Ed. Note: This story is part of a continuing series about the cannabis industry’s humanitarian efforts during the coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic.
With May 1 just days away, a twinkle of light appeared at the end of the long tunnel; states seemed ready to start lightening pandemic restrictions starting around May 15, with COVID-19 protocols differing from county to county, and even city to city in many regions. Businesses, employees, and everyone else are bracing for a strange, new world, related to social situations in public venues.
Certain business sectors have stepped forward as especially in-demand; lab services are emerging as an important and under-served sector. Supply chain issues, including lack of test processing equipment availability in many areas, have slowed diagnostic PCR tests for coronavirus and other formats that could be used. Researchers are scrambling to find the best methods for testing in clinical and onsite environments.
Some laboratories that test cannabis have offered their services for coronavirus testing.
Boise, Idaho-based biodiagnostic startup Facible originally developed laboratory technology to test hemp and CBD, but changed tack when the pandemic emerged as a global crisis. Instead of testing for antibodies created by viral infection, Facible’s test looks for viral proteins, which Facible Chief Executive Officer Steve Burden said could make testing faster and more accurate.
“It’s not the traditional test which is what most [facilities use], 90 percent of the market right now, and it’s not a stereological test, meaning you don’t need blood for it so we’re not testing for antibodies we’re actually testing for the presence of viral proteins and it’s actually different from anything else on the market right now in terms of how fast it is and how accurate it is,” Burden told local news affiliate KTVB7.
The company is currently seeking funds to produce more testing equipment and launch clinical trials.
Michael Wells, a Harvard postdoctoral student in neuroscience, started a multidisciplinary database at EndCoronavirus.org, and invited researchers and scientists to participate in sharing information, to battle the pandemic.
Wells, according to cannabis online platform Leafly, specifically appealed to cannabis testing laboratories, which might be able process a backlog of testing since facilities have equipment that could be used to process “qPCR-based microbial tests,” currently used for COVID-19.
California-based cannabis testing laboratory SC Labs co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Grey said the lab has joined the database program.
Leafly quoted Grey, who said, “While cannabis labs could accommodate PCR testing, many would need plenty of time to support a potential retrofit of the facility or test area, amendments to testing procedures, revised safe handling protocols, and result-reporting modifications.”
As awareness about the need for testing and other pandemic resources become more established, it is apparent donations and contributions will be necessary to help many of those affected directly by the pandemic, as well as those on the frontlines, and larger communities in need.
California-based cannabis brand Caliva made a commitment to its employees who now are deemed “essential workers.” The company will provide “gratitude pay and supplementary benefits” throughout the duration of California’s shelter in place ordinances as part of its 4/20 give-back initiative, “It’s a Joint Effort.”
In addition, Caliva will donate a portion of proceeds from its 4/20 sales to the Historically Black Colleges & Universities Cannabis Equity Initiative, a social equity nonprofit that helps African Americans become “experts, entrepreneurs, and leaders in cannabis-based careers, politics, educational programming, and research.”
“We do not take California Governor Newsom’s designation of cannabis as an ‘essential’ business lightly,” said Caliva Chief Executive Officer Dennis O’Malley. “We know from experience that many of our customers rely on plant-based solutions for an array of health needs and chronic ailments. We are incredibly grateful for our employees’ dedication, ensuring that we can safely provide for our customers during the ‘shelter-in-place.’ This is just one of the ways that we can further support our workers and show our gratitude during these exceptionally challenging times.”
Caliva previously donated “thousands” of PPE items to Valley Medical Center in Santa Clara, California. Support for local communities continues with a donation pledge challenge to match $10,000 in public donations made through Caliva.com, to COVID-19 relief nonprofit Silicone Valley Strong, which serves those most affected by the economic fallout of the pandemic crisis.
Cannabis brand Viola, founded by NBA veteran Al Harrington, teamed with rapper T.I.’s AKOO Clothing Brand for a “420” capsule collection. Partial proceeds from sales of the collection will be donated to Oakland-based Root & Rebound‘s COVID-19 Relief effort benefiting formerly-incarcerated and system-impacted residents of California and South Carolina.
“With 4/20 being such an important part of the cannabis lifestyle, I wanted this collaboration to be meaningful—really speaking to the purpose, mission, and culture behind the Viola brand,” said Harrington in a press release. “T.I. is a long-time friend, successful entrepreneur, and Viola supporter, so this collaboration was a natural fit.”
Rapper T.I. returned the compliment, and said, “I’m a huge supporter of Al and the work he’s done with Viola and the larger community. As another African American entrepreneur, it’s an honor to be working alongside such a legendary figure in the cannabis space and this is only the beginning. There’s so much more to come.”
Cannabis and CBD brand IGNITE partnered with LCF Labs to produce COVID-19 response products including “masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing surface spray.” LCF Labs has been a producer of vape products for industry partners, but now has pivoted part of its production to hand sanitizer. “Thousands” of units of hand sanitizer have been earmarked for donations to hospitals and first-responders.
IGNITE has already donated $25,000 worth of personal protective equipment and sanitizing materials to organizations throughout Los Angeles and will donate 5,000 CBD-infused lip balms to Corona Care Challenge in the U.K.
“Our customers and their well-being are our number one priority always. As an international brand our customers span across the globe, and we’re trying to support the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said IGNITE President Curtis Heffernan in a press release. “We’re thrilled to have a partner like LCF to navigate the current industry climate and aid in efforts to prevent further spread of COVID-19.”
Colorado-based CBD producers HempFusion and Verdant Oasis have partnered to provide relief products to frontline staff in New York City, which has been hardest hit by the pandemic. One thousand bottles of HempFusion Stress formula CBD capsules are available for frontline workers through the companies’ special offer.
“This gift is open to all hospital staff and frontline workers. … Pick up a free bottle at Willner Chemist in NY. Workers only need to show their badge or work ID to verify,” said Verdant Oasis on its website.
“This idea was originally inspired by the chief executive officer of Verdant Oasis Beata Jedrzewska, by asking the question, ‘what more can we do to support those that so selflessly give themselves to help all of us?'” said HempFusion Co-Chief Executive Officer Jason Mitchell, N.D. “From there the collaboration between HempFusion and Verdant Oasis began with Carl Germano, C.N.S, C.D.N.; vice president of Verdant Oasis Chris ‘The Medicine Hunter’ Kilham; and the HempFusion team. Our goal was simple—provide free nutritional products to the selfless frontline medical workers in New York City.”