Several cannabis companies have given updates on the COVID-19 crisis and how the ongoing situation has affected their operations status.
With as many as 100,000 deaths expected in the U.S., in coming weeks, businesses in every industrial sector are re-examining how to do business during these challenging times.
Industry businesses in the U.S. and Canada announced that they remained operational after evaluating pandemic guidelines and implementing safety measures, including physical distancing and facility sanitation.
In some cannabis-legal U.S. states, cannabis businesses have been granted “essential” status by state officials, which allows them to stay open for business during the crisis—while non-essential businesses are closed—as long as retail sales restrictions due to the pandemic are observed.
Pioneering cannabis retailer Harborside, Inc., will enforce safe-distancing at its Oakland, California location, as well as new “contactless” drive-thru and curbside pickup services. Delivery will also be available, and orders for pickup or delivery can be placed online. Due to increased demand for delivery orders, a dedicated email address has been created at [email protected].
“We are committed to the important role that Harborside plays in providing our communities with essential cannabis products during this critical time, and to doing our part to slow the spread of this virus. This means providing products that are not just affordable and high quality, but also providing such products in a safe environment. It also means putting additional measures in place to allow our customers to access our products while limiting social interactions, and enforcing social distancing measures through our retail stores,” Harborside Interim Chief Executive Officer Peter Bilodeau said in a press release.
“We are pleased that Governor Newsom has deemed cannabis to be an ‘essential’ part of the infrastructure of California which will protect access to cannabis products from Harborside and other cannabis operators throughout the State,” Bilodeau added.
Cannabis delivery services continue to find opportunities for increased business as coronavirus restrictions expand to more states, placing up to 80 percent of the American population under “safer at home” protocols.
California-based delivery service Driven Deliveries, which launched recently, has seen increased demand for home deliveries, prompting the company to expand purchase options for customers with a “Buy Now” feature on the company’s e-commerce platform GanjaRunner.com, where consumers can purchase products for delivery from established cannabis brands.
Driven, which is headquartered in the Bay Area with distribution facilities throughout California, will also hire fifty drivers to service demand in covered areas, as well as ten customer service representatives in its Oakland and Los Angeles offices.
“We are hiring in all departments to keep up with the increased demand,” said Salvador Villanueva, president at Driven Deliveries. “We are onboarding new drivers daily. Many of our customers are depending on us to deliver cannabis as part of a medicinal treatment. It is more than just recreation.”
As outreach to local other small businesses affected by the pandemic, Driven will also include coupons and promotional flyers for Los Angeles restaurants during the pandemic crisis. Restaurants interested in participating should register at GanjaZones.com.
“We have seen enormous growth in the delivery category, but many small businesses are suffering. We believe that many of our customers would find value in knowing what meal options are available to them during the closures and everyone loves a good deal. It’s a win, win,” said Christian Schenk, chief executive officer for Driven.
New York-based delivery logistics service Cannveya said it would partner with online cannabis retail portal IHeartJane.com, to help dispensaries and retail stores set up logistics for brick-and-mortar vendors that would like to add delivery to their purchase options. Cannveya will also offer its platform software, free of charge, to interested dispensaries and stores.
“We know people’s lifestyles are changing drastically during this pandemic and having access to cannabis, whether medical or recreational, can provide peace of mind. In solidarity with the cannabis community and in the interest of public safety, we believe it is essential to make home delivery a priority. To do our part, we are taking the cost of our software out of the equation for dispensaries deciding to start offering delivery,” said Cannveya Chief Executive Officer Justin Morris.
Cannabis payment and compliance platform Alt Thirty Six, based in Arizona, announced it will wave all transaction fees on delivery purchases for new or existing qualifying vendors. The platform processes digital payments and provides service for customer inquiries.
“In the wake of the growing public health crisis caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), it’s now more important than ever to take precautionary steps to limit the spread of contagion and reduce the risks of exposure to ourselves and our communities,” said Alt Thirty Six Chief Executive Officer Ken Ramirez.
Ayr Strategies, Inc., a U.S. cannabis company with retail stores located in Nevada and Massachusetts, announced it remains fully operational and open for business. Both Nevada and Massachusetts have declared cannabis businesses as essential during the pandemic, with restrictions. Massachusetts has allowed medical cannabis dispensaries to remain open, while recreational stores are closed through the first week of April. In Nevada, retailers are allowed to process orders online for pick-up and delivery only.
In Nevada, Ayr is ramping up its delivery force to meet increased demand for product since the state put pandemic regulations in place. Ayr also added to its delivery fleet with services from Nevada-based delivery company Blackbird.
“Ayr’s Nevada stores remain open for both medical and adult-use customers via delivery, which is a very attractive fulfillment model for us. In Massachusetts, our stores remain open for medical patients, with adult-use sales suspended for the two weeks from March 24th through April 7th,” said Ayr Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Sandelman said in a press release.
Chicago-based multi-state operational (MSO) company Cresco Labs announced that it continues to do business, while observing physical-distancing and sales guidelines for local businesses. Cresco cannabis products are available in Arizona, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Nevada, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
“We have been working side-by-side with our state administrations to provide counsel regarding best practices and potential solutions that will both accomplish the social imperative to stop the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring that patients and all customers have the products they rely on for their health and wellness,” said Cresco Labs co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Charlie Bachtell.
Producer/retailer Curaleaf announced it would work with local officials to provide job opportunities to community members who have become unemployed due business closures during the pandemic. The company has stores located in Arizona, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, and Oregon. Its Massachusetts locations are open for medical patients only, while Nevada outlets are restricted to product delivery.
“The COVID-19 situation is evolving rapidly and we are responding as quickly as possible to ensure we can continue to meet the needs of our customers. We have never been more committed to providing our vital services and products and will continue to do everything we can to fulfill that mission while protecting the well being of our dedicated employees. In these difficult times, we will be hiring employees and working with local organizations to provide job opportunities to those who are out of work,” Curaleaf Chief Executive Officer Joseph Lusardi said.
Cannabis retailer Vibe Bioscience Ltd. last week began offering no-touch, curbside pickup at its retail locations in Sacramento, Stockton, and Redding, California. A dedicated employee in each store also will sanitize public areas throughout business hours and locations will maintain safe-distancing protocols.
Cannabis producer 1933 Industries, Inc., announced it continues operations at its Nevada facility. “On behalf of our proprietary Alternative Medicine Association (AMA) and Canna Hemp brands, as well as our licensing partners, I would like to reiterate our ongoing commitment to quality and safety by joining our communities in solidarity against the spread of COVID-19,” said 1933 Industries Chief Executive Officer Chris Rebentisch. “Our utmost priority is to ensure the health and well-being of our employees, partners, and customers and we are taking the recommended steps to mitigate the risks of spreading the disease.”
Winnipeg, Manitoba-based company Delta 9 Cannabis, Inc., said its retail and production facilities have remained operational throughout the pandemic, and will continue to remain open. Practices that have been implemented include increased hand washing by staff, physical distancing, and sanitation of high traffic public areas.
“Last week the company implemented a ‘Grateful Pay’ initiative to show appreciation to those front-line retail and production staff who continue to work during this difficult time. All hourly retail and production staff will receive an additional $2.00 [per] hour premium,” read Delta 9’s press release.
“I am very proud of our team for their tireless work to quickly implement new policies and procedures to protect health and safety and to continue to provide a high level of service to our customers and to the communities in which we operate,” added John Arbuthnot, chief executive officer at Delta 9.
Canadian producer FSD Pharma Inc. also updated the status of its facility located in Cobourg, Ontario, and said it would re-evaluate operations for compliance with best practices on an ongoing basis, as the pandemic crisis evolves.
“Following a COVID-19 Declaration of Emergency by the Government of Ontario, and confirmation of the presence of coronavirus infections in the town of Cobourg with nearly 19,000 residents, we have taken necessary steps to ensure the safety of FV Pharma’s employees, the Cobourg community, and our in-facility partners,” FSD Pharma Executive Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Raza Bokhari, M.D., said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly shifting and we have assembled a working group within FSD Pharma to perpetually monitor the unprecedented market realities that are shaping the local and global business landscape,” Bokhari continued. “We are putting forth our best efforts to make deliberate, definitive, and difficult decisions to mitigate any present and future setbacks. We are committed to persevere through these uncharted times and are prepared to recalibrate our strategic objectives and deliverables to adapt to the new normal that is emerging.”
Colorado-based hemp product producer and seed genetics specialists EcoGen Laboratories highlighted concerns caused by COVID-19 for cannabis and hemp growers that are in the process of planting crops, and said in a press release, “We know this is the planting season for many of our customers and keeping to this time frame ensures economic success. That is why it is imperative to maintain our operations to best serve our customers.
“We are happy to report that we will be maintaining office and operational hours in order to continue to deliver the best quality genetics and hemp-derived products. We are adhering to the advice and guidelines set forth by federal, state, and local governments as we continue to operate our business as normal and will update our valued customers on any changes that we may be required to make to remain compliant and safe. We will continue to closely monitor this situation and have adopted practices protecting the health of our employees, customers, visitors, and others during this challenging time,” the press release read.
California cannabis transport company HARDCAR said the company implemented better response strategies during previous natural disasters and have upgraded equipment in delivery vehicles to cope with crisis.
“We saw this one [coming] three years ago when the first quakes were hitting in California, so we made sure all vehicles were ready for catastrophic events like this. We started by installing air purifiers in our trucks and had fantastic results, and then we added satellite phones and generators. We are very prepared,” said HARDCAR Co-founder Todd Kleperis in a press release.
Several companies issued statements to reassure wholesale and retail customers operations would continue as normal, including Arizona-based Vext Science Inc. The company produces, “THC cartridges, concentrates, edibles, and accessories under the Vapen Brand, and hemp-based products under the Pure Touch Botanicals brand, as well as the Vapen CBD brand.”
Namaste Technologies Inc., an online platform for cannabis products and education, said its subsidiary, CannMart Inc., will remain open to serve patients and B2B customers including provincial government stores. “Where possible employees are working from home and others are adhering to strict operating procedures to safeguard the health and safety of staff to ensure operations remain unaffected,” the company said in a press release. “To date, there have been no known cases of COVID-19 at any of Namaste offices or facilities and there have been no operational disruptions.”
The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) announced its Cannabis Business Summit, originally scheduled for mid-June, has been rescheduled to September 29 – Oct 1, due to coronavirus concerns, and will be held at San Francisco’s Moscone Center.
“Under the revised schedule, workshops, tours, and education panels will start on Tuesday, September 29 and exhibits will open from Wednesday, September 30 to Thursday, October 1,” the event website read.
Multiple health and sciences companies announced plans to explore novel coronavirus and COVID-19 treatment options through research and clinical trials.
Revive Therapeutics, a life sciences company focused on the research and development of therapeutics for infectious diseases and rare disorders, applied for a provisional patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office entitled “Use of Bucillamine in the Treatment of Infectious Diseases” and is targeting COVID-19 as its lead indication.
“We have strengthened our scientific and clinical team that will allow us to pursue the clinical development of Bucillamine in the potential treatment of not only COVID-19 but also other infectious diseases and we are seeking to advance Bucillamine for COVID-19 towards a potential U.S. FDA Phase 2 clinical study and a clinical study in one of the APAC countries,” said Revive’s Chief Executive Officer Michael Frank.
Healthcare technology company Cannalogue submitted an application to Health Canada to conduct a real-world clinical trial utilizing medical cannabis to treat COVID-19. If approved, the company will enroll patients into the research study to determine if medical cannabis can reduce the symptoms caused by COVID-19 or any mutant strains of coronavirus.
“Cannalogue is committed to doing our part. The need is too great, and we have to act now,” said Dr. Mohan Cooray, president and chief executive officer for Cannalogue. “We are not suggesting with the current knowledge of medical cannabis that it is a prevention, treatment, or cure for COVID-19 or coronaviruses. However, plant cannabinoids have naturally occurring immunomodulatory properties that absolutely require expedited investigation given the current global COVID-19 pandemic.”
U.S.-based clinical research company Cannabics Pharmaceuticals is offering the use of its High Throughput Screening (HTS) facility in Israel to assist the country’s national effort in researching and containing SARS-CoV-2.
The company said it plans to support the effort in two ways: “establish and operate a diagnostic platform” and “screen libraries of compounds in High Throughput Screening (HTS) such as cannabinoids, combinations of FDA antiviral approved drugs, and natural products” to identify “potential inhibitors of the Corona virus.”