dispensary quarantine covid-19 work from home isolation stay-at-home shelter in place

How to Run Your Dispensary From Quarantine

COVID-19, also known as SARS-CoV-2 or the coronavirus, has up-ended the majority of the United States economy. Everything except for essential businesses are supposed to be closed, and what is defined as essential varies from state to state. If you’re part of the cannabis industry, that may mean that you’re struggling to figure out how to run your dispensary from quarantine. 

Here are some tips and tricks to help you stay afloat as we face the COVID-19 crisis. 

Essential Or Not?

In the states that have implemented shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders, each governor has released a list that details what businesses are considered ‘essential’ and allowed to stay open, and under what circumstances.

Some, like restaurants and bars that serve food, are allowed to remain open for take-out and delivery orders but customers aren’t allowed to dine-in.  Others, like hair and nail salons, have to close for the duration of these orders to help slow the spread of the virus. 

Where does that leave dispensaries? That depends on the state, so make sure you’re checking with your local or state government before you start making decisions. 

In some states, especially those that only allow cannabis for medical use, dispensaries are considered essential because they’re part of the healthcare sector. 

In other states that allow for both medical and recreational use, medical dispensaries are allowed to stay open while recreational ones are limited to curbside pickup. Still others, like Massachusetts, have closed their dispensaries altogether. 

From The Office or From Home?

Should you be working from your dispensary or from a home office?  That, too, depends on the state you’re located in. 

You may be in Colorado, running a recreational dispensary that is limited to curbside pickup. Or you might be in a state like Pennsylvania that is allowing dispensary owners to run their businesses out of their own homes – at least temporarily. 

The state expanded the definition of the word caregiver so that dispensary owners could serve an unlimited number of patients without needing to seek out specific licensing. 

It also allows for curbside pickup and even home delivery in some cases, though the latter isn’t strictly allowed.  If you’re able to work from home during this crisis, what should you know?

Setting Up Your Home Office

Working from home isn’t as easy as plugging in a computer and turning it on, especially in states where cannabis is permitted for medical use because you’ve also got HIPAA compliance to worry about. 

You will need a variety of tools to keep your business moving, from hardware like computers and phones to software for accounting and inventory.  If you need something set up quickly, GoogleVoice can provide everything from phone and text service to call forwarding to help you stay connected. 

Make sure you have everything you need ready before you start accepting orders for delivery or pickup.  This isn’t going to be something that you can or should take on lightly.  One mistake, especially in the cannabis industry, can be incredibly costly. 

Offer Streamlined Ordering

One challenge you might encounter shifting to a curbside pickup or delivery model is making sure that your customers can order the products that they need. 

Make sure that you’ve got a streamlined ordering system that is easy for your customers to navigate.  No matter how badly they need something, people don’t want to try and figure out how to work through a system that isn’t user friendly. 

It might take some time to get your inventory listed on your website, but keeping your customers informed about what you have on hand and making it easier for them to access it can help keep your dispensary thriving even during these trying times. 

Don’t Anticipate Federal Assistance

While the federal government is offering all sorts of assistance for small businesses, from helping them pay their bills to provide them with loans that don’t need to be paid back if they use them to continue paying their employees.

Unfortunately, for dispensary owners and those in the cannabis industry, assistance might be a long time in coming.  The federal government still considered marijuana an illegal substance, so companies that are associated with the cannabis industry likely won’t be able to take advantage of the grants and loans that are designed to support small businesses.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways for cannabis companies to help.  The increase in sales has helped publicly traded companies that might have been struggling to increase the value of their stocks. 

Some places, such as Canada, are looking to cannabis labs to help them cope with the backlog of COVID-19 tests that their researchers don’t have the time or supplies to complete.

This, Too, Shall Pass

When it comes down to it, in most states cannabis is considered essential, so you need to figure out a way to keep your dispensary running during these trying times.

It doesn’t have to be an enormous challenge if you’ve got the tools you need to keep things moving forward. The most important thing to remember is that this too shall pass. Eventually, we’ll get back to the normal swing of things. 

All we can hope is that this unprecedented pandemic event helps to remind the government that cannabis is indeed an essential substance.  While we’re not counting on it to change the hearts and minds of those currently in power, it could be a step in the right direction. 


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