As of March 30, 2020, more than 160,000 people in the United States have tested positive for coronavirus, with more than 3,000 deaths related to the disease. Over the last several weeks, with the influx of the coronavirus pandemic, Americans braced themselves for a not-so-normal way of living: gyms vacated, restaurants closed, public gatherings shut down, and every business with the capability to do so instructed their teams to work remotely until further notice.
With shelter in place orders continuing to be issued across the nation, only businesses and workforces deemed “essential” by local, state, and federal legislators now remain open and operational to the public. Cannabis enthusiasts, medical patients, and cannabusinesses rejoiced as many state leaders announced that cannabis shops, medical marijuana dispensaries, and related industry providers would remain open to serve the needs of the public. With official recognition in place, top industry leaders rallied their executive teams to adapt their business models to take on their greatest challenge yet: COVID-19.
For NUG, the objective remained clear: protect consumers, staff, partnerships, and the availability of cannabis for medical and adult use. But how? Only through meticulously tailored measures implemented at every stage of business can cannabis companies remain operational, safe, and sustainable during these uncertain times.
Among top priorities to address is consumer and staff safety. To start, all facilities should be required to undergo deep cleaning and regular disinfecting maintenance throughout the day. All employees with the capability to work from home should be allowed to do so. Staff members whose in-house presence is required for the growth, manufacturing, or distribution of cannabis and cannabis-related products must be required to practice social distancing while on the job. Clean workspace protocols should be regularly reinforced, and employees should have access to disinfectant and hand sanitizer throughout their shifts. Those who are sick should be encouraged to stay home from work and have access to their paid sick time. The lines of communication between management and staff members should always remain open to prioritize the safety of both team members and consumers.
To protect the availability of cannabis and the sustainability of partner dispensaries, delivery schedules and routes should be maintained as close to normal as possible with added safety measures in place. Consider implementing safety procedures specific to drivers to keep them healthy and distribution vehicles sanitary. For example, company-issued hand sanitizer and gloves should be made essential in the handling of all products.
In addition, make sure to remain available and in touch with retail partners should they need additional products, support or have a question concerning a delivery. Consider making sales staff available to meet as needed with partner location representatives through phone or video conference.
As a distributor, it’s important to make conscious decisions to protect drivers, keep other businesses healthy, and keep shelves stocked during this crucial time when consumers need these products most.
With social distancing requirements in place, now is the time for cannabis operators to launch and grow their digital presence. For some dispensaries, it means moving the bulk of in-person orders to an online platform through which consumers can browse their favorite cannabis products on a digital marketplace, place orders, and arrange express or curbside pickups to limit their direct contact with others. In these days of 24/7 online news updates and limited peer to peer contact, many businesses are turning to social, text and email marketing channels to communicate directly with their consumers – the cannabis industry is no exception. Be sure to keep customers informed of what dispensary locations are operational, what hours they’re open, whether their favorite product is in stock, and how they can access their cannabis in the safest, most convenient way possible.
But what about patients and adult users who don’t have access to these online platforms or would prefer an in-person experience to purchase their cannabis products? Dispensaries with the capacity to do so should remain open and accessible to the public but should also take measures to promote safety and protect their staff and consumers. Such actions must include practicing social distancing by keeping staff and consumers six feet away from one another, limiting the number of people on the sales floor at one time and enforcing regular cleaning and disinfection schedules of all surfaces, product cases, and floors. Also, consider keeping doors open to limit frequent hand-to-surface contact but keep entryways maintained by a staff member (at least six feet away) to prevent overcrowding. Keep in mind that retail operators serve both the need of the general public as well as adult users and medical patients who may be a higher risk for coronavirus infection, so it’s important that these guidelines be strictly followed to protect everyone’s health and safety.
In the new not-so-normal era of COVID-19, we as cannabis operators must come together to serve our industry by sharing ideas, solutions, and best practices for businesses, staff and consumer safety. It’s up to us to do our part to stop the spread and protect the availability of needed cannabis by making smart and mindful decisions that keep everyone healthy.