Cannabis, Covid & Precautions: One Year Later

It’s been over one year since the governor of Arizona issued a statewide declaration of emergency following the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19, a pandemic that quickly reshaped daily life and will forever change the way the country deals with deadly diseases.

At the start of the pandemic, as many companies were forced to shut their doors, medical marijuana dispensaries were deemed “essential” and permitted to remain open to provide cannabis patients with necessary medicine.

One year ago, we shared some guidelines for essential dispensary operators to follow to keep patients, products, and employees as safe as possible amid the pandemic.

One year later, the vaccine is quickly becoming more readily available to all groups. However, it is still just as important to take precautions to ensure the safety and wellbeing of employees and those that remain at-risk.

  1. Treating At-Risk Patients

As we approach the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s important to remember that during COVID, dispensaries were considered “essential” specifically to keep at-risk individuals safe. Although more and more are becoming vaccinated and the world seems to be quickly moving toward herd immunity, medical and dual license dispensaries must continue to look at best practices for treating high-risk cannabis patients. It’s more important than ever to remember that you are dealing with people with compromised immune systems, and it’s essential that you maintain certain policies and procedures that go above and beyond what’s going on around you. The world may be opening back up, but these medical programs were put in place for a reason — long before COVID came about.

  1. Special Accommodations

Consider making certain services available to better accommodate those still high risk. Often, when medical patients first visit a dispensary, they can discuss their needs with a medical director, nurse, budtender, or other professional that can help guide them through the process. As things begin to open up, some patients may feel uncomfortable visiting in person, so offering alternatives like phone or video calls may enable you to help determine treatment and need while eliminating any discomfort and nervousness around a face-to-face discussion. Additionally, it may be beneficial to adjust store hours to allow for a designated time frame that only high-risk patients may enter the facility. Consider doing the same for seniors or frontline workers.

  1. Communication

As the country begins to lift mandates and more dispensaries open up shop, this may cause concern among medical cannabis patients, so communication is crucial. Let your medical patients know what’s going on, what procedures you have in place to protect them, and make them aware that you’ve implemented them solely with their safety in mind. Then, take the time to listen to their concerns to help you determine how you can better adjust your protocols. Enabling this type of two-way communication will build their trust in you as their provider and allow you to gain a better understanding of their individual needs overall.

  1. Employee Protocols

Operators need to have protocols and protections in place, not only for their employees’ health and safety but also to eliminate the risk of being taken advantage of by employees claiming illness and seeking COVID compensation. Operators must work through and continually update protocols as things continue to evolve. Will you require employees to be vaccinated/show proof of vaccination? Present a doctor’s note following an absence due to illness? Be as clear and consistent as possible with employees about which protocols protect them and those that are put in place to protect your business.

  1. Taking Permanent Precaution

As we come out on the other side of the pandemic, there are certain precautions and procedures that dispensaries have adopted as a permanent part of their practice, such as improved cleanliness, frequent sanitation and disinfectant, handwashing, and face coverings. Additionally, many dispensaries have established permanent systems for curbside pick up, delivery service, social distancing, and online ordering/ordering ahead. Because many dispensaries now hold dual licenses, this kicks up the number of people trying to enter a shop which poses a problem in hotter states as summer is quickly approaching. To avoid lines of at-risk medical patients wrapping around the building in triple-digit heat, operators must consider continuing these alternative pick-up services.

In the time of national crisis, those of us in the cannabis industry have come together in a continued commitment to ensuring the public’s health and well-being. Even as the pandemic begins to wind down, dispensaries and their employees remain on the front lines, providing for those in need of medicine. Continuing to follow these guidelines is essential in providing the utmost security for essential dispensary employees and patients.

Many of our patients are already in an ongoing battle with their health, so we strive to make the cannabis process one less challenge in their lives.