Hemp Bosses in Southern Oregon Fined for Locking Workers in Condemned Building With Rodents

The building housed roughly 25 hemp workers who lived, ate and worked in a structure that was architecturally unsafe, had padlocked doors that prevented escape and exposed workers to rodents and water.

Five employers who co-own a hemp facility in Murphy, Ore., an unincorporated area outside of Josephine County, have been fined by the state for allegedly housing workers at a vast hemp trimming and packaging facility where there were egregious safety and health violations.

Each of the five employers are being fined $165,000 by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration for allowing roughly 25 workers to sleep, eat and work in a condemned building that exposed employees to rodents, standing water and insects, according to a release by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services.

The building was also structurally unsound, and had the potential to collapse on the workers, state officials say. Josephine County building safety officials had announced it was unsafe for any type of occupation, residency or workplace.

The building had several padlocked doors, preventing escape in case of an emergency or fire. Appropriate exit routes in case of emergency were also nonexistent.

The building in question was just over 23,000 square feet, or roughly half an acre.

The release calls the employer conduct "reckless disregard for workplace safety and health requirements" and calls the violations "willful."

The employers are Eighteen New Hope LLC, Jai B Ley and Yoram Levy, Yuval Magid, Safe and Simple LLC, and Jai B Levy and Yoram Levy and Yuval Magid.

The registered agent for Eighteen New Hope LLC that WW reached out to did not offer comment. The other employers could not be located for comment.

"Our rules are clear about providing people with a safe and healthy place to work, including making necessary repairs and following sound safety practices," said Michael Wood, OSHA Administrator. "The same goes for our requirements when employers provide housing to workers. The neglect in this case is staggering and utterly inexcusable."

With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill last year, which made hemp legal federally, hemp growing in Southern Oregon has experienced a boom parallel to the cannabis boom that occurred after state legalization of weed in 2015.

It's estimated that there are close to 50,000 acres of hemp currently being grown in Oregon—a number that will rise as more growers hop on the bandwagon of hemp cultivation, the majority of which is currently being used for cannabinoid oil products, or CBD.