Curbside-Only for Cannabis Dispensaries during Covid-19!!

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On behalf of our coworkers and patients at 3C Compassionate Care Center in Naperville, a medical cannabis dispensary owned by Green Thumb Industries (GTI), we are writing to request your support to protect cannabis workers, patients, and customers. We are raising awareness of the potential dangers if further actions are not taken. Our patients and many of our staff are immunocompromised. We want to ensure our community the medicine they need without putting them or ourselves at a higher risk for COVID-19 infection.

On March 12th, 2020, GTI issued an email to employees discussing the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic, outlining safety measures that will be taken in order to ensure the health and well-being of its employees and patients. GTI stated: “Employees may use our [paid time off] PTO and sick time benefits to take time away from work due to illness, family care, or preference to be at home during this time.” During that weekend, approximately five of our 18-member team decided to do just that. On Monday, March 16th, a press release by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) announced temporary rules allowing dispensaries “to sell medical cannabis on the dispensary’s property or on a public walkway or curb adjacent to the dispensary.” The majority of our staff then made a request to GTI that we operate as curbside-only, in order to mitigate risk as much as possible. We were told by management that GTI wishes to keep the Illinois market fully open to offset the economic hits the company is taking in other states due to COVID-19.

Throughout the rest of March, our staff implemented the business guidelines of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and did our best to limit the number of patients in the dispensary and waiting room, doing an excellent job of coordinating and implementing all new changes to lower the risk of spreading COVID-19. As days went by however, it became clear just how contagious and deadly COVID-19 is. We continued asking for curbside-only, which was consistently denied. We continued asking for personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, face masks, sanitizer, and were told there are none available due to nationwide shortages. If not for the kind patients who dropped off gloves and masks, we would have none.

On March 31st, a number of us had enough. Six more of us decided to organize and stay home because GTI would not listen to our collective requests for curbside-only and PPE. In fact, our store manager stated that GTI would not change its policies until a staff member or patient became infected with COVID-19. We considered that unacceptable. In the face of a growing pandemic, curbside-only and proper PPE are what we felt would best lower the risk of infection and death for our patients, staff, and communities. We also felt it necessary to report the company to OSHA and only as a result of our complaint did we receive a commitment by the company to provide us with PPE.

The very next day, April 1st, GTI began implementing the beginning of curbside sales. However, employees that were still working informed us that GTI was still allowing patient transfers, new patients, new applicants, and other patients inside. We therefore did not feel safe to return to work. We received no clarification of the new process of curbside-only sales from GTI until Monday, April 6th, in which the company stated it was not satisfied with curbside-only sales and intended to open to in-store service as soon as possible.

We believe that GTI is not respecting our right to collective action to improve our workplace and protect ourselves and our patients. We believe that we can best serve our patients by operating as curbside-only, while utilizing telephones to continue to give care and guidance, and offering webinars to continue to educate our patients and deliver outreach services safely. COVID-19 is spreading and killing more people as the days go by. We feel that in-store service would continue to put us and our patients at an unnecessary risk. As far as sales, GTI is doing very well. At our dispensary alone, for the month of March 2020 we had our highest revenue in the history of our dispensary. Curbside-only sales have not amounted to a decrease in revenue this month either.

GTI stated in their response letter to OSHA on April 20th that they performed a hazard assessment and found that COVID-19 contaminants could linger in the air and on surfaces. Curbside-only service is therefore the safest way to proceed during this pandemic. Staff have still not received sufficient masks to wear. The masks some of our employees wear are made from cloth, certainly not able to protect them from COVID-19 in a dispensary with the quick and constant air exchange that we have. Furthermore, masks are not enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside dispensaries. A worker, patient, or customer can still be infected by this virus through masks, their eyes, and wounds on the skin. The fact that many hospital workers are still being infected attests to this. If we can prevent infection with curbside-only sales, then by all means let's do it!  

At the end of the day, we just want to protect our patients, coworkers, loved ones, and communities. We are blessed to have the opportunity to provide patients with the medicine they need, but we also want to ensure they are safe during these times. This situation is worsening daily, workers are being infected and dying all across our state and nation. GTI simply does not have the will to take our health and safety seriously, and they have stated their goals to transition immediately back to in-store service on April 30th. They are planning to do this despite our concerns that COVID-19 is spreading and killing people, despite the fact that workers along with patients are immunocompromised, and despite that fact that they admitted there is a hazard present in our dispensary of COVID-19 lingering in the air and on surfaces.

Please join us in requesting that Governor Pritzker, IDPH, and the IDFPR update its guidelines in the face of this ever-worsening pandemic and implement the temporary closing of in-store service for all cannabis dispensaries until the spread of COVID-19 comes significantly under control. We are requesting that dispensaries remain curbside-only until the danger of COVID-19 has substantially subsided. As frontline workers we believe that curbside-only and proper PPE are the best way to mitigate risk and protect our communities during this pandemic’s fast and deadly spread.

We thank you for listening, and look forward to your support. Please feel free to share this with others you believe can further assist us as well. We appreciate your time and all that you do. May you and your loved ones continue to be safe and healthy during this global pandemic!

3C Naperville Workers in Unity for Safety for All