Cannabis Facility HazMat Requirements

A recent warehouse explosion on May 16th, 2020 close to downtown Los Angeles resulted in 11 firefighters injured, according to news articles. Those news articles indicated that the warehouse is believed to be owned or connected to a company that sells products related to cannabis oils, utilizing butane in the process.

With the recent legalization of cannabis, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has seen an increase in buildings and tenant spaces being repurposed for the cultivation, processing, and/or extraction of cannabis plants in response to the growing market and demand. Among other unique hazards, these buildings or spaces may contain fertilizers, fumigation gases, pesticides, and various chemicals utilized for extractions processes (such as ethanol or butane). The current 9th edition of 780 CMR Massachusetts State Building Code and 527 CMR 1.00 Massachusetts Comprehensive Fire Safety Code did not include any specific requirements related to the unique operations associated with this new industry at the time of legalization.  This resulted in general concerns over the level of fire life safety associated with these facilities as well as the potential for inconsistent code application and enforcement.

At the time of legalization in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 527 CMR 1.00 was based on the 2015 edition of NFPA 1 Fire Code which similarly did not include any specific requirements related to cannabis operations; however, the 2018 edition of NFPA 1, included a chapter dedicated to these cannabis-related activities – Chapter 38.  In response to growing concerns over the design and construction of these new and unique facilities, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts adopted an emergency amendment to 527 CMR 1.00 in October 2019. Among other new requirements, these amendments incorporated the requirements of the 2018 version of NFPA 1, Chapter 38 into 527 CMR 1.00 under a new chapter – “Chapter 38 Cannabis Growing, Processing or Extraction Facilities.”  Per the scoping provisions of Section 38.1.1, this chapter applies to new and existing buildings where the growing and processing of cannabis is involved. These new requirements specifically address many of the unique hazards encountered within cannabis facilities including fumigation, pesticides, and the storage and use of hazardous materials.

With the adoption of these new requirements, 527 CMR 1.00 now includes clear direction on the design and construction of facilities housing cannabis-related activities with the ultimate goal of promoting consistent enforcement across the Commonwealth and reducing the potential for dangerous mishaps to occur, such as those that recently befell the warehouse in Los Angeles.