COVID-19: REGULATED CANNABIS INDUSTRY INFORMATION

This website will be regularly updated to reflect current best practices and governmental guidance. It was most recently updated on Friday, April 17th.

(4/20: we have removed our 4/20 content to ensure the most recent COVID-19 information is prioritized on this page. If you have questions, or pictures of "virtual" 4/20 celebrations or social distancing preparations, please send them to us at [email protected]

 

It is a tremendous responsibility for the regulated cannabis industry to continue operating during a time of unprecedented disruption to public life. Above all, we must elevate the vigilance and eye-to-detail on every measure required to keep the public and our employees safe. WACA’s focus on safety and quality-control is critically important for registered medical patients, to ward off resurgence in the illicit marketplace, and to generate tax revenues for local, county and state government as long as lawmakers are facing unprecedented challenges in sustaining critical public services. 

Please bookmark this webpage and refer to it regularly.

Unfortunately, at this time small business relief through the SBA is not available to cannabis companies due to the federal prohibition on cannabis. We are currently working with our national partner ATACH to advocate that cannabis companies are included in any future federal relief packages. Need a handy guide for small businesses for the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act? Click HERE.

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board has published an online FAQ for businesses, which you may find HERE.

 The order of contents of this page are:

1) How the cannabis industry can support the public health response and local businesses/workers affected by the crisis

2) Best Practices – Business Operations for Immediate and Long-Term Covid-19 Protections

3) Infectious Disease Planning Checklist

4) FAQ

1) HOW THE CANNABIS INDUSTRY CAN SUPPORT THE PUBLIC HEALTH RESPONSE AND LOCAL BUSINESSES/WORKERS 

WACA’s Medical Access Fund (MAF) was announced in September 2019 after securing 501c3 charitable status empowering it to collect donations to support medical patients. If you or someone you know relies on cannabis products to relieve chronic symptoms, pain, side effects or other conditions and are facing extreme pressure in this health and economic crisis, please review the criteria here. WACA evaluates every application and issues grants from the MAF in $100 increments. To support the Medical Access Fund, please donate here.

Food donation to local Hospital employees.

Many local restaurants are making packaged meals for healthcare workers in their area. Donating to these efforts is a great way to support both frontline workers and local restaurants. Read more here. Below are some links to places you can donate funds to help with these efforts. 

  • Puget Sound Area
    • The Herbfarm in Woodinville has re-focused its kitchen to fight the COVID-19 war by cooking complete meals of local fare for those on the front line of patient care and critical sanitation. Click here to support their efforts.
    • The London Plane restaurant in Seattle has re-focused its kitchen to prepare meals for UW hospital staff. Click here to support their efforts.
  • Spokane Area
    • The Backyard Public House, Remedy Kitchen & Tavern, Barnwood Social, and Brick West Brewing Company -- are teaming up to serve 100 meals per day to medical staff and first responders in the city of Spokane. Click here to support their efforts.
  • Vancouver
  • Yakima
    • Davy’s Burger Ranch in Prosser is donating as many meals as possible to local first responders. Click here to learn more.

Support your neighborhood. Partner with local restaurants and cafes by offering gift cards to your customers and employees.

Many of you are integral parts of your local neighborhood community. During this time here are some ideas how you could support other local businesses in your area:

  • Buy gift cards from local cafes to give to your employees for their meal stipend. They could use them to get food while on a lunch break or after their shift.
  • Look at compliant ways to partner with local cafes during this time. Example: “show your (retail store here) receipt and get 10% off your to-go order at this local cafe

 

Other ways you can help:

a.     Use your manufacturing facility to make critical supplies or donate your materials. Examples below:

b.    All In Seattle: All In Seattle is a group of like-minded Seattleites and community members who are quickly deploying resources directly to proven non-profits who can deliver it to those most in need.  

c.     Keep Workers Healthy And Safe: The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to employers and employees in Washington State. They have set up this fund to provide immediate cash relief so small businesses can help keep workers healthy & safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. This assistance is designed to help employers continue to provide uninterrupted medical insurance for their employees and keep employees safe by offsetting the costs of additional sanitization and safety supplies.

2) BEST PRACTICES - BUSINESS OPERATIONS FOR IMMEDIATE AND LONG-TERM COVID-19 PROTECTIONS

As an Essential Service, the regulated cannabis industry is currently operating under strict social distancing and public health guidelines issued by Governor Inslee’s Office. A clearinghouse of resources and information may be found HERE.

Many WACA members have already implemented best practices for their businesses, which we will share examples of in real-time. For example, WACA member The Gallery has asked each of their employees to affirm and sign their business’s guidelines, which you may find below. Have best practices that you would like to share with your peers in the industry? Send them to [email protected] for consideration to post on the website (we have several great examples and won’t post every example, but will highlight representative examples to help guide your decision making).

  • Social Distancing Materials – It is critical that cannabis businesses are diligent in instituting social distancing guidelines to keep customers safe. It is not only LCB enforcement who is monitoring, it is passers-by and neighbors who are concerned about the broader public health implication of not following the rules.

    • When and where possible, social distancing guidelines include lines outside of your stores where people must stand six feet apart. WACA has developed signs for you to print and post everywhere in your facility where they are visible by customers.

    • Steps taken by cannabis and hemp businesses include: cones/beanbags/sandbags/signs at six feet apart, concrete tape lines at six feet apart, a dedicated employee monitoring six foot distances using a six-foot broomstick/hockey stick/tape measure, or similar.

    • Consider putting hand sanitizer at your door and at the counter for payment (including on or near ATMs) as well as reminding customers to refrain from touching display cases or anything else as they shop.

    • Because they handle cash, employees should be given time to wash hands between customers.

3) INFECTIOUS DISEASE PLANNING CHECKLIST

Economic, social and health disruptions from Covid-19 will persist in some form for several months, and possibly well into 2021. While our entire community is working and hoping to reduce the severity of its impacts, businesses should plan for long-term operations in this new reality. Consider adopting an infectious disease plan for your business. We have assembled some prompts here specifically for cannabis businesses that are drawn from authoritative and reputable sources for considering operational changes to protect the health and safety of your employees and customers. These prompts are meant as a starting point for you to implement business practices that protect public health, while also reflecting the business impacts of a pandemic e.g. increased employee absenteeism, new government guidelines and science-based practices for protecting against infection. Do you have suggestions for this checklist? Please email us at [email protected].

RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Who is responsible for activating and adjusting your plan/protocols in real time?
  • Who is monitoring the situation and ensuring compliance of this plan at all levels?
  • Who has authority to enforce?

BUSINESS-TO-BUSINESS INTERACTIONS

  • Who is authorized to continue to come to facility? How is the plan enforced to ensure they follow the guidelines of your facility? Will you need new practices for delivering product or taking new inventory at your story? How will you continue conversations with producer/processor sales reps?

POTENTIAL SOURCES OF EXPOSURE

  • What are all your potential sources of exposure?
  • Who is Low/Medium/High risk of exposure? How are you planning to mitigate each of these to protect health and safety? AND, who is enforcing?

EXPOSURE CONTROL ACTIONS

  • Many protocols are basically required by law now to be able to stay open. Have you implemented thoroughly? If not, what is your plan to do so immediately?
  • How are your employees/customers/vendors notified of these actions and how are you enforcing them consistently? (social distancing, customer interactions, meetings, sanitation, return-to-work protocols, telecommuting, access limitations, travel, signs/symptoms, interruptions to business)

BE SPECIFIC AND ENFORCE WITH DISCIPLINE

  • How are you communicating new rules with employees? And what are the SYSTEMS you are putting in place to enforce the new rules long-term? For example, consider adopting a durable visual aid on the ground inside and outside of your business to define 6-ft of social distancing for your employees and customers.

It is a tremendous responsibility for the regulated cannabis industry to continue operating during a time of unprecedented disruption to public life. Our focus on safety and quality-control is critically important for registered medical patients, to ward off any resurgence in the illicit marketplace which must not be enabled to flourish, and to generate  tax revenues  local, county and state government as long as lawmakers are facing unprecedented challenges in sustaining critical public services. The cannabis industry, as an essential service, is a partner with all those who are working tirelessly to protect the public during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

4) FAQ

Is cannabis an essential business?

The Governor’s order classified cannabis retail and businesses that support cannabis retail as essential businesses. This means that licensed cannabis businesses are able to stay open during this time as long as they implement social distancing protocols. WACA urges your highest level of diligence to these rules during this challenging time to all industries.

Why is cannabis considered an essential business?

First and foremost, many people who use cannabis rely on products for medicinal purposes – supporting everything from side effects of cancer treatment to sleeplessness. Second, the legalization and regulation of cannabis occurred in part, to combat the illicit market. Legal cannabis businesses are deemed essential in order to protect legal access to these products, helping ensure the illicit market does not regain footing in Washington. Finally, cannabis generates $400 million dollar a year in tax revenue for the state that funds essential services for Washingtonians. The cannabis industry recognizes the privilege of being able to do business during this time and realizes that we have to do our part to ensure the safety of our employees and our customers while also investing in our local communities.

What happens if I get pulled over on my way to or from work?

At this time the Governor is not implementing checkpoints or other enforcement mechanisms for those who are traveling to and from their jobs. If this changes we will let you know immediately. Some companies have proactively provided letters from their employers, and/or are urging employees to carry their company IDs with them but these steps are not required as of March 30.

What happens if I can’t work because I am immunocompromised or can’t afford childcare and I run out of PTO/sick time?

If you are following guidance issued by a medical professional or public health official to isolate or quarantine yourself as a result of exposure to COVID-19 and you are not receiving paid sick leave from your employer, you may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Eligibility decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Click here for more information

For more information on school closures and childcare during school shutdown and potential impacts to unemployment benefits click here

Can I apply for FMLA if I am not immunocompromised and/or can afford childcare?

To find out if you are eligible to apply for paid family or medical leave click here.

Are delivery drivers required to stay in the retail store while orders are being checked and counted?

No, delivery drivers are permitted to wait in their vehicles on premises while the product is being counted inside of the retail establishment in order to promote less contact between people. You can see the answer to this question on the WSLCB webpage here

Will there be limited hours of operation?

As of March 30, 2020, there are no limited hours of operations. This could change in the future. The most critical element for the industry is to strictly maintain social distancing protocols and sanitation measures to protect public and employee health and safety.

Will enforcement officers be doing compliance checks regarding social distancing in retailers AND processors?

Yes. WACA has always stood for a safe, quality-controlled and well-regulated system but today, more than ever, we need to escalate the vigilance and eye-to-detail for every measure required to keep the public and our employees safe. Lawmakers and regulators dealing with COVID-19 are operating in a rapidly changing environment and we should assume that there may be additional rules and possibly additional state inspections among the steps they will take to keep people safe. The WACA team is monitoring the situation very closely and will advise of any impacts to cannabis businesses.