Worker’s Health and COVID-19 in Colorado’s Cannabis Industry

DENVER, July 1, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — New research has started to identify cannabis workers’ health concerns during COVID-19. The study includes an online survey of 200 employees in Colorado’s legal cannabis sector to determine concerns of appropriate protective masks and gloves as well as physical distancing practices to protect workers from the virus. Marty Otañez, Associate Professor in CU Denver’s Anthropology Department, is the study leader.  

In March 2020, Governor Polis declared cannabis as an essential service during the pandemic, prompting some workers to feel uneasy as they use masks that are needed for health workers who are truly essential during the pandemic. Over two dozen states where cannabis is legal have issued stay-at-home orders and classified cannabis as an essential service during COVID-19.  

Cannabis employees are being asked about workplace exposure to the virus due to limited or inadequate protective masks and unsafe physical distancing in retail stores and cultivation facilities. Individuals will share experiences with hazard and sick pay, and proper training to protect themselves and what to do when an employee tests positive for COVID-19. The survey includes questions about worker’s rights and the role of labor unions to increase workplace protections.

Essential workers who sell medicinal and adult-use cannabis products want safer and virus-free workplaces. Findings from this research inform occupational health practices and policies of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) that seek increased health and safety among workforces exposed to the virus and other hazards during the pandemic.   

Individuals who work in cannabis tend to be chronic users of its products, making them highly susceptible to COVID-19 because it attacks the lungs. Vulnerable workers who receive limited or inadequate protective masks and unsafe physical distancing at work watch cannabis companies lobby for home delivery and curbside pickup to sell cannabis products to consumers and patients.     

Twenty-five workers who complete the survey will be asked to participate in videotaped interviews. Media from interviews will be used to create a series of public service announcements to educate cannabis consumers, owners and policy makers about OSHA guidelines and practices to lessen the extent of potential exposure and occupational hazards.

The CU Denver Office of Research Services provided funds for the study.

To learn more about cannabis workers and COVID-19 research, contact Marty Otañez, 415 306 4754; [email protected],

SOURCE Marty Otañez

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