2020 has already been a tumultuous year. With elections just around the corner, and political tensions high, we have already experienced a lot in a short amount of time. In Montana, we have had a boom in cannabis businesses and our industry has been ramping up for untethering and even a possible recreational market. But now as we get to the middle of March, we have a new threat on our doorstep, COVID-19, or more commonly known as the Corona Virus, which is doggedly spreading throughout North America and Europe and has already affected countless countries in Asia. The virus has roughly a 2% mortality rate and is primarily a risk to those with already compromised immune systems. As the number of affected people rises globally, the risk that we all could contract the virus and spread it to someone not healthy enough to fight it off rises as well. Being in the cannabis industry, we work around products and flower every day that is meant for human consumption and could have the potential to get people sick if precautions are not observed.
It’s generally a good rule to always implement workplace safety and sanitation methods, especially working in the medical cannabis space. Here are some easy things we all can do in our business that can help mitigate the spread of infectious disease and generally improve product quality.
What is PPE you might ask? PPE stands for “Personal Protective Equipment” and it means any tools or garments you use to protect yourself and protect the product you are working with from yourself. The whole idea is to separate whatever sensitive material you may be working with like food, dangerous or volatile chemicals, and fragile items from yourself with the use of gloves, facemasks, hairnets, aprons, etc. to accomplish tasks safely. Using PPE allows for a greater level of control when it comes to isolating contact, thus reducing the level of risk of contaminating valuable merchandise or products. Unfortunately, many forms of PPE are often overlooked in the cannabis industry, and this can pose a risk to the patients and the public alike.
Gloves are a major component of PPE. They allow us to completely isolate our hands and skin from whatever we are directly interacting with, but if the user is not trained in how to put on or take off gloves properly, there can still be a risk of contamination. Using gloves regularly when handling cannabis is essential for both maintaining the quality of the product and ensuring the safety of your consumers.
You might ask, why do I need a face mask when handling cannabis? The answer is the face mask is not for your safety but for your patients. It is more about keeping any involuntary particles from your mouth or nose from the products you are handling. This is even more important with the onset of the COVID-19 virus. It’s crucial to make sure that even if your employees are not showing symptoms that they are still taking precautions from contaminating your valuable product.
Hairnets are a vital part of many product safety programs and an often overlooked aspect in the Montana medical marijuana industry. How many times have you been inspecting a cannabis flower and found a loose hair from an unsuspecting grower or trimmer? When there is the stray chance that the same person could also be sick, it makes this already distasteful accident become all that much worse. It is so important to ensure all employees that handle cannabis are wearing both hair and beard nets, not just because of the Corona Virus, but because it ensures a better product. Nobody wants to smoke their grower’s hair.
Wearing the appropriate clothes for the job is vital, and when it comes to food safety it is vital for ensuring clean, safe products. Having employees wear clothing that is clean and different from their street clothes is incredibly important for all direct work with cannabis. Not only do your employees run the risk of infecting your living plants with pathogenic agents but also the general public if that person is also sick and has not washed their clothes. Ensuring that different clothing or at least protective outer layers are worn during the direct handling of cannabis should be standard.
Ultimately, it is up to you and your team to decide what steps you must implement to keep your consumers, employees, and plants safe from pathogens and protect your patients from getting sick. There are a few simple steps that any organization can implement to ensure safety and cleanliness are maintained. Everything from regular cleanings of production rooms to wearing the proper PPE can keep people safe and not become the focus of a lawsuit. Especially in a medical marijuana program, so many of the patients already suffer from suppressed immune systems and are at a much higher risk of death from a virus such as COVID-19. It is the legal and moral duty of every dispensary owner to ensure they don’t infect or harm their patients by cutting corners and neglecting safety.
Wearing PPE and implementing health and safety procedures into your facility and company are just smart business practices in general. Even if we were not dealing with a global pandemic, the proper equipment should be used to protect your clients and employees from biological, chemical, and physical hazards. As the cannabis industry matures more and more, health and safety procedures will be mandated by law, so addressing these issues now will do nothing but save you time and money. Planet-3 can assist and advise you on any of these aspects. We can help your business identify potential risks, develop strategies to combat those risks, and make policies and procedures that ensure health, safety, and compliance. Contact us today to learn more.