Ed. Note: This story is part of a continuing series about the cannabis industry’s humanitarian efforts during the coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic.
It has been about a month since U.S. states and several countries instituted “stay at home” and social distancing protocols in an attempt to slow the spread of deadly coronavirus; resources, supply lines, and economic stability continue to be disrupted for millions of individuals and businesses worldwide.
The U.S. federal government has offered unprecedented financial stimulus relief funding to American citizens and businesses through the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” (aka CARES Act). But while sheer numbers of the unemployed and small businesses applying for stimulus funding have crashed state and federal websites, one thing is almost certain—legal cannabis businesses are unlikely to receive funding.
“Where cannabis businesses remain federally illegal (because cannabis is a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act), they are not eligible to get any benefits under the CARES Act. Additionally, federal illegality prevents cannabis businesses from receiving newly created “disaster loans” from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act. (The SBA determined back in 2018 that cannabis businesses wouldn’t be eligible to receive federal loans),” said international law firm Harris Bricken on its company blog.
Harris Bricken also noted that since the Farm Act of 2018 has decriminalized hemp, some hemp industry businesses should be able to obtain federal stimulus funds. “Notably, where hemp is no longer a Schedule I controlled substance, those businesses are likely free to take advantage of the foregoing federal relief (though it’s [more dicey] for hemp-CBD businesses that violate the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act),” the HB blog said further.
But that’s not stopping the cannabis industry from stepping up. In response to federal funding issues, supply shortages, and other pandemic-related concerns, industry members and companies are donating and fundraising to help in any way they can.
On Monday, April 20, the industry will celebrate its biggest annual holiday—from a safe distance—with the Highstream 420 Festival, to benefit coronavirus-related charities. The streaming event, which will be available through show sponsor Nugs.tv, will be presented on 4/20, at 4:00pm EST.
The lineup boasts cannabis-famous and favorite performers, including headliner Melissa Etheridge, The Disco Biscuits, Ape Drums, The Pharcyde, LGBTQ advocate LaGanga Estranja, hashish master Frenchy Cannoli, well-known dispensary owner Berner & Friends, and production company Flow Kana, among others. There will be performances, workshops, demos and interactive panels for viewers to enjoy online.
Cannabis distribution company SparqOne and product producer KushyPunch have combined efforts to offer discounted wholesale prices on product, through the Cannabis Cares campaign, which is available to SparqOne partner brands.
“During these very difficult times, we felt it was important to give back to our community of patients and customers. We reached out to KushyPunch and they immediately jumped onboard,” said SparqOne General Manager Andrew Dorsett in a press release. “By lowering the cost of their gummies by nearly 30 percent, KushyPunch has enabled us to get more products onto shelves and out to patients, where it is needed most during this critical time.
“This is part of our Cannabis Cares campaign, and we welcome the support of other great brands throughout the state to likewise lower their wholesale prices so shops can survive, while also passing savings along to their customers,” Dorsett added.
CBD wellness company Privy Peach, based in Colorado, has donated $10,000 worth of its Break Free Tincture to medical front-liners fighting the epidemic. Medical personnel that would like to receive a free bottle of tincture can send proof of employment to [email protected].
“Seeing the anguish and exhaustion of medical workers flooding the news daily, I wanted to help in the only way I could, and that was providing these medical professionals something to help support better-quality sleep and some stress relief,” said Privy Peach founder Kim Koehler. “I’m proud to say that since we launched the program a couple days ago, we have already shipped out over $2,000 worth of the designated Break Free Tincture, and it is already in the hands of many workers.”
New York-based CBD producer Complete Hemp is offering a 50 percent discount on products from its branded lines to high-risk employees and other essential workers. The special discount is available to “all first responders, and anyone serving in today’s global pandemic, including health care practitioners, grocery store employees, and restaurant workers. Also, the military (including active duty, veterans, and dependents), and teachers,” according to a company press release.
“We are both honored and excited to be a part of such a fantastic collaborative effort in giving a second chance at life while improving the health of families around the globe through our products, helping people to live healthy and active lives,” said Complete Hemp Chief Executive Officer Howard Hoffman.
Colorado area CBD companies have made similar offers to those affected by the pandemic, for free or discounted products. NewLeaf Brands, located in Denver, will send a free sample product pack (approximately $50.00 value) to those who have become unemployed due to the crisis or to essential employees, on the pandemic’s front lines. Interested individuals may visit the NewLeaf website to sign up for the special offer. Good Vibes Mafia, also in Denver, will give away free bottles of CBD-infused hand sanitizer with every CBD product purchase from its online store.
Canadian-based recruiting agency Tundra has partnered with local businesses and governments to create the COVID-19 Job Board, which has current available job postings for cannabis-related employment, in an effort to help those who have become unemployed during the pandemic. Available positions in other Canadian industries are also listed on the site.
“As companies transform their businesses to address the COVID-19 crisis, we are seeing a gap in skills required,” said Tundra President Micah Williams in a press release. “Simultaneously we are also seeing an influx of very talented individuals who want to help. Our strength is matching great people with great opportunities. Hopefully this collection of efforts can make a difference. Everyone has a role to play to support this fight against COVID-19.”
Dispensary chain Perfect Union, with stores located in California, New Mexico, and Rhode Island, has raised the hourly rates for its employees by $2.50 since pandemic safe distancing protocols were put into place in California, followed by other states. Perfect Union supervisors and managers also will receive extra pay, which amounts to an extra $150 and $250 weekly. Most of the company’s 200 employees are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which has advocated for increased pay for its members on the front lines of the pandemic.
“We are proud of the way the Perfect Union organization stepped up to ensure we could maintain the highest level of service and care for our patients and guests,” said Perfect Union Chief Executive Officer David Spradlin. “I am grateful to our employees for their dedication and heroics during this time of crisis. I am happy we are in position to be able to give a little more to our employees and their families during this unprecedented time.”
Supply shortages have greatly increased the risk for medical personnel and others working at essential businesses—which includes many cannabis businesses—especially those that must have close contact with the public.
Hand sanitizer—which can be produced by facilities with extraction and distillation facilities like some cannabis product producers—is in high demand for hospitals, consumers, and essential employees.
Product manufacturer The Galley and CGA Packaging, located in Santa Rosa, California, have partnered to produce “Stop & Sanitize” hand sanitizer. At The Galley’s state-of-the-art, FDA-, and CDPH-approved facility, the company has produced a first-run of 25,000 units, to be distributed to “hospitals, retail shops, grocery, and drug stores,” according to a company press release.
“It’s our civic duty to do what we can to save lives. Our ‘Stop & Sanitize’ hand sanitizer is made with great care in a sterilized setting and we want to contribute in some way to help people and our community in this crisis,” said The Galley Chief Marketing Officer Annie Holman.
Supply shortages extend into Canada, where Kelowana, British Columbia-based The Valens Company has committed to bottle and donate 40,000 units of hand sanitizer. The company is working with local hospitals, essential services, and nonprofit organizations to distribute the hand sanitizer to those in the most need. The company has also donated “significant quantities of various personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, gowns, and sanitizing wipes” from its own existing supply.
“We at The Valens Company recognize the urgency in assisting our communities across the country during this critical phase of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Valens Chief Executive Officer Tyler Robson said in a press release. “We consider it our corporate responsibility to leverage our existing extraction and production capabilities to distribute products that have the potential to fight the transmission of this virus. We are quickly mobilizing our teams and resources to alleviate essential supply shortages and contribute as much as we can to those selflessly helping on the frontlines.”
California-based Hydroponics nutrient company Emerald Harvest will also use its production facilities to manufacturer and donate bottles of hand sanitizer. The product will be available at Emerald Harvest retail stores and through Hawthorne Distributing.
Farmers Armour, a company that manufacturers specialized protective apparel for agricultural workers—including filtered face masks—will donate one re-usable face mask to an essential worker, for each purchased from the company.
“We are donating one mask to essential workers fighting COVID-19 for every one we sell and have had great success and support so far from both those in the industry and outside it,” said Farmers Armour partner Kaz Kosciolek.
In Oceanside, California, Left Coast Extracts donated 3,000 KN-95 face masks to local essential workers. “We wanted to give back to our community by using the resources we have,” said Left Coast representative Alex Kometas. “We know that there has been a strain on systems that supply important medical supplies. We had a resource and we saw a way to help.”
For Michigan cannabis consumers hit hard by the pandemic due to loss of income, advocates and business people teamed up to hold a “free cannabis” giveaway, benefiting military members and those who receive disability benefits. While practicing safe distancing protocols, the recent giveaway took place in the town of Sheridan, Michigan, hosted by the Mid-Michigan Compassion Club.
“Everybody’s wearing safety precautions, masks, gloves. We’re trying to stay our distance. We have nobody in the building. It’s all preregistered in the car, similar to take-out food,” Mid-Michigan Compassion Club owner, longtime cannabis advocate, and caregiver David Overholt told local news station WOOD7.
“The generosity has come out in droves since we announced we were doing this,” he continued. “This is the right thing to do and I’m so proud of the caregivers that stepped up and did it.”