The Effects of COVID-19 on the Medical Cannabis Industry

Economies around the world have taken a major hit as COVID-19 moves from country to country. And while research labs work to find a vaccine, many are wondering what they can do in the meantime to treat symptoms. Some have even turned to cannabis and its derivatives in the face of the coronavirus in hopes of abating inflammation.

Related: Legal Cannabis Sales Surging During Coronavirus Pandemic

Unfortunately, there is very little data on whether this can help. And, in some cases, marijuana may even prove harmful in regard to COVID-19.

 

Cannabis does not cure or treat COVID-19

The dangers of misinformation surrounding cannabis’ benefits are finally coming home to roost.

Social media influencers have been promoting various pot products as protectants and sometimes even cures to the coronavirus. The outcome hasn’t led to any deaths, but it has been harmful to the image of cannabis. None of the claims made by such influencers are backed by scientific research.

Indeed, many medical professionals have come out to make this clear. When Leafly reached out to the College of Family Physicians of Canada, the group refused to comment on cannabis’ potential effects on treating the simple cold or flu.

This isn’t because marijuana cannot aid flu-like symptoms, but more so because there is very little information on any direct correlation. Getting tied up in a conversation with so little evidence is dangerous for any medical reputation. Moreover, the coronavirus is proving to be a wholly different sickness when compared to the flu.

Thus, entrepreneurs, consumers and, especially, influencers must tread lightly in such new territory.

Another ancillary community that has been active in this regard is the natural wellness community. Dr. Shawn Meirovici, a naturopathic doctor based in Toronto, was far more open to sharing how cannabis and CBD can help soothe certain symptoms. His advice, however, is more indicative of marijuana’s ability to improve sleep, relaxation and relieve pain.

Related: CBD for Wellness – Viable or Hoax?

Unfortunately, certain voices from the naturopathic industry have batched cannabis with other unclassified ‘miracle cures’ and have been far more outspoken than individuals like Dr. Meirovici. And, like many of the unlicensed products in natural wellness, these cannabis-based products have been a mixed bag.

Herein lies the unique debacle facing cannabis and its derivatives. With citizens around the world debilitated by quarantine, panic and fears of supply shortages, many have taken the opportunity to shill their favourite coronavirus products. 

On the one hand are those gouging the prices of N95 medical masks and toilet paper on Amazon. On the other are the handful of cannabis influencers taking advantage of the situation to push low-quality products with zero medical backing.

Thanks to COVID-19, the cannabis industry has been able to identify who is at the forefront of science and who is peddling misinformation. On this point, Health Europa wrote:

Plant medicines like CBD and medical cannabis do so many amazing things that there is no need to stretch the truth or make claims that cannot be backed up, at least not currently.’

So, instead of reaching for a pipe, cannabis edibles or a CBD dropper, first consider what already exists. For starters, everyone should be washing their hands, limiting the number of visits to the grocery store and staying home when sick. None of these recommendations include cannabis.

More importantly, medical professionals in states where cannabis is legal are recommending users to switch from smoking to other mediums. They indicate that everyone should try to limit the number of aerosol-based irritants, harsh cleaning products and to get as much fresh air as possible.

But what about medical cannabis patients? They’re also being encouraged to shift over to tinctures, oils and edibles for their daily doses.

For marijuana users in Europe, getting continued access to these kinds of cannabis derivatives also appears relatively unaffected.

 

Accessing medical cannabis during quarantine

Regular readers of Strain Insider may already be aware that supply chains for medical cannabis in Europe all lead back to Holland. This is because of the unique regulatory environment in the Netherlands.

The primary supplier of these kinds of products has been Bedrocan.

It has monopolised most of the market due to an agreement with the Office of Medicinal Cannabis (OMC), which is a Dutch government agency overseeing cannabis for scientific purposes. This prioritised backing has meant that Bedrocan enjoys favour throughout the EU and has thus been serving the rest of Europe’s growing demand for cannabis for several years.

As such, many have wondered how the company is faring amid the latest crisis. In an announcement, Bedrocan wrote:

At this moment, Bedrocan´s production and supply chain are not affected. As standard, we maintain several months of supply for our critical stocks. Also, in case of a crisis, we can continue to function as normal with minimal personnel. That is the advantage of working within a highly controlled environment where little human action is required.’

Leaders at the Dutch company are also practising social distancing via work-from-home arrangements and by cancelling ‘all travels, company visits and external meetings.’ For patients, this is a relief — especially since pharmacies around the European Union have remained open throughout the pandemic.

Conversely, activism in the medical cannabis space has slowed. This is indeed the case in countries like France where officials have been hard at work on the latest cannabis trial. Authorities within the ANSM, the group that is hashing out the details of France’s two-year trial, haven’t been able to meet due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Related: The Impact of the Coronavirus on the CBD Industry

Jean-Baptiste Moreau told French cannabis publication NewsWeed that work in the French Parliament has come to a standstill. He said:

‘The work has been suspended since the beginning of confinement, and further hearings have been postponed.’

In the United States, the slow and steady sweep of legalisation has been put on pause too. New York, Oklahoma and Missouri were slated to work through legislation, but the coronavirus has focused attention elsewhere. Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, told Politico that there’s ‘too much [to deal with], too little time.’

The state has reported the most cases of the virus in the country. It makes sense that officials are working through more pressing issues.

The irony, of course, is that in places like Canada and more forward-thinking states in the U.S. that have legalised marijuana, cannabis stores have been declared ‘necessary’ and asked to remain open. The Netherlands’ famed coffee shops and Spain’s cannabis social clubs have all enjoyed the same status. This was primarily because medical patients were shifting to the black market to get treatment.

At the same time, primary sources of these black market products are seeing sky-high prices. Yann Bastiere, a police official working with France’s anti-drug investigations told Reuters, ‘the price of a 100-gram bar of resin went from 280 euros to 500 euros in a week in Marseille.’

Thierry Colombie, an expert on the subject, explained that the trade block from Morocco has forced dealers to raise their prices to remain in business. Colombie said that 70 percent of France’s cannabis resin comes from the North African country.

The coronavirus response has been varied throughout the cannabis industry. Influencers on social media have taken the opportunity to sell more cure-all solutions, while medical professionals recommend tinctures over smoke.

Related: Coronavirus Pandemic Could Delay Cannabis Legalisation in Europe and the US

Around the world, supply chains are affecting legalisation campaigns too. And as activism winds down, the black market is stacking premium prices on its products. Indeed, life in a pandemic has made clear what is truly essential business, and cannabis barely makes the cut.

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