Cannabis and Coronavirus: Industry Ramps Up Efforts to Help during Pandemic

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Image: Prostock-studo / Shutterstock.com

Ed. Note: This story is part of a continuing series about the cannabis industry’s humanitarian efforts during the coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic.


Cannabis and hemp industry businesses—typically a generous bunch— are ramping up charitable efforts, as America is confronted with novel coronavirus, the ensuing pandemic, and public health panic.

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As uncertainty reigns, U.S. and Canadian industry businesses have volunteered special services and resources with contributions coming from every sector, as well as some specials deals for cannabis and CBD consumers, of whom many are currently under lockdown orders that could last for weeks.

California-based producer and retailer Sherbinskis, founded by well known cultivator Mario Guzman (AKA Mr. Sherbinski), announced special pricing for consumers, especially medical patients in need due to sudden financial hardship because of the state’s shutdown order on non-essential businesses.

San Francisco retail dispensary Barbary Coast starting today will offer $1 eighths of Sherbinskis’ indoor-grown Acai Berry strain (normally $75.00 MSRP) on the SoMa location’s “compassion menu.” Customers should observe local social distancing sales guidelines to make purchases.

Both Guzman and Barbary Coast co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Jesse Henry agreed they felt it was the right thing to do, especially for patients, elderly customers, and others in need.

The cannabis community has a reputation for showing up in times of need and this moment is no exception.

Kial Long, VP of communications, CannaCraft

California cannabis producer Lowell Herb Company has donated extensively to local nonprofits involved in crisis efforts. “The team felt it’s important to get food to our at-risk populations, so we’ve made donations to Meals on Wheels to keep seniors safe and provide them access to meals,” a company spokesperson told mgRetailer.

“We are supporting the Last Prisoner Project’s COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, which provides resources to help with costs for additional medical care, phone calls with loved ones, and commissary needs for nonviolent cannabis offenders during this crisis. The Lowell team is also sensitive to how COVID-19 has impacted our homeless population and we have additionally contributed to the L.A. Food Bank,” Lowell added.

Several product manufacturers with the ability to distill tinctures and tonics have switched up operations to make hand sanitizer. Though toilet paper emerged as the tongue-in-cheek pandemic product in short supply, hand sanitizer actually was in higher demand, becoming nearly impossible to find at already overwhelmed grocery and drug stores.

CBD product manufacturer and retailer American Shaman, based in Kansas City, Missouri, with retail locations in several U.S. states, is donating gallon-sized bottles of hand sanitizer to law enforcement agencies in local communities, and has donated 1,000 bottles to first responders through its retail location in Rodgers, Arkansas. Local residents can also visit the location for a free sample bottle—or bring their own bottle to fill.

Santa Rosa, California-based CannaCraft last week registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to produce 5,000 one-ounce bottles of sanitizer, which they said would be donated to employees, nonprofits, and customers. Kind House Distribution will help bring the supply of sanitizer to recipients all over California.

“The first run of hand sanitizer was formulated and created two weeks ago by our Care By Design team and CannaCraft’s head of [research and development] Matt Elmes, Ph.D. After making a few hundred bottles for employees, the team decided to make another 5,000 bottles to donate to local nonprofits. Word quickly spread and we immediately received dozens of requests for hand sanitizer from medical organizations and essential businesses” CannaCraft Vice President of Communications Kial Long explained in a statement.

“At this point we have donated thousands of bottles to local hospitals, senior homes, medical groups, nonprofits, even the Santa Rosa Police Department stopped by to pick up a batch. And we will be making 100,000 more bottles of hand sanitizer this week alone to support demand,” Long said.

“CannaCraft is proud to help our community during this time and we are excited to see more cannabis manufacturers converting operations to make hand sanitizer. We’ve had several competitors reach out for information on our process and ingredient sources, which we are more than happy to share. After all, the cannabis community has a reputation for showing up in times of need and this moment is no exception,” she added.

I am calling all business owners to step up in this time of crisis and do whatever you can to help your local community.

Carl Saling, CEO, Hollister Biosciences

Massachusetts-based organizations Commonwealth Dispensary Association (CDA) and project partner the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association (MHA) have been authorized to manufacture hand sanitizer by the state’s Department of Health, Cannabis Control Commission, and Governor Charlie Baker.

The CDA estimated it could produce up to 5,000 gallons of sanitizer a week, which would be packaged in five gallon jugs, then distributed by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency to hospitals and healthcare facilities in the state for use.

Ayer, Massachusetts-based Gage Cannabis Company owner and Executive Director of Central Ave. Compassionate Care John Hillier approached the CDA with the idea.

“When John Hillier, who’s on the CDA board, brought the feasibility of producing hand sanitizer to our attention, members jumped at the opportunity to partner with MHA to make this happen. I am incredibly proud of members who are allocating time and resources to produce hand sanitizer, at cost, to help clinicians in the fight against COVID-19,” said CDA President David Torrisi in a press release.

Green Ridge Biosolutions, located in Ronan, Montana, also converted operations to produce hand sanitizer for its local community. Two thousand bottles were handed out and the company will produce more two-, four-, and eight-ounce bottles for sale in the coming weeks.

Hollister Biosciences Inc. donated hand sanitizer to the California town of Hollister.

“The community of Hollister, California, is near and dear to our hearts, and as the first licensed cannabis company in the city of Hollister, California, I feel that we must do whatever we can to help,” said Hollister Chief Executive Officer Carl Saling in a press release.

“It infuriated me seeing companies price gouging much-needed items, such as hand sanitizer. I am all for making money, but not at the expense of playing on people’s fears during a time of crisis. We just had to act,” he explained.

“We are going to focus on donating to the facilities that are often overlooked: the food bank, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and homeless shelters, where some of the most vulnerable are sheltering in place,” Saling added. “I am calling all business owners to step up in this time of crisis and do whatever you can to help your local community.”

Pure Bloom CBD introduced its new, non-drying CBD-infused hand sanitizer, which the company believes may also help some consumers with the effects of epidemic anxiety and stress.

“The new sanitizer comes in two calming scents. Blissful Bloom is a unique proprietary floral blend of intoxicating aromatic flowers formulated to provide stress relief, balance, and a soothing calm,” said Pure Bloom in a press release. “Calming Citrus provides versatile scents of citrus fruits that are known to be calming and uplifting during times of stress and anxiety.”

Other cannabis and CBD companies donated much-needed medical equipment, including gloves and face masks, to their local healthcare providers, as public health officials and legislators raised alarms about serious supply shortages already affecting areas where the pandemic was expected to spike in a week or two.

On Martha’s Vineyard, an island in popular northeast summer destination Cape Cod, the local hospital received a donation of nitrile gloves and hand sanitizer from cannabis business operator and chief executive officer at Patient-Centric Geoff Rose.

Rose is waiting for approval to open a dispensary and adult-use retail stores in the town of Tisbury, located on the island, where he already has a cultivation facility. Since cannabis vendors have been declared an “essential service” by several legal states during the pandemic—which allows them to do business while observing public health guidelines—Rose hopes the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission will soon give him approval to open the island retail outlets. Currently, residents must go off-island to visit a cannabis retailer.

In Canada, where Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, tested positive for COVID-19 on March 12, the country is also experiencing supply shortages with more than 5,000 diagnosed cases of coronavirus so far.

Health Canada, the government’s public health entity, officially approached the Canadian cannabis industry with an email for help with any available laboratory testing service that could provide processing for coronavirus testing. Licensed cannabis testing laboratory High North stepped up to volunteer a newly built, digital testing facility located in Woodbridge, Ontario.

Canadian cannabis producers also have stepped up to provide “personal protection equipment (PPEs) to hospitals, including facemasks, gloves, and bodysuits.” Workers at cannabis cultivation facilities must often also wear protective clothing in order to keep cultivation facilities sterile and germ-free; cannabis companies including Canopy Growth, Aurora Cannabis, HEXO Corporation, and WeedMD Inc., have all contributed excess PPEs to healthcare providers in their local regions.

Other publicly traded Canadian producers, including Village Farms International Inc., Aphria Inc., TerrAscend Corporation, and CannTrust Holdings Inc. are evaluating stocks of PPEs and have said they will donate any excess supplies they may have on hand, though inventories of their suppliers have been disrupted by the growing demand from first responders and hospitals. Producer Organigram, according to media reports, donated ethanol for the production of hand sanitizer.

Many other cannabis companies are doing whatever they can during this difficult time, by offering special giveaways, raising funds, and encouraging positive energy to cope with the pandemic.

For those stuck at home, various virtual resources may help you get through what could be weeks of “sheltering in place,” including:

  • A collaboration between producer Aster Farms and Ganja Yoga so viewers can stretch away stress on a weekly Instagram live feed. “To calm the body, and balance the mind in these uncharted times, Aster is teaming up Dee Dussault, founder of Ganja Yoga—for the next four weeks, Dee will be streaming live, providing some respite while we shelter-in-place,” said Aster Farms President Sam Ludwig.
  • Pet CBD product brand Pet-Ness suggested its infused pet treats, in case the vibes (or you) are making your pets feel nervous. The brand’s whole product line is 50 percent off with code STAYHOME. “We understand that pets are definitely feeling the stress we’re feeling over the COVID-19 pandemic. With changes in routines and the obvious tension in the air, your pet might be feeling nervous or uncomfortable trying to figure their way around this crazy new world. We know that CBD will help your pet naturally feel more relaxed, and we want to help as many pet owners as possible be able to afford to get their pet on the road to being more relaxed,” said Pet-Ness Brand Director Jeremy Feldman.
  • Contestant on season six of RuPaul’s Drag Race, LGBTQ and cannabis advocate LaGanja Estranja has moved the smoke sesh on to streaming feeds; find her live at Instagram, for a dose of pandemic positivity and cannabis realness.
  • Cannabis industry training academy Green Flower is currently offering free access to its online certificate training course, Fundamentals of Cannabis. “Like most people and businesses, we feel uncertain and nervous about what lies ahead. But we also know that it’s not productive or helpful to spend too much time worrying, sitting idle, or focusing on what we can’t control,” said Green Flower Chief Executive Officer Max Simon in an open letter. “Instead, we’ve been using this time to learn new skills, take online programs, and get ahead by focusing on personal and professional development. And we’d like to give you the same opportunity to do that with us in these uncertain times.”

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