Lessons from the Cannabis Industry

By Dyanne Parnel

With the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, manufacturers of consumer goods across the globe are struggling to keep doors open while keeping employees, clients and their products safe.

The main challenge is how to effectively enhance operations in order to reduce the potential spread of the virus. This can be a scary and ominous task for even the strongest company.

The cannabis industry has been deemed essential and while a fairly young industry, has stepped up to the task. Both medical and recreational cannabis suppliers, manufacturers, growers and retailers were deemed essential in several states in which the product is legal.

We had to find a way to ensure that the safety of our people was kept tantamount to anything else

Michael Bronfein, CEO of Curio Wellness, stated that the directive for cannabis and cannabis containing companies to remain open, was at first a challenge, including his company.

“We had to find a way to ensure that the safety of our people was kept tantamount to anything else,” he said. “We understood that some of our staff would choose not to work for fear of catching the virus or spreading it to their loved ones. We had to consider their safety and comfort first in order to make any type of business continuity plan during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Bronfein and his team took a proactive approach to prevention and protection for their team and their product. During the early stages of the pandemic, the company shut down operations to perform a deep clean of all contact surfaces, office areas, product handling stations and equipment. The company also installed showers for employees where they could change out of their personal clothing and into full body sterile suits with goggles, face-shields and masks before heading to the production floor.

Pre-screening everyone who entered any of their facilities to reduce the spread of the virus has been another important step. To do this, the company set up screening stations for all visitors, employees and contractors who are asked questions prior to temperatures being taken and logged, masks issued and then, permission granted to enter the facility.

Additionally, any staff member who had symptoms, had potentially been exposed, or tested positive, was asked to quarantine for 14-days prior to returning to work. With companies seeking to limit opportunities for unnecessary risk once employees are back at work, employers, such as Curio Wellness, are providing additional measures such as arranging transportation to and from work of all employees, and reserving a block of rooms in local hotels for employees and families to stay in. To prevent employees from having to leave the premises for meals, the company is also providing a fully catered meals to all work-staff at no charge.

With the loosening of quarantine restrictions and the lessening of social distancing requirements in many states, it will become increasingly important for cannabis producers, growers, manufacturers, retail and dispensary operations to implement enhanced sanitation and recovery plans for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic. Examples like Curio Wellness can shine a light for the industry as a whole and demonstrate how to implement stronger preventive measures to protect customers and employees.

About the Author:
Dyanne Parnel is the owner of Standard Practices, LLC a food, beverage and cannabis consulting firm and Director of Sanitation & Hygiene for a national food manufacturer. Ms. Parnel has spent time developing and implementing Sanitary Design Standards, Identity Preserved Foods inception and new dietary supplement processing design and criteria for companies across the US and internationally. Her career includes quality management, Food Safety & Regulatory Compliance Director, Director of Corporate Quality and Vice President of Quality Systems and Director of Consultation for the FOCUS (Foundation of Cannabis Unified Standards) Group.