We hope that you and your community are staying healthy, informed, and connected in these times. With news of the arrival of COVID-19 coronavirus to the United States last March, all of us at Cannabis Workers Coalition are following updates closely to know the best ways to handle the situation throughout our network in various parts of the country.

If you are like us, you’re feeling something between anxiety, confusion, fear or maybe, you’re not sure what to feel about the coronavirus. 

One thing we are clear about is that this is a moment that calls for us to recognize the work of hemp and cannabis workers who support some of our most vulnerable populations including older adults and people with compromised immune systems.

As the only national network of cannabis and hemp employers, CWC’s Employer Network offers this short list of recommendations below to people who employe cannabis and hemp workers.

Commit to Being an Equitable Employer

We may be in unknown territory with the Coronavirus, but being an equitable employer will always remain a constant. Are you paying a livable wage? Are you communicating clearly about your flexibility at this moment? Will you encourage the worker in your company to take sick time if they need it?

I feel so exposed while living with someone who has severe breathing problems in general.

– Dispensary Manager

Several states and cities have paid sick time protections that ensure workers can take leave and not risk losing pay. However, most states lack labor protections for hemp and cannabis workers classified as independent contractors or agriculture workers and our country does not have a robust safety net. There can be devastating consequences for a worker and their family if they have to miss a day, or several weeks of work without pay.

Regardless of the laws where you live, we urge you to:

  • Provide paid sick leave for workers to visit the doctor, or to stay home to care for themselves or their family members who are sick. 
  • If you can assist in covering health care costs for the worker in your company, do it! 

Be extra vigilant and protect cannabis and hemp workers.

In April, it was reported in Green Entrepreneur that many hemp and cannabis workers clocked in every day without any kind of protection. In a heartbreaking account, a Colorado dispensary manager wrote to the author:

“All of our workers are exhausted and scared…three hourly employees are sick and not being paid for missed time or allowed back until two weeks is up. One sick employee claimed they were exposed at their second job to someone on staff who tested positive for coronavirus. I’ve spent 30 hours with that person in the last week, and none of our policies changed after hearing someone exposed has been working for us. Meanwhile, we as a company have made $40,000 in increased profits in the past week. It’s enough to pay each employee $3,000 and still keep $10,000 extra, but we’ve seen no wage changes. I feel so exposed while living with someone who has severe breathing problems in general. I feel someone I love could die because of my unnecessary exposure to the public.”

This time, let’s make sure to protect cannabis and hemp workers. If you or anyone on your staff feels sick, we urge you to not expose workers and, instead, provide paid time off to avoid spreading illness.

Create a backup plan

This is a good time to have a conversation with the cannabis or hemp worker who you employ about what to do in the case of illness. Would she be willing to share the names of any of her contacts who she knows and trusts to see if they would be willing to be contacted by you for backup care? Did you interview any nannies or care workers who you liked but ultimately didn’t hire? You can contact them to see if they are available for backup care. 

Whatever steps you are able to take, remember to always keep your workers in mind.

Note that the contents of this guide are intended to convey general information only and not to provide legal advice or opinions. Contact the Cannabis Workers Coalition for employee-side employment attorney referrals.