Across many jurisdictions, cannabis businesses have been deemed essential and are required to stay open as states respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. This unprecedented situation has changed the way cannabis businesses operate.
While business owners should of course follow all applicable federal, state/provincial and local guidelines, here are some additional best practices for cannabis cultivators and dispensaries to navigate these uncertain times.
First and foremost, cultivation operations should review personal hygiene requirements and provide refresher training for their employees. The current production sanitation procedures should also be reviewed and adjusted to focus on high touch points or any potentially contaminated surfaces that are not currently addressed in the existing protocols.
Management should review the company’s sick policy with employees and let them know that they cannot work while sick. Ensure employees are washing their hands with soap and water frequently, and review the policy on wearing gloves. There should be an adequate supply of gloves, masks and other personal protective equipment for all employees.
Non-production equipment—such as phones and keyboards—should be also sanitized often, and a bio-hazard plan should be implemented.
Cultivation operations should allow only essential visitors—such as those making deliveries or representing servicing companies—into the facility during this time.
Office staff should work remotely, when possible, and the management team should either work on a split shift, or there should be a back-up team offsite who can step in for anyone who becomes ill.
Non-essential travel should be limited for all employees.
In order to protect retail employees, as well as patients who may have compromised immune systems, dispensary owners should consider, evaluate and publicize the protocols that the company is implementing in response to COVID-19.
Retailers should encourage customers to order ahead and use curbside pickup or contact-less delivery, where permitted by law, to expedite the transaction and reduce the time customers spend in the store.
Dispensaries should also encourage their patients to purchase the maximum amount of cannabis products allowable under state law to reduce the number of store visits.
Retailers should also consider appointment-only operations during this time, if possible.
If customers must continue visiting the dispensary in person to place and pick up orders, an employee should be designated to oversee social distancing and personal sanitation. Dispensaries should limit the number of customers in the store at one time and should consider marking off six-foot designations to maintain appropriate social distancing.
Retailers should also place sanitation stations by the entrance and exit, and ensure that all customers use them prior to entry. Cashiers should wear gloves, and high touch points, such as the ID check, booths and display cases, should be sanitized frequently—at least once every 30 minutes. In-store order forms should be kept in plastic coverings and sanitized after each use.
Sales should be limited to sealed products, and dispensaries should shut down on-site tasting rooms where vendors promote products.
Editor’s Note: This article was adapted from HUB International’s bulletin titled “COVID-19 & Cannabis Companies – What Employers Need to Do to Protect Employees and Customers. »