Will Standards Help Protect Hemp Workers?

Will Standards Help Protect Hemp Workers?

In a recent discussion of industry thought leaders, our round table discussion turned toward safety of workers in the hemp industry. This discussion was led by Dr. Philip Kaufmann, who is a practicing MD and certified allergist immunologist.

Patrick McCarthy, ValidCare:  Dr. Kaufmann, you made an interesting point about protection of workers, where exposure to various hemp products have caused allergies and other complications. Can you tell us more about what you’ve seen?

Dr. Bob Kaufmann: As we look at safety of hemp workers, we’re seeing incidents where exposure to various hemp products have actually caused allergy and other kinds of complications for some workers. We’ve seen this in Europe especially. What we don’t know yet is how are these things happening and what do we have to do? As we learn more about the cause of these problems to the workers, like allergy and other kind of complications is, we’ll develop more standards on how to handle the material. This will be coming in the future – today, I don’t yet know how to best help someone with protection of workers because we don’t yet have all the answers, but we do know there’s a risk.

Chris Stubbs: It’s good point. We have folks working in extraction and material handling and find from time to time, there are allergies to hemp just like grasses and pollens. Although we necessitate personal protective equipment, eyewear, hairnets, beard nets, lab coats, etc., there’s still some exposure that some folks can’t tolerate. At GenCanna, we have an internal transfer program to let people move laterally through the business and find another area of work. We want lifers – people who are passionate about the process. And most importantly, we want them to work in a safe environment but there are unknowns. We’re considering some pre-employment screening for extraction areas, for example, can we work with a physician and do an allergy test with the raw material somehow, to understand what’s a non-starter for some people? There are definitely levels of environmental health and safety risks that we have to consider at every step.

Kaufmann: This is personal to me because I have an adverse reaction to hemp. It’s not a typical allergy reaction but it’s an adverse reaction. As far as testing for allergies, there’s no commercially available testing right now for allergy in the United States. Some have been developing testing procedures in Europe, but they aren’t here yet. It’s one of the things I’m pushing for as an allergist immunologist, so we can have ways in which to test for allergies and help people avoid having adverse experiences when they come into contact.

Marielle Weintraub, PhD discuss safety of hemp workersMarielle Weintraub: Along with the safety of hemp workers, the consumers. It’s important to understand when you’re labeling that you need to have allergy claims on any label going to a consumer, in case there’s an issue. You do need to build that testing program into your finished product in order to avoid consumer allergies because sometimes, the farmers growing hemp also grow peanuts and if at some point, it doesn’t get processed correctly or get processed together, or transferred together, shipped together, we want to make sure suppliers are doing allergen testing so they have the right label claims on finished product.

Stubbs:  When you’re dealing with labels and so many processes and ingredients, there are layers and layers of investigation and initiation. What we do has to be substantiated and use best practices to do so. I think we’ve danced around lexicon and industry speak. We need to think about how to interact with adjacent industries and food/beverage supplements, cosmetics, etc. There are existing definitions we need to adopt so that we’re all talking the same language. I think that’s an underlying point that’s going to be important.

ValidCare is committed to the implementation of standards. With the development and adoption of standards, everyone involved in the industry – from supplier to consumer – can achieve their goals. We aim to provide our clients with data driven solutions to advance research, product development and commercialization of cannabis derived products to improve human and animal health. ValidCare is working to reveal insights from global communities to fuel healthier generations.


This blog post includes excerpts from a recent webinar featuring key industry leaders(1), who came together for a round table discussion on Why Standards Matter.

(1) Round Table Discussion Participants:

  • Steve Bevan, President, GenCanna Global
  • Joy Beckerman, Regulatory Officer and Industry Liaison, Elixinol; President, Hemp Industries Association
  • Robert Kaufmann, Director of Research, Shaman Botanicals
  • Christopher Stubbs, Chief Science Officer, GenCanna Global
  • Marielle Weintraub PhD, US Hemp Authority