Michigan Requires Cannabis Businesses to Operate in Manner That Limits Spread of COVID-19

On May 21, the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) issued an Advisory Bulletin titled, “Licensed Marijuana Operations under COVID-19 Executive Orders.” The Advisory Opinion identifies required responses to COVID-19 by all Michigan cannabis licensees.

Now, cannabis businesses must operate in a way that limits the exposure to COVID-19 for employees, patients and customers or face MRA enforcement and possibly the loss of licenses.

Under Gov. Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-06, all state agencies are required to establish workplace health and safety standards to protect employees, medical cannabis patients, caregivers and adult-use customers. These standards will remain in effect until the governor rescinds Executive Order 2020-06. MRA issued its Advisory Bulletin under that authority.

The Advisory Opinion identifies general obligations for all licensees and requirements depending on the specific license held by the cannabis operation. The general obligations include the following requirements:

  • Develop a COVID-19 preparedness and response plan that is consistent with OSHA guidance for workspaces. These plans must be available for employees, labor unions and customers by June 1, 2020 or within two weeks of beginning in-person operations, whichever is later.
  • Designate worksite supervisors who will implement the plan and be on site at all times when employees are present.
  • Establish COVID-19 training that will identify workplace infection control practices, use of personal protection equipment, how employees will notify of any COVID-19 symptoms and reporting of unsafe working conditions. If an employee has a confirmed case of COVID-19, within 24 hours the employer must notify the local health department and those who may have come into contact with the employee.
  • Establish a daily entry self-screening protocol.
  • Maintain social distancing (six feet) to maximum extent possible, potentially using markings, signs and physical barriers.
  • Provide non-medical face coverings to employees and possibly face shields if the employees cannot maintain a six-foot buffer.
  • Enhance cleaning and disinfection procedures to limits exposure, make cleaning supplies available to employees, provide time for employees to wash their hands or use sanitizer frequently and adopt a protocol to clean in the event an employee tests positive for COVID-19. The response plan should also consider responses when a confirmed COVID-19 case, including sending employees home or closing parts of the operation.
  • Prohibit discharging or disciplining employees who stay at home or leave work when they are at risk of exposing others to COVID-19.
  • Maintain records of compliance and provide them upon request to the MRA.

Requirements for cannabis growers and processors have some common elements:

  • Ceasing all non-essential in-person visits.
  • Reduce congestion in common areas.
  • Reduce the number of employees in the facility at any one time, perhaps by rotating employee schedules.
  • Limit the sharing of tools and equipment and frequently clean tools, equipment and routinely touched surfaces.

Requirements for provisioning centers and retailers include the following:

  • Educate customers of the operator’s practices and precautions to prevent infection. The MRA helpfully provides a flyer that can provide some guidance.
  • If the floor space for the provisioning center or retailer is less than 50,000 feet, the operators must limit occupancy to 25% of total occupancy limits established by the fire marshal.
  • Post signs informing customers that they must wear a face covering inside the facility and cannot enter if they have recently been sick.
  • Train employees on how to respond to symptomatic customers.
  • Limit staffing to absolute minimum.
  • Operators are encouraged to maintain curbside service or home delivery, although entry of sales into the statewide monitoring system must continue unchanged.

For secure transporters, drivers should avoid using the recirculated air options, use vents to bring fresh air into the vehicle and/or open windows.

Safety compliance facilities have specific requirements, including the following:

  • Cease non-essential visits and close open workshops, cafeterias and conference rooms.
  • Conduct work remotely where practicable.
  • Minimize use of shared equipment and develop protocols to clean equipment and tools.
  • There are specific requirements for field samplers including the use of personal protective equipment, wash after facility visits, disinfect vehicles and know what the COVID-19 protocols are at each facility where sampling will take place.

In addition to the above, there are also requirements for designated consumption establishments. Further, the MRA has suspended the issuance of temporary marijuana event licenses.

As we move into a world where COVID-19 concerns and avoidance is paramount, all businesses and activities will need to adjust to a new normal. While cannabis remains an essential service, the way people work and interface with cannabis businesses will require vigilance. Michigan has added protecting employees and the general public from COVID-19 to the list of requirements that the cannabis industry must meet.

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