Thanks to COVID-19, Lack of Protective Gear Could Lead to Cannabis Shortages
Most weed businesses have enough protective gear to keep running for now, but a shortage of masks and gloves could eventually force labs and production facilities to shut down.
Published on March 30, 2020

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has created a global shortage of facemasks, gloves, goggles, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) — items that are absolutely essential for medical professionals who are valiantly fighting the spread of this virus. As a result of the shortage, some healthcare workers in the US have been reusing potentially contaminated masks, or even creating their own improvised protective gear out of trash bags or bandanas.

Personal protective equipment is also essential for many cannabis industry workers. Some elements of the pot production process, like flower trimming or pre-roll preparation, create airborne dust which can pose respiratory risks to employees. Technicians at cannabis testing labs also use protective gear to help ensure that their tests are conducted in a sterile environment.

Canadian cannabis producers already donate excess PPE to medical facilities, and US pot businesses may soon be asked to do the same. Medical industry needs and panic buying have depleted the stock of PPE supplies across the globe, and as these supplies dwindle, legal weed businesses will be unable to restock their own supplies. The pandemic has also created a shortage of isopropyl alcohol and other sterilization products, which testing labs also need to clean their equipment.

Most states have declared that cannabis businesses are “essential services” and are allowing weed businesses to remain open when most other businesses are closed. But without access to PPE supplies or cleaning products, weed production facilities and testing labs may not be able to continue their operations safely. 

So far, most cannabis testing labs have been able to keep running by rationing PPE products and staggering shifts so that workers can practice social distancing. Nick Mosley, co-owner of Washington-based cannabis testing lab Confidence Analytics, told Marijuana Business Daily that his business still has a solid stock of PPE. “We’re fortunate that we work in a business that by its very nature is very clean and sanitary."

Lori Glauser, COO of multistate cannabis testing company Evio Labs, said that her business also has an adequate PPE supply, but is struggling to find supplies of isopropyl alcohol. Glauser added that business dropped off shortly after states began implementing quarantine measures, but picked up again once weed businesses were granted “essential” status. 

Glauser also voiced concerns that a PPE supply shortage could force some weed businesses to suspend their operations, which could, in turn, create a shortage of legal weed products. Without access to legal weed, customers might turn to black market products, which are commonly produced without regard to safety regulations. “What concerns me is a lot of people consuming unregulated products like vape pens or flower,” Glauser explained to Marijuana Business Daily

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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