Interview With Cannabiz’s Laura Bianchi

Coronavirus Vaccine & The Cannabiz

Amid the recent arrival of the FDA-approved coronavirus vaccinations and ongoing conversation surrounding cannabis as an alternative to conventional medicine, Laura Bianchi spoke with WeedWeek about her cannabis clients’ position on the vaccination. 

When asked to describe any current issues within the cannabis industry regarding the coronavirus vaccine, Laura shared, “Everyone is trying their best to figure out how to keep patients and consumers safe while also maintaining their employee’s safety.” She explained that although it differs from state to state, Arizona dispensaries are required by statute to remain open 30 hours a week. Additionally, people have been trying to reduce the time they spend going in and out of stores, so they purchase larger quantities at a time, which has led to an astounding increase in demand. 

“Then, keep in mind, the cultivation side of the cannabis industry is agricultural, meaning they are not your typical 9-to-5 facilities, right?” Laura continued, “Those are ‘round the clock cultivation and manufacturing facilities, so it’s presented a real challenge for them to protect their employees and patients.”

Furthermore, Laura explained another critical component: a lot of these employees tend to be hourly, so, unfortunately, people are put in positions where they don’t have the option of quarantining when paying rent or feeding their kids is at the front of their minds. “A lot of issues have arisen within the industry that we’ve been trying to help clients address and ultimately solve.”

WeedWeek states that they have heard of a reluctance in the cannabis industry to use the vaccine. When asked if she’s experienced this same hesitation with her clients, Laura firmly replies she has not, saying, “I know it’s sort of an opinion, and it depends on each person. For a lot of business owners, this vaccine is something that their employees can take, that will keep people safe, and that will help them from having these really difficult decisions, whether it’s on the businesses or the employees themselves.”

“I think many people are anxious for some sort of resolution. When you’re fast-tracking things, there’s always the question of ‘are we making sure it’s gone through the proper channels?’ and other things like that.” She states that although many are worried about unknowns and anxious for a resolution, her clients have displayed excitement for some sort of option that will help them keep their employees and their patients safe in the long run.  

As coronavirus vaccines become more readily available, many employers will have a strong case for requiring employees to receive the vaccine so long as their vaccination policies have certain exceptions, are consistent with business necessity, and are job-related. “Are your clients thinking of making it [coronavirus vaccine] mandatory for employees?” WeedWeek asked Laura. 

“Some are making it mandatory,” she replies, “But it’s a subject that has only recently begun to come up.” She explains that Arizona is an at-will employee state, and for a lot of employers trying to manage 24-hour facilities, like the previously mentioned agricultural facilities, it’s a cost-benefit analysis meaning they are thinking, ‘how do I keep everyone safe and make sure that we don’t have it [coronavirus] spreading throughout the facility and bankrupting businesses?’ “I think many of them are considering whether to move forward with making it mandatory,” Laura followed up. 

Because the vaccine is such a complex concept, it presents different challenges and issues to various industries across the board, so WeedWeek asked Laura what issues, with regard to the vaccine, she sees as unique to cannabis compared to other industries. 

“Any time you are dealing with any type of vaccination, there are exceptions like religious concerns, certain health concerns, and other things like that,” She responded, “In that same respect, cannabis is absolutely like any other business.” 

Laura elaborates, telling WeedWeek that she thinks there is also a medical component, especially in medical markets, since cannabis is a nutraceutical or a naturopathic remedy for many individuals. “So, in speaking with your employees, what’s their comfort level? It becomes a balancing act of how do I keep the most employees safe while listening to and understanding their concerns?” Laura exclaims, and although this point is relatable to all businesses, she feels it’s perhaps a bit more to the cannabis industry.

“The vaccination comes at a time that is really unique for the industry. It’s an industry that, again, can’t function remotely,” Laura stated, “And because it has that agricultural component, facilities can be more prone to widespread exposures.” She shared that the cannabis industry has been greatly affected by the coronavirus and has tried incredibly hard to figure out how to deal with it. 

“The pandemic is certainly something that a lot of clients have spent a lot of time and money trying to navigate for everyone’s safety,” Laura concluded, sharing that she believes the vaccination comes as a welcome sight. “I think there’s hopefulness in that, that it will be available soon. It’s an important step forward for a lot of people in the industry.”