Turn on the news and all you’ll see are images of empty shelves where there used to be toilet paper or long lines in the airport. As the world is preparing for isolation and protective measures, people are stocking up on the essentials for survival of both their physical, mental and emotional needs over the next month. For many people, this means stocking up on cannabis.
Washington State, which offers both medical and recreational cannabis as well as being ground zero for COVID-19, has seen an increase in sales of cannabis and alcohol. And that’s just the beginning. With more states shutting down bars, restaurants and social gatherings of greater than 50 people, dispensaries are getting flooded with consumers who want to buy cannabis.
The greatest challenge now is how to keep both consumers and budtenders safe. In many dispensaries, service is what matters. Those unfamiliar with strains are often invited to look, as well as smell the flower they are thinking about purchasing. Faced with a virus that is primarily transmitted through vapor droplets, allowing someone to breathe into a jar of flower is no longer a good practice. With dispensaries getting busy and a public at risk, we’ve compiled a list of top tips for budtenders to keep dispensaries safe for recreational users and medical marijuana patients.
Tips for Interacting with Medical Marijuana Patients
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one out of six people will develop serious symptoms with the coronavirus. This statistic increases for those with underlying health conditions. Many of these people use medical cannabis to help relieve their symptoms. Access to their cannabis and CBD medicine during quarantine is extremely important. Unfortunately, many states do not offer the option for a caregiver or friend to pick up their medication. In these cases, it’s important to treat these patients with more care and to be especially diligent.
Tips for helping medical marijuana patients to avoid coronavirus in dispensaries:
- Call ahead. If a patient is able to call ahead to the dispensary, they can limit their exposure by having security open the door for them and having their medicine ready to go.
- Keep your distance. Patients and budtenders should each maintain a three foot distance, which is approximately one to two arm lengths away. Do not directly touch a patient and offer them hand sanitizer post purchase.
- Wash your hands. Washing hands is the most effective way to prevent the spread of viruses. Budtenders should wash their hands before interacting with any customer, and let customers know. When washing your hands, use ample amounts of soap and water and wash for at least 20 seconds. The most common way to run out 20 seconds on the clock is to sing Happy Birthday once through (preferably in your head) while washing your hands.
Cleanliness Tips for Dispensaries
Dispensaries can take these steps to maintain good hygiene and cleanliness within the store.
- Provide hand sanitizer. The coronavirus is commonly spread by hand-to-face contact, namely touching the eyes, nose or mouth. While washing hands is the best method for reducing exposure to the virus, hand sanitizer can work while on the go. Offering hand sanitizer at the checkout is an essential way to help customers maintain safety.
- Clean common surfaces often. Multiple times a day (once an hour if you can), disinfect the most commonly touched surfaces. This includes door handles, displays, registers and pin pads, and ID check-in areas. Try to use an alcohol-base cleanser with more than 60% alcohol. Leave the spray on the surface for at least 4 minutes before wiping it off so that it has enough time to penetrate and kill the virus. Don’t forget employee only areas like the bathroom, safes, product jars or containers, cabinet keys, and light switches.
- Offer a delivery service (if legally available in your area). All over California, dispensaries are seeing a spike in cannabis delivery according to Green Entrepreneur. If your state allows delivery and you are licensed to do so, changing to a delivery only model will help to keep everyone safe. If you don’t offer delivery, look into joining direct-to-consumer cannabis delivery services like Eaze or Weedmaps. In fact, rideshare drivers that are impacted by the downturn of riders can easily start earning money by delivering cannabis. Companies like Eaze need drivers to meet their existing demand.
Safety Tips for Budtenders
Budtenders are on the frontlines of service and as such need to take the necessary steps to ensure their safety and that of the publics’. Here are the top tips for budtenders to stay safe from coronavirus.
- Hands off. Budtenders should be the only ones touching the product. From flower to gummies, consumers should no longer be allowed to touch, examine or smell products to limit virus transmission. While many cannabis consumers enjoy sticking their nose in a jar of flower, or examining the packaging description before purchase, these are easy ways to spread the coronavirus which can live on plastic packaging for up to 3 days. Budtenders need to communicate to customers that for their safety and the safety of others, they are no longer permitted to examine packaging or smell the bud prior to purchase.
- Practice safe hygiene. Coronavirus is spread by droplets that can be coughed or sneezed and then transmitted to other surfaces or people. Budtenders should always practice coughing or sneezing into their elbow instead of their hands to prevent spreading viruses. Additionally, make a habit of washing your hands frequently. This means once an hour, or between customers if possible.
- Sick? Stay home. Most people who catch the coronavirus will experience only mild symptoms, including coughing, tiredness and fever. But it can start with just a feeling of tiredness and headache. If you start to experience tiredness, headache, runny nose or a cough, stay home. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
For more information on the coronavirus, visit the World Health Organization’s website.