Cannabis and Coronavirus: Increasing Protocols as the Industry Adapts

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PHOTO: SamaraHeisz5/ Shutterstock.com.

Even as the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 exceeded 20,000 and diagnosed cases climbed beyond 547,000, cannabis companies have been adapting to the strange, new world of the pandemic crisis and stepping up to help wherever they can.

Well-known Bay Area dispensary chain Harborside announced policy changes at its San Jose location, in order to comply with county “shelter in place” restrictions, and will limit sales to medical patients only. Adult-use patients in San Jose can still purchase product through the dispensary’s delivery service with online ordering. Harborside San Leandro remains open for medical patients only.

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To encourage social distancing, Harborside San Jose will offer a 15 percent discount on delivery orders. “All other Harborside retail stores remain open for adult-use customers as do the Oregon, Terpene Station locations,” said a company press release.

“Our mission has always been to bring health and wellness to our communities, which means putting the safety of our customers and staff before all. Today, that also means restricting service at our San Jose dispensary as our part to control the spread of COVID-19,” Chairman and Interim Chief Executive Officer Peter Bilodeau added.

“We understand the importance of continuing operations to provide our patients with the medicine they need, which is why we’ve decided to continue medical use sales in-store. During this difficult time, we are working diligently to ensure access to essential cannabis products for our customers in a safe manner,” Bilodeau said. “We encourage our adult-use customers to take advantage of our home delivery service or to visit our Oakland dispensary and we look forward to the resumption of full service when it is safe to do so.”

Home deliveries for cannabis products, like many other essential items, have proved to be invaluable during the pandemic crisis.

The+Source dispensaries in Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada, announced the launch of delivery service in order to allow customers to comply with “stay at home” restrictions. While the dispensaries will be closed for sales until further notice, The+Source customers can still access products by ordering on the phone or online, with next-day delivery.

“We are doing our best to take immediate action to adjust to this situation and continue to serve our patients and customers through this difficult time,” said The+Source Regional General Manager Brandon Wiegand. “We have been rapidly evolving our policies over the last few weeks and hope to continue serving our local community by providing employment for our staff and implementing delivery as a safety measure, as we encourage everyone to stay home for Nevada.”

Illinois-based Cresco Labs announced it will be hiring new staff members for its retail Sunnyside dispensaries, with four locations in Illinois. Hiring will focus on those who have become unemployed due to business closures caused by the pandemic. They also will be included in the company’s Essential Pay Program, which allows “premium payment for frontline salaried and hourly team members at its dispensaries, cultivation facilities, and distribution locations.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the daily lives and disrupted the livelihoods of everyone in this country, with some communities, groups, and individuals impacted more than others. As the states in which we operate have acknowledged cannabis as an ‘essential’ industry, we understand Cresco’s responsibility to continue operations, to be stewards of this industry and to be leaders in our communities,” Cresco Labs’ Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Charlie Bachtell said in a press release.

“Cresco has a culture that focuses on, and prioritizes, the needs of all stakeholders—we are committed to do our part to maximize our impact and help those most affected by these unfortunate circumstances,” he continued.

Cannabis business systems provider Cannalogic urged dispensaries to adapt to same-day delivery wherever possible, as the pandemic has highlighted an increasing need for delivery of everyday staples, including cannabis. The company has developed point of sale (POS), e-commerce, and cultivation facility software systems, and now has added new delivery logistics software to its products.

“Even without the Corona affect, we have been seeing that it’s the companies that are able to provide same day delivery that are keeping their customers. And cannabis companies who can’t, will likely not survive,” said Cannalogic founder and Chief Executive Officer Eitan Braverman.

Washington State-based vertical business partners Sugarleaf and Canadian cultivators Chemistree gave an update on the status of their grow and retail operations. Washington officials have granted essential status to the state’s cannabis businesses, and it’s “business as usual” for both companies, as they continue to comply with coronavirus restrictions and Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) guidelines.

“I am gratified with the way our company and staff have come together and dealt with the current state of affairs,” said Sugarleaf General Manager Travis Royce. “While the situation is not in any way ideal, we have a single purpose and focus: continuing to produce cannabis products that meet and exceed our high standards. Our clients are still buying us out of product on a weekly basis, and after multiple conversations with sales reps, purchasing managers, and retail owners, we are confident that this will continue.”

Toronto-based CAFE cannabis collectives offered an update of protocols that were set into motion in early March, to protect both customers and employees. “Through conscious store design (which includes a negative pressure sales room to circulate clean air), proactive customer communication, education on responsible use, and active community involvement, CAFE is proud to consider community safety as a primary pillar of its corporate mission,” the company said in a press release.

“The writing was on the wall at the beginning of March” added CAFE Head of Public Relations David Shuang. “We knew we had to immediately get our protocols and messaging in place to maintain maximum safety for our staff and our patrons. There was a good chance that our category of business would be qualified as an essential service, giving us an immense responsibility to care for and maintain operations for our customers who rely on us, especially under served medical patients.”

Canadian-based extraction company Neptune Wellness Solutions, Inc., announced it has submitted registration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its plant located in Conover, North Carolina, to produce alcohol-based hand sanitizer. The company had previously received the approval of Health Canada to commercialize hand sanitizer for consumers.

“We are very pleased to have fast tracked our registration with FDA and are committed to supporting our fellow citizens across North America,” Neptune Chief Executive Officer Michael Cammarata said in a press release.

“We have already received strong interest from retailers and have worked with our partners to successfully secure initial raw material supplies. We anticipate initial shipments over the next several weeks and intend to fully ramp up production over the coming months. Our hand sanitizers are leveraging our experience and ongoing development of plant-based household products, allowing us to quickly address this growing consumer need with a premium quality solution,” he added.

Cannabis employment platform Vangst announced its Vangst Live Summit Series, a series of webinars on topics related to the coronavirus crisis.

“Each week, Vangst’s CEO and Founder Karson Humiston brings together four to five cannabis business leaders, from budtenders to CEOs, to share practical learning and insight on key topics surrounding our industry’s ‘new normal,’” said a company press release.

Canadian cannabinoid pharmaceutical company Tetra Bio-Pharma announced it has submitted an application with Health Canada to produce institutional hard-surface cleaner, which can be used in hospitals. The company said it would share its regulatory expertise with other Canadian companies that would like to register with Health Canada, to produce similar products, in the fight against coronavirus.

“COVID-19 is unprecedented in our lifetime and calls for an unprecedented response from all of us,” said Tetra Bio-Pharma Chief Executive Officer Dr. Guy Chamberland. “Our staff of more than thirty experts in the fields of medical devices and drugs have decades of experience and regulatory knowledge in preparing and filing applications to regulators like Health Canada and FDA.

“Tetra also enjoys numerous years of experience in quality assurance (QA) with a team experienced in international requirements for drugs and medical devices. Helping these entrepreneurs secure approvals and avoid unnecessary delays in doing so may help save lives, which is why we support these efforts at 100 percent,” Chamberland added.

Finally, a product that may pique the interest of manufacturers, wholesalers, or retailers in cannabis or other markets; health creative agency The Bloc has developed the SafeCode, a device that combines a barcode scanner with UV-C light technology, which destroys viruses and bacteria on product packaging and other surfaces.

The company is encouraging others, like UPS, Amazon, and FedEx, to “steal” their prototype design and create their own devices, in hopes the technology will become widely used in the battle against COVID-19 and other viruses.

“People are terrified of getting infected through boxes that are being delivered on a daily basis to their homes. We knew there had to be a way to solve this problem. We want everyone to have access to SafeCode and we’ll make the specifications and plans available to anyone who wants it,” Bernardo Romero, chief creative officer at The Bloc, said in a press release. “This represents the culmination of the reason The Bloc was founded twenty years ago—be great to do good.”

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