Staying safe during COVID-19: Best Practices for Cannabis Workers

As the COVID-19 crisis forces millions of Canadians to stay home to flatten the curve on the pandemic, many people are looking for ways to occupy their additional free time. For cannabis consumers, this can mean turning to their favourite strains to enhance their Netflix binging and make their canned food seem more interesting. At the same time, like other retail businesses, the cannabis industry has experienced increased demand as consumers worry about shortages and plan ahead so they can do their part and stay inside.

The COVID-19 situation has introduced new challenges for Cannabis workers, who have become essential service providers during the pandemic. Here are some tips on how to keep yourself, your coworkers, and your customers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. Physical distancing applies to cannabis stores, too

    According to the BC Centre for Disease Control, “Premises must limit the number of customers entering the store and advise customers in line to maintain physical distancing. When customers are waiting in line at the check-out they must stay 2 metres away from each other.” That goes for cannabis stores as well as grocery stores. Store management must ensure that physical distancing measures are observed in the store in order to protect staff and customers.

  2. Clean and sanitize commonly touched surfaces and wash your hands frequently

    Make sure to clean counters, jars, debit/credit keypads, and other commonly touched surfaces frequently. Now is not a good time to allow customers to smell strains in jars, as this can spread droplets. Wash your hands frequently with plenty of soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.

  3. Encourage customers to have a plan.

    Minimizing time in stores is key to preventing transmission of COVID-19. If you have an online menu, mention it to your customers so they can figure out their order in advance and reduce the amount of time they spend in the store.

  4. Stay home if sick.

    If you are sick, even with just a runny nose, you must stay home. UFCW 1518 members receive sick days as part of their collective agreement. If you do not have sick days, here are instructions on how to apply for EI during COVID-19.

  5. Don’t share joints, pipes, bongs, or vaporizers.

    COVID-19 primarily infects people through the mucus membranes in the eyes and nose. If you touch a bong that someone has just used and then touch your eyes, you could potentially infect yourself. Now is not the time to share cannabis products. Encourage your customers not to share it, either.

  6. Consider replacing cannabis inhalants with edibles or drinks.

    There is some evidence to suggest that smokers are at increased risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19. Smoking can cause inflammation, irritation, and injury to the lungs, which can adversely affect your ability to recover from COVID-19. For the time being, consider using cannabis edibles or beverages instead of inhalants, including vaporizers.

  7. You have the right to refuse unsafe work.

    If your employer is not following physical distancing rules or implementing enhanced sanitation, you have the right to refuse to do work that puts you in harm’s way. However, refusing unsafe work isn’t as simple as just saying “no” – you must follow the correct procedure. Learn how to refuse unsafe work.

  8. Take care of your mental health

    Cannabis workers have been transformed into front-line workers in the COVID-19 crisis almost overnight. Serving the public during a pandemic can be a frightening and uncomfortable experience. Put your mental health first. Here are some free or low-cost resources that have recently been made available to all British Columbians during the COVID-19 crisis.
    Many people use cannabis products to help manage their mental health. Cannabis can affect anti-anxiety and antidepressant drugs, in some cases making their effects stronger. If you feel the need to increase your cannabis use at this time, take it slow and be careful, making sure to monitor the effects on your mental health. Consider incorporating other techniques for improving your mental health like meditation, exercise, and calling/texting/zooming with friends and loved ones.