

As such, there would be no reason for OSHA to enact regulations pertaining to police work like this, and AFAIK there have been no OSHA regulations promulgated re the private sector marijuana industry because it is still illegal under federal law. But, there might be state level regulations in Kentucky that are relevant under its coordinated state program.

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  • Hey thanks for the answer. So I guess I need to dig through Kentucky's laws and see if I can find anything relevant. Would you know of anything I should look for that might lead me in the right direction? – Cannabijoy Mar 28 '17 at 17:06
  • @Joshua The answer would be in the code of regulations for Kentucky (the state equivalent to the Code of Federal Regulations), probably under the provisions applicable to labor regulations or local government regulations. – ohwilleke Mar 28 '17 at 22:15

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