09 June 2022 |

D.C. protects employees who consume cannabis, Dutchie reduces its workforce, and Ukraine’s support for medical cannabis.

By Kaitlin Domangue

Interesting (and long overdue) developments coming out of D.C….

Washington, D.C. City Council unanimously passed a bill on Tuesday preventing employers from firing employees and refusing to hire applicants who test positive for THC. 

The bill is called the Cannabis Employment Protections Amendment Act of 2022 and was first introduced by D.C. Councilmakers in February of 2021. 

It’s come a long way, but the bill is not law yet. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser must approve it first. It’s already been sent to her desk, and if she signs it, the bill will become law after a 60-day congressional review. 

Federal employees, safety-sensitive employees (like construction workers, healthcare workers, and police officers), and employees who consume cannabis at work aren’t protected under this bill.

Critics are arguing that safety-sensitive employees, like police officers and healthcare workers, are often the people who need medical cannabis the most. Nearly 96% of nurses report experiencing at least one symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder. 

And labor-intensive professions, like construction workers, are more likely to experience chronic pain than other industries. Construction workers die of drug overdoses (off the job) at a 6x higher rate than the general workforce. Nearly one in six construction workers are in pain almost every single day. 

And as we know: medical cannabis has been shown to help people with both of these conditions and more. 

One study found that PTSD sufferers who consume cannabis were able to reduce the severity of their symptoms by more than half. Another study found a 64% reduction in opioid usage among chronic pain patients who used medical cannabis. 

For the general workforce in positions that aren’t safety-sensitive, employers would be required to examine “medical marijuana to treat a disability in the same manner as it would treat the legal use of a controlled substance prescribed by or taken under the supervision of a licensed health care professional.” 

The Americans with Disabilities Act says American employees have a right to keep their medical information private from employers, regardless of whether or not they are disabled. 

What I’m thinking 🧠

For first responders and other safety-sensitive positions, I understand the concern surrounding cannabis consumption. 

But. Where’s the concern for Xanax? Ambien? Valium? Where’s the concern for alcohol, which is purely an intoxicant, and not a medication? 

Until the employee shows a problem, there isn’t a concern about those things – and there shouldn’t be. 

The same should be true for medical cannabis but it isn’t. It’s unfair. 

The ADA would be all over this if it weren’t for cannabis’ status as a Schedule I substance. Why? Because in most cases, denying someone work based on the medication they take is discrimination, plain and simple. 

I want to see legislation like this in every state. 

But I also want to see protections for our frontline workers and safety-sensitive employees to consume medical cannabis in a way that doesn’t compromise their ability to work.

Dutchie reduces its workforce by 8%

Honestly, y’all, there’s not much I hate seeing more than layoffs in cannabis. Dutchie just announced an 8% reduction in its workforce, citing a “dramatic market shift” as the reason why. 

This news comes shortly after Cannabis-based delivery brand, Eaze, laid off an upwards of 25 people around the same time. Cannabis enterprise software company, Akerna, also cut 59 positions in May. 

“Like many other companies watching the dramatic market shift over the last few months, we took time as a team to carefully think through our business plans to ensure we are set up to fulfill our mission. Fortunately, the cannabis industry is still growing at a rapid pace and is positioned well to be resilient in the case of a broader recession. Last week, we gathered our entire team together to communicate an important and difficult decision to restructure a few areas of the business. This decision impacts approximately 8% of the company’s overall workforce. We are forever grateful for everyone’s contributions to Dutchie and the cannabis industry that were impacted. Dutchie is in a strong position and we are focused on continued growth. We will continue to hire top talent and pursue growth opportunities that map to our business objectives in order to advance our mission to provide safe and easy access to cannabis while helping to drive the cannabis industry forward.” – Ross Lipson, Co-Founder and CEO of Dutchie. 

hate cannabis layoffs for both sides of the aisle. Obviously, you have employees losing their livelihood. Families to feed, bills to pay, weddings to plan. I can’t imagine being in that scenario and I’m truly thankful for my blessings every time I see news like this. 

But I also think about the operators. I have worked with countless operators over the last three years and I’ve met so many that do nothing but obsess over making sure their employees are happy. It’s a punch to the gut to do something like this, I’m certain. 

The news of Dutchie’s layoffs began trickling in last week when several LinkedIn posts began surfacing about it. Dutchie waited a few days to make an official statement, but unlike other layoffs, I didn’t see fiery reports of Dutchie handling it poorly.

So, what do layoffs mean? Is the cannabis industry failing? Will a looming recession impact our industry more than we thought? 

It’s no secret that the economy is going through troubled waters. 

Gas prices are high and The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates by 0.75 percentage points so far this year. President Biden has been receiving questions about a potential recession and businesses in all industries, not just cannabis, are seeing layoffs.

The economy is certainly struggling. Dutchie is just one company to respond to it.

But, the cannabis industry is not failing, and in fact, layoffs can often be a sign of growth. As this space grows, it comes with the same pitfalls as traditional businesses. 

Cannabis companies have made dramatic workforce reductions before, even before 2020 when many traditional employers laid off workers amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

What I’m thinking 🧠

2020 showed us just how strong the cannabis industry is. We were deemed essential business amidst the lockdowns, and cannabis sales skyrocketed when stay-at-home orders were announced. 

That quickly evened out, but the cannabis industry still wasn’t suffering. Surveys found consumers aren’t as quick to give up cannabis or alcohol in a recession as you might think.

I know for medical cannabis patients like me, things would have to be really freaking bad for me to give up cannabis. It truly helps me function. 

And it doesn’t seem like Dutchie is necessarily planning on slowing down, either. In Ross Lipson’s statement, he mentioned “restructuring”, which is often used as a catch-all phrase for “we need to lay people off and save money.” 

However, in this case, I noticed that many people who were laid off were in the same department. It is highly possible that Dutchie is restructuring in such a way that eliminates the need for so many employees in particular departments while giving them the greatest chance of profitability in economic uncertainty. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if more layoffs hit the cannabis space, actually, I’m fully expecting them to. I just hope they are all handled with class and employers can give as much notice as possible. 

Ukraine announces government-backed medical cannabis bill

Wow, y’all. This is heavy. 

Ukraine’s Health Minister, Viktor Liashko, announced on Tuesday that the Ukrainian government is backing a bill to legalize medical cannabis. 

“We understand the negative effects of war on mental health. We understand the number of people who will need medical treatment due to this exposure. And we understand that there is no time to wait”, Liashko said in a Facebook post, as reported by Forbes. 

The weight of this is hard to put into words. A country legalizing medical cannabis, in part because of the extreme impacts of war on public health in the country. 

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, 2022. At least 4,000 Ukrainians have been killed since and men between the ages of 18 and 60 are required to stay in the country and defend Ukraine. 

There is no doubt that war has a dramatic impact on mental health. 

Children in war suffer from conditions like anxiety disorders, PTSD, dissociative disorders, and alcohol and substance abuse more than children in countries not devastated by war. 

Research shows that even if the war in Ukraine ends soon, minor impacts on the country’s children (loss of stability, food, education, family members, etc) could negatively affect them for generations. 

Beyond the effects of war in Ukraine, there are diseases, conditions, and symptoms that don’t stop just because of war. Ukraine’s medical cannabis bill approves more than 50 qualifying conditions, including cancer, PTSD, neurological diseases, and neuropathic chronic pain. 

64.88% of Ukrainians support medical cannabis reform, according to an October 2020 Kyiv Post poll. 

What I’m thinking 🧠

I think everyone has been impressed with how transparent the Ukrainian government has been with its citizens, and quite frankly the world, while Russia attacks the nation. 

This move further proves how committed the Ukrainian government appears to be to its people during this time.

At a time like this, you’d think medical cannabis would be. the last thing on Ukraine’s list of priorities, but it truly can bolster healthcare as a whole in the country and combat some of the negative effects of war. 

It will be interesting to first see if this bill comes to fruition and then from there, it will be interesting to see just how much of an impact cannabis has made on the citizens of Ukraine during this time.