Cannabis and Coronavirus: Bracing for What’s Next as Infection Rates Climb

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Image: ezphoto / Shutterstock.com

The first day of July arrived with public health officials issuing dire predictions about rising rates of COVID-19 infection in the United States.

So far, the infection rate in the U.S. has topped 2.6 million, with more than 43,000 cases reported just yesterday. U.S. fatalities number 129,000, accounting for more than a quarter of 512,000 global deaths so far.

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With the July 4 holiday only days away, media reports said officials in more than a dozen states have rolled back “reopening” procedures, as infection rates spike in areas including California, Texas, Illinois, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, and U.S. territory Guam. Not a second wave; the virus is riding the momentum of relaxed social distancing and public disregard for warnings that prevent mass gatherings, according to public health authorities.

Though cannabis businesses are considered “essential services” in several legal states, industry stakeholders and members are feeling the whipsaw of pandemic uncertainty, as well as repercussions of protests against racism and police brutality, and the charged political atmosphere that has resulted nationwide.

Half way through 2020, the year’s vicious mood shows no signs of relenting.

On July 2, The State of Marijuana will host its 4th Monthly State of Cannabis Conference, a Zoom webinar on topics related to COVID-19 and the cannabis industry, from 9am – 5pm PDT. Registration is required.

Segments include the Cannabis Stimulus Project, Frenchy Cannoli Presentation: Terrior and Appellation d’Origin, Cannabis and Social Justice, The Science of Cannabis and COVID-19, Cannabis: The Ancillary Services That Power the Industry, and Policing and the Cannabis Industry.

The COVID-19 panel will be moderated by Jahan Marcu, and will feature expert speakers Leslie Apgar, M.D., Monica Bopha Taing, Jordan Tishler, Sara Ward, and Igor Kovalchuk M.D., PhD.

The Stanley Brothers, founders of pioneering medical cannabis company Charlotte’s Web Holdings, Inc. announced the ReCreate line, which will offer formulations that include CBD and low-THC infusions. The products are designed for consumers seeking the “entourage effect” from full spectrum cannabinoids extracted from cannabis, including slightly higher levels of psychoactive cannabinoid THC.

Stanley Brothers Holdings is simultaneously launching a coronavirus relief initiative, with its release of the ReCreate brand. The company will “provide access” to $100,000 worth of ReCreate product to dispensaries in Colorado and California communities that have suffered due to the pandemic crisis.

“The Stanley Brothers are a family fiercely dedicated to unearthing natural remedies and cultivating innovative solutions to promote personal wellness,” said ReCreate co-founder Jesse Stanley in a press release. “The rules are being rewritten, our culture is at the dawn of the new era of personalized therapies. The Stanley Brothers started with cannabis, and the natural evolution of our mission is the inclusion of functional botanicals in ReCreate.”

Israeli producers continue to push forward in the attempt to establish Israel as a leading supplier of raw cannabis for the country’s cannabis pharmaceutical research and development, as well as international markets.

According to leading Israeli cannabis producer Isracann Biosciences Inc., demand for cannabis has remained high in Canada and the U.S. despite the pandemic, while the European cannabis market supplies are “constrained” though consumer demand is high.

Isracann said in a press release “The Israeli Ministry of Economy signed a Free Export Order on May 13, 2020, which implements an earlier decision to approve cannabis exports. The order is scheduled to go into effect in June and will allow licensed producers of medical cannabis in Israel to apply for an export permit to ship products to international markets—including Europe.”

Isracann Chief Executive Officer Darryl Jones added, “Supply in both the domestic and European markets is lagging behind demand, especially in Europe, as more countries work on less restrictive regulations. Our marketing strategy aims to leverage Israeli-branded products as fundamentally superior.”

Results from a recent study, titled, “Opioids/cannabinoids as a potential therapeutic approach in COVID-19 patients,” and published in peer journal Expert Review of Respiratory Medicine indicated a combination of opioids and cannabinoids could prove beneficial when treating inflammation due to overactive immune system response.

Opioids and cannabinoids can both be used to modulate the immune response, suppress cell proliferation, and inhibit “pro-inflammatory and inflammatory cytokines/chemokines production”—a dangerous inflammatory response that affects some patients with coronavirus, other viruses, and autoimmune diseases. 

Called “cytokine storms,” but formally known as macrophage activation syndrome or cytokine release syndrome, the condition has been observed in seriously-ill COVID-19 patients, especially those in intensive care or who have been intubated.

“So far, no vaccine has been successfully developed and there is no effective treatment of COVID-19. Since intensive inflammation leads to disease-induced morbidity and mortality, inhibition of the hyper-inflammatory response is a definitive drug therapy objective,” study authors said in their report.

“It is suggested that clinical trials could be conducted on opioids/cannabinoids products with immunomodulatory activity,” they concluded. “We hope that, with great efforts, scientific support, and sharing of information, the overcoming of COVID-19 will come soon.”

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