Cannabis and Coronavirus: Virus Spikes Signal Uncertainty for U.S. Businesses

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Image: Corona Borealis Studio / Shutterstock.com

With 4th of July having marked the midway point of summer, businesses desperate to resume operation have reopened, only to see rates of COVID-19 increase. Health officials blame lack of social distancing at large gatherings, as well as those who choose not to wear facemasks, and undeterminable numbers of asymptomatic carriers that unknowingly spread the illness.

Virus spikes are at “red alert” levels in states including Arizona, Texas, California, and Florida, among others.

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Several regions in the U.S. have now mandated facemask use while in public. In some areas, vendors and restaurants see-sawed between no-contact delivery and curbside pickup to being allowed to open, only to have to restrictions re-imposed on indoor shopping and dining.

Without a vaccine or effective therapeutic treatment for coronavirus, it has become more apparent that the world has changed, and current protocols may be in place for some time to come.

In Colorado, a new study has been mounted to measure the effects of COVID-19 on cannabis industry workers. The University of Colorado Department of Anthropology is leading the study, which is sponsored by the university.

Researchers hope to learn more about worker exposure to coronavirus, hazardous working conditions, lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), and lack of social distancing in the workplace. As “essential workers” during the pandemic, researchers and local officials would like to gather data to determine if cannabis industry workers are adequately protected.

“Findings from this research inform occupational health practices and policies of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) that seek increased health and safety among workforces exposed to the virus and other hazards during the pandemic,” a university press release read.

Two hundred workers will be surveyed, and twenty-five of those will be asked to participate in video interviews. “Media from interviews will be used to create a series of public service announcements to educate cannabis consumers, owners, and policy makers about OSHA guidelines and practices to lessen the extent of potential exposure and occupational hazards,” the release added.

Badged workers in Colorado interested in participating can visit the study webpage.

Medicinal cannabis extracts are increasingly being studied as having a potential role in therapeutic treatments for COVID-19. Cannabidiol, aka CBD, and its potent anti-inflammatory effects may be effective in treating inflammation suffered by advanced COVID patients, which often leads to lung damage and can be fatal.

Canada-based cannabis biopharmaceutical company Avicanna Inc. announced a collaboration between the company and Dr. Christine Allen’s Research Group (CARG), in the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto. The team will work to develop a cannabinoid-based treatment for inflammation associated to COVID-19.

Avicanna Executive Vice President of Scientific Affairs Dr. Justin Grant said in a press release, “We are excited to expand our research collaboration with Dr. Allen’s group at the University of Toronto with support from the [research nonprofit] Mitacs research internship program. This funding will allow us the necessary resources to complete pre-clinical studies of our most promising cannabinoid formulations. We feel this is a project that may provide a significant impact.”

Dr. Allen, professor at the University of Toronto, added, “I am very pleased to leverage our knowledge and expertise in cannabinoid research and drug formulation to mitigate the suffering of patients with severe COVID-19. This is another terrific example of our productive collaboration with Avicanna.”

Industry members and businesses from every sector continue to contribute to the unending demands of the pandemic.

Online medical cannabis portal NuggMD said that during the pandemic, “telemedicine” has gained new popularity as patients avoid unnecessary trips to doctor’s office, clinics, or even cannabis dispensaries.

NuggMD said it’s “the leading cannabis telemedicine platform for medical marijuana patients in California, New York, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Missouri,” and works with a network of qualified doctors that can evaluate and prescribe medical cannabis after interviewing the patient online.

The company also introduced its own Nugg Club cannabis subscription box service, which allows customers to schedule monthly deliveries straight to their door. Subscriptions are “currently available to med and rec customers in [Los Angeles] and Orange County, and will expand to more cities in the coming months,” NuggMD announced.

In a special offer for healthcare professionals suffering from depression, anxiety, or PTSD due to the pandemic, Nugg Club will send $1 subscription boxes to qualifying workers. Interested healthcare workers can learn more and sign up at the service’s website.

In hard-hit state Florida, Trulieve Cannabis Corp., which operates fifty dispensaries throughout the state, donated 130 computers to help students-in-need that have been forced to attend classes online due to the pandemic. Added to a previous donation, Trulieve has donated a total of 155 computers to-date.

“The computers were donated as part of Trulieve’s ongoing diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts to support student education and provide valuable resources to local majority minority communities statewide, especially those hardest hit by COVID-19,” the company said.

Local organizations that benefited included Northwest Neighborhood Community Center, which hired teachers to help students with schoolwork during coronavirus; United Against Poverty in Orlando; Lodging and Hospitality Association of Volusia County to distribute to various schools throughout the community; and the Junior League of Greater Lakeland, which distributed to smaller non-profits throughout Lakeland.

“As a company, we’ve always focused on giving back, supporting, and investing in the majority minority communities we call home. Coronavirus has affected everyone—not only patients, but also students and seniors alike. Our goal is to ensure that as many of our neighbors as possible have the resources they need to succeed,” Trulieve’s Chief Marketing Officer Valda Coryat said.

“Partnering with local organizations allows us to connect with these communities across the state and provide resources that they might otherwise not have had access to. We’re always looking for ways to further invest in the spaces we move into and are excited to continue our social responsibility efforts,” Coryat added.

Inhalation technology start-up E1011 Labs, based in California, had been operating for only six weeks when the pandemic hit, shutting down their production line and leaving the company with an excess of 10,000 surgical masks, both fabric and disposable, meant to be used by production workers. The company has decided to donate the masks to various local nonprofit organizations, with some help from their wholesale partners.

“E1011 Labs is allowing its customers to determine where the masks go. With every purchase, customers may nominate an ‘essential’ business, and E1011 will donate to it fifty masks in their name,” an announcement read

“What better to do with them than to donate them?” Operations Manager Mackenzie Whalen said. “We didn’t want to be hoarding them, especially in times like these.”

Companies that received masks include The Southern California Resources for Independent Living; Sherman Oaks Hospital; Long Island Hospital; Union Bank; Chase Bank and area chiropractors.

“We were also able to visit a bunch of dispensaries, where we dropped off masks,” Whalen added.

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