While it may be too early to say that the worst is over, many states are starting to take small steps to reopen their economies in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. For small businesses that have been closed for weeks or months as a precaution, this restart can’t come soon enough — but it’s not something that should be taken lightly or done without caution. What safety measures should cannabis businesses be considering when reopening their doors after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted?
Be Prepared to Clean and Disinfect
Right now, we’re not sure how long the coronavirus is capable of surviving on surfaces. Depending on the studies that you reference, it could be anywhere from a few hours to a few days or even longer.
That’s why it’s important to clean and disinfect surfaces to ensure no trace of the virus could be transferred to a customer or employee.
According to the CDC, the best way to do that is to use EPA-approved disinfectants. However, many have been hoarded by fearful consumers, making them difficult or impossible to obtain.
Instead, you can use alternate disinfectants, such as a bleach and water mix or a 70% alcohol solution, to kill any bacteria or viruses that might exist on surfaces.
If necessary, consider reducing the number of hours you’re open to consumers and use the extra time to clean and sanitize the store after each workday.
Carefully Maintain Capacity and Social Distancing
States are slowly allowing stores and restaurants to reopen their doors and dining rooms, but don’t expect to see a crowded eatery or clothing store anytime soon.
Social distancing measures will still be necessary for some time. Some industry experts believe the pandemic could last anywhere from 18-24 months until we have a viable treatment or vaccine available.
If your cannabis store has a lobby, you must make sure customers remain 6 feet or 2 meters apart. In some states, such as Florida, reopening stores are limited to 25% of their maximum capacity.
That means if you can safely have 40 people in your business under normal circumstances, you will only be allowed to have 10 people in the store at a time, including employees.
This isn’t designed to harm businesses. On the contrary, it’s a way to let them open their doors while still keeping employees and customers safe and preventing further spread of the coronavirus.
Stay informed about any changes in your state and ensure you’re abiding by any changes in local or state regulations regarding building capacity and social distancing.
Face Coverings, Hygiene, and Hand Sanitizer
The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings when you’re out in public, but has left it up to local and state governments to determine whether their use should be mandatory.
Whether you wish to continue using masks once you reopen your stores is entirely up to you, but it is a good idea to allow those that want to continue wearing them to do so.
Many people, even those that aren’t generally at risk themselves, are wearing masks and taking other precautions to protect others.
Even if you’re not wearing masks, insist on proper hand washing to prevent the spread of the virus.
If possible, provide hand sanitizer that employees and customers can use to keep themselves safe while shopping in your store. If your storefront doesn’t have a sink or handwashing facilities, sanitizer will be essential if you’re going to reopen your doors.
Consider Additional Security Measures
If these lockdowns have taught us anything, it’s how important our businesses are — and how fragile they can be when something like a virus throws us all into a tailspin.
While things are slowly starting to go back to normal, people are still on edge, and that could lead them to act out.
Cannabis dispensaries and related businesses are particularly at risk because the use of marijuana for recreational and medical use is still a hot button topic for many people.
For businesses with physical storefronts, consider installing barricades to protect yourself from car accidents. It might sound like something that will never happen to you, but on average, about 60 vehicles crash into storefronts every day.
Barricades will stop any car — whether it’s aimed maliciously or accidentally — from striking the front of your store.
If you don’t have them already, security cameras are also a valuable investment. Some states require dispensaries to keep between 45 and 90 days of high-resolution security video footage, so you may already have a good system in place.
For businesses that haven’t installed cameras, now is the perfect time to get that system set up while everything is closed down.
Be Prepared for Anything
We don’t know how things are going to change once the world starts to go back to normal, but experts believe we could be a couple of years away from that.
If we look at historical precedent, we could be in the calm before the next big storm, especially if people start disregarding social distancing rules as businesses start opening back up.
That’s what happened in 1918 during the Spanish flu. People got together to celebrate the end of the virus and ended up triggering a second, deadlier wave of infections.
The best thing we can do right now is to be prepared for anything.
If you’re opening the doors to your cannabis store during the pandemic — which many businesses are across all sorts of different industries — be prepared to take extra steps to keep yourself, your employees, and your customers safe.
Stay informed about any new changes to laws or regulations at the state or local level, and be ready to ride this out, no matter how long it takes.