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We find ourselves in the most impactful public health crisis of our lives. With the novel coronavirus disrupting life for everyone across the globe, it’s natural to have many questions and concerns. 

The cannabis industry and reform movement may not be your chief concern at a time like this. But the coronavirus’s impact on the cannabis industry is real and measurable. 
The cannabis industry was already reeling from Trump’s trade war. The bear market of 2019 made only worsened affairs.

What’s worse? We haven’t seen the worst of the pandemic, and the full effects are going to get worse in the coming weeks and months.
What is the effect of coronavirus on the cannabis industry?  Read on to find out.

Patients Are the Primary Concern 

The cannabis industry’s primary concern is medicinal patients. These people are the most vulnerable, and in turn, the most crucial to protect.

Medicinal marijuana is an essential business in states where it is legal. Governments should treat the cannabis industry like pharmacies and grocery stores. The coronavirus could cause a push for legislation in states without medicinal cannabis.

During the crisis, dispensaries have devised creative ways to get patients their medicine. For example, in Maryland, a dispensary created a makeshift drive-thru to limit the number of patient interactions. Efforts such as these are crucial. 

States must also enact emergency regulations that serve patients’ needs. Separating at-risk populations is most imperative once the economy begins re-opening.  The lives of thousands of patients depend on it.

Social distancing isn’t going anywhere. Governments need social distancing in cultivation and production facilities. Social distancing in these facilities ensures the continued operation of cannabis retailers.

Dispensaries are taking emergency measures to reduce unnecessary medical patient exposure. Many of these dispensaries are designating a separate area for medical patients to pick up their medicine.

Cannabis is medicine. The medical movement is not a millennial gimmick. We have to protect the industry.  

Social Distancing 

Taking workers’ temperatures can help production facilities stay open. Many workplaces are already enforcing this as a preventative measure. States might move to make this practice law in the coming months. 

Production facilities could also use antibody tests. These tests would ensure facilities have healthy workers that aren’t contaminating the product. It would also mitigate the risk of an outbreak among employees. Companies must issue detailed requirements for PPE, such as masks, gloves, and protective garments. 

Most states are already taking these measures seriously. Maryland, Michigan, and Illinois regulators already allow curbside pickup. Massachusetts expanded delivery areas for approved dispensaries in March. States are also allowing home delivery services.

Many people are asking, “what is the effect of the coronavirus on the greatest amount of cannabis I can buy?” Massachusetts recommended that patients buy a two week supply of two and a half ounces, rather than making many trips. If the pandemic continues, states could increase the amount available for purchase to limit customer visits.

Protecting Non-Patients and Staff

Due to the stay-at-home order, businesses are not allowed to let anyone inside the retail area. Even when the economy starts to reopen, businesses should exercise caution. Dispensaries should only allow one or two customers on the dispensary floor. They should limit the number of people allowed at the counter, and keep the bulk of sales online/pickup only. 

Whether companies change their approach to shared smoking devices remains unknown. Companies could encourage medicinal and recreational users to buy their own devices. It could also cause people to consume edibles more often.
Companies could also institute pre-scheduling systems with an appointment-only policy. 

Right now, customers should avoid waiting in lines and stay in their cars as much as possible. Dispensaries should post a staff member outside to enforce the six-feet rule, as well as other regulations. 

Businesses must provide all their employees with gloves and masks. Dispensaries should also consider hiring a cleaning service. Using a professional service to disinfect the store once every week is advisable.

The Need for Flexibility 

Governments need to ensure medical cannabis businesses continue operations as the virus spreads. To do so, state governments must relax rules around badging dispensary agents and employees.

Right now, states take too long to issue badges to employees. It can take 30 days from hiring an employee until they can work. 

What is the effect of the coronavirus on employee work hours? Employees will miss more work because of self-isolation and quarantine. Businesses must be able to counteract this with expedited onboarding processes. Proper coverage depends on it. 

In addition to expediting badges, governments should consider allowing employees to work at more than one cannabis business. Cannabis businesses should expect short-staffing issues. Allowing employees to work at multiple locations would ease the pressure this places on different sites. 

The Cannabis Industry May Need Assistance

Trump’s Trade War with China already made the cannabis industry’s financial status murky. The health crisis and the ensuing economic downturn will have also have a significant impact on the emerging cannabis industry. Increased tension between China and the US could further exacerbate an already tenuous relationship. 

In 2019, other financial sectors were enjoying record stock prices and boom times while cannabis stocks were in a bear market. With the economy headed into a recession and the Trump administration’s gains dwindling, cannabis companies will find it even more challenging to raise much-needed capital.

What is the Effect of the Coronavirus?

The full effect of the coronavirus on the cannabis industry remains unpredictable. When asking, “what is the effect of the coronavirus on the cannabis industry,” one must account for many questions not yet answered.

How will the coronavirus affect Trump’s trade war with China? How soon will business return to normal, if ever? How fast can cannabis companies adapt to the changing business climate? Was 2019 a sign of an overarching economic downturn in the cannabis industry? 

The real answer to all these questions? Only time will tell. Read more blogs to find out all you need to know about the cannabis industry!

Julio C. Soriagalvarro, MS, MBA

About Julio C. Soriagalvarro, MS, MBA

Julio is a natural product chemist turned consultant who combines expertise in the life sciences and business to provide consulting services across the cannabis industry. He specializes in helping entrepreneurs win licenses to start cannabis businesses in both medical and adult-use markets. As part of Quantum 9, they've helped clients obtain licenses and become cannabis business owners in 27 US States and 6 countries. He received an MBA from Indiana University, focusing on finance, marketing, and entrepreneurship; a M.S. in Natural Product Chemistry and Drug Discovery from the University of Illinois; and a B.S. in Biology from James Madison University.

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