Cannabis and Coronavirus: Reopening Amid Unrest, Virus Spikes

Cannabis and Coronavirus: Reopening Amid Unrest, Virus Spikes

Even as civil unrest continued in cities across the United States, since the May 25 death of George Floyd and several police-involved killings of African Americans, states affected by the coronavirus pandemic attempted to reopen businesses and economies after three months of quarantine restrictions.

Currently, there have been more than two million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., resulting in more than 119,000 deaths, which amount to a quarter of deaths from the virus worldwide.

Reopening protocols assumed by U.S. states include the resumption of retail business with social distancing requirements in some areas. In California, restaurants have been allowed to reopen for outdoor dining, while many customers continue to utilize delivery and takeout options. California nail salons, tattoo parlors, and bars were scheduled to open, but have more recently been re-closed.

Cannabis businesses—which were designated as “essential services” in several legal states in the first phases of the pandemic—have felt the anxiety and uncertainty of unprecedented global events that have shaken several industries.

High profile events in 2020 that require large gatherings have been cancelled, and now include the postponement of cannabis cultivation and extraction conference, the 4th annual Grow Up Conference and Awards, which was scheduled to be held in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, from September 1–3.

The 420nurses boutique and smoke shop in Canoga Park, CA was shut down for 3 months, and like many other companies in the California industry, an executive member of the brand also invested in a cannabis event license with the California bureau of cannabis control, under new prop 64 laws, only to have the event center permanently shut down due to covid-19.

The event date was set for May 17, 2020 and has no hope of being rescheduled.

In New Mexico, interviewed Medical Cannabis Program Director Dominick Zurlo about the future of “medical consumption areas” in the state. Previously approved legislation would allow the areas to open after July 1. Dispensaries can apply to have part of their premises for medical consumption.

“What I think is very safe to say is that, just like any other business or essential service, they will have to follow the COVID-19 guidelines that are set out in the public health orders and executive orders,” Zurlo said.

He added that any changes to pandemic protocols may require adjustments to restrictions for retailers, including medical cannabis dispensaries.

The economic effects of COVID-19 have been far-reaching. In Canada, governmental agency Health Canada, which regulates the country’s legal cannabis industry, is considering a fee deferral for cannabis businesses.

“As a result of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the cannabis industry, Health Canada is considering the making of an order to potentially defer the 2020–2021 payment due date. The potential deferral would apply to the annual fee for cannabis license holders in their first or subsequent fiscal years (those issued a license prior to April 1, 2020),” the agency said in an announcement.

The pandemic also has halted six medical cannabis clinical trials, along with thousands of other various clinical trials that have been disrupted.

“Since early March, hundreds of clinical trial sponsors, collaborators, or contract research organizations (CROs) have announced disruptions to planned and ongoing clinical trials due to COVID-19. Using GlobalData’s Clinical Trials Database, it was seen that the vast majority of these trials (70 percent) were being disrupted due to a suspension of enrollment. Other reasons include slow enrollment or delayed initiation,” Johanna Swanson, product manager at business strategy consultants GlobalData, said in a post.

“Once lockdown measures start to ease, recruitment for these trials should be able to resume. If the measures do not change in the near future, companies should start to look at alternatives such as virtual or decentralized trials, if regulations allow,” she explained.

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