A new poll shows that a majority of Americans believe that cannabis dispensaries should be considered essential services that are allowed to remain open during lockdowns ordered to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. The online poll, conducted by YouGov on March 25, found that 53% of U.S. adults believe that cannabis dispensaries should be considered essential services.
The poll asked 5,369 U.S. adults one question: “Do you believe medical marijuana dispensaries should or should not be considered essential services?” In addition to the 53% who said that medical marijuana dispensaries should be considered essential, 26% said that the businesses should not be and 21% said that they didn’t know.
With jurisdictions around the globe enacting stay-at-home orders to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, cannabis activists in several locales have argued that dispensaries provide legitimate health care services that should be permitted to remain open, just like pharmacies and doctor’s offices. On Wednesday, Steph Sherer, the founder and president of Americans for Safe Access, noted in a press release that “18 states have now declared cannabis businesses essential.”
Breaking Down The Demographics
Regionally, the YouGov poll showed the strongest support for keeping medical marijuana retailers open in the Northeast, where 57% of participants said dispensaries should be considered essential services and only 26% said that they shouldn’t. Even in the South, where support for deeming dispensaries essential was the lowest, half of the respondents said that they should be. Only a quarter said that they should not be and another 25% were unsure.
By gender, support for declaring medicinal cannabis dispensaries essential was fairly even, with 54% of men and 52% of women in favor. Only 27% of men and 26% of women disagreed and said that dispensaries are not essential.
Democrats showed the most support for keeping dispensaries open, with 62% saying they should be considered essential. Only 43% of Republicans agreed, while 52% of independent voters also said that pot shops should stay open.
By age, 54% of those 18 to 24; 59% of 25 to 34-year-olds; and 56% of those in both the 35 to 44 and 45 to 54 age groups said that dispensaries are essential. Just under half, or 47%, of those 55 and older were also in favor of keeping the retailers open.
The poll also showed that those earning $80,000 or more make up the only group by income level with a majority in favor of classifying dispensaries as essential services, with 52%. In contrast, only 48% of those earning less than $40,000 and 45% with an income of $40k to $80k agreed.
Sherer of ASA said that many of the jurisdictions that have allowed medical marijuana dispensaries to remain open during mandatory closures of nonessential businesses have enacted several of the group’s recommendations, such as “instructing medical cannabis businesses on how they can make legal temporary changes to their business plans. These include expanding delivery services, allowing curbside pickup, extending the expiration date of state-issued cannabis identification cards, and allowing telehealth visits for new and renewing medical cannabis certifications.”
“We applaud these efforts at the state level and are honored to serve governments and medical cannabis stakeholders on behalf of patients,” she said.
Cannabis Firms Enact New Safety Protocols During Coronavirus Outbreak
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, cannabis businesses have had to step up their hygiene game.
In many jurisdictions with legal marijuana, businesses in the cannabis industry have been deemed essential services and permitted to remain open during shutdowns ordered to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. And while most companies appreciate being able to stay in operation during troubling economic times, doing so presents its own challenges to keep employees and customers safe.
At Harborside Inc., the company’s six stores in California and Oregon remain open to serve patients and adult-use customers and its cultivation facility in Salinas, California is still in operation. But it hasn’t been business as usual. The company now offers curbside or drive-through pickup at all four of its California stores, and enhanced sanitation protocols have been initiated.
“The health and safety of our customers and employees has always been our priority, and we know how important this is now more than ever,” said Harborside interim CEO Peter Bilodeau in a press release. “We are committed to the important role that Harborside plays in providing our communities with essential cannabis products during this critical time, and to doing our part to slow the spread of this virus.”
Harborside has implemented a number of new measures in its stores, including limiting the number of customers allowed inside at one time and adhering to proper social distancing guidelines. Hand sanitizer, gloves, and masks are available and frequently touched surfaces including countertops, door handles, and ATMs are being cleaned and disinfected frequently.
Harmony Dispensary has closed in-store operations at its Secaucus, New Jersey medical marijuana facility, opting instead for curbside pickup only in accordance with guidelines from the state Department of Health (DOH). The new system will allow patients to obtain their medicine without having to interact with other customers.
“Patients can schedule appointments ahead of time and remain in their vehicle while Harmony staff delivers orders in the parking lot with minimal contact,” a Harmony spokesperson said in an email. “We are working closely with the DOH to ensure we follow stringent hygiene guidelines to protect the safety of our patients and staff.”
New policies and procedures to deal with the coronavirus pandemic aren’t limited to cannabis retailers. At Wonderbrett’s cultivation facility in Long Beach, California, sanitation standards have been ramped up, including disinfecting door handles every 30 minutes. Gloves and masks have been procured for employees and the company is making its own hand sanitizer with isopropyl alcohol and aloe. Maximum occupancies have been established in busy areas and posted notices remind employees to maintain social distancing.
Matt Costa, the CEO of Wonderbrett, said in an email that maintaining business continuity in an emergency requires preparation for a crisis to be part of a company’s standard operating procedure.
“Being successful in uncertain times is never an accident, it is culture,” he wrote. “It is always the result of intelligent effort, over communication, and measured action. Evaluating existing procedures plays a significant role; however, the success of rapidly implementing procedural changes is built on the foundation laid by the company during certain times.”
As more and more people around the world find themselves confined at home because of the coronavirus pandemic, many are turning to cannabis for relief from the stress and anxiety of the crisis. And with the health of their customers and employees in the balance, companies in the industry are stepping up their procedures to provide the safest product and customer experience possible. That’s welcome news in times like these.
High Times Holding Corp. Announces Acquisition of Humboldt Heritage Inc
The acquisition signals continued growth for High Times.
The parent company of High Times announced a major expansion into the cannabis growing and processing industry on Friday, saying it has begun the process to acquire California-based cannabis holding company Humboldt Heritage Inc. and its subsidiaries Humboldt Sun Growers Guild and Grateful Eight LLC.
Hightimes Holding Corp. said it had inked a letter of intent to acquire Humboldt, which will give it “cannabis growing, processing and product manufacturing capabilities direct from the most coveted cannabis community in the world, Humboldt County.”
“High Times’ mission is to connect consumers to cannabis – not only the best access and experience, but by making the best products available to our consumers across the country, and eventually the world,” Adam Levin, Hightimes Holding Corp.’s Executive Chairman said in a statement. “This addition adds 200+ of the best cannabis-producing farms in the world, and the rest of the capabilities we’ll need to grow into the future as a larger High Times family!”
High Times They Are a-Changin’
It has been a busy year so far for this publication’s owner. In January, Hightimes Holding Corp. named Stormy Simon as its new CEO. Simon, who joined the company after previously serving as president of the online retailer Overstock.com, succeeded Kraig Fox.
“The cost of customer acquisition has plagued the cannabis industry thus far, but utilizing the High Times brand’s global audience, we should be able to monetize our traffic by connecting consumers to cannabis products at an unprecedented scale,” Simon said at the time of her hire.
Later that same month, the company announced it will be opening two flagship retail stores in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The first two stores will set up shop in a pair of the biggest cannabis markets in the United States. California legalized recreational marijuana use in 2016, while Nevada did the same a year later. Currently, there are 11 states in the country that have lifted the prohibition on recreational pot use.
Barry Nachshon, CEO of Humboldt Heritage Inc, said in a statement on Friday that the acquisition “allows our cultivators’ and their artisan brands unprecedented exposure to consumers as High Times reaches millions of people all over the world.”
“The farmers in Humboldt Country have been leading parallel missions to High Times over the past 45 years,” said Nachshon. “Knowing that we will be part of the High Times family, as well as a key manufacturing and supply chain partner as the company enters the retail and delivery markets in California is very exciting for our team.”
Last Prisoner Project Seeks to Protect Prisoners from COVID-19
The Last Prisoner Project (LPP), a group concerned with the human rights of incarcerated prisoners, is seeking to ensure that prisoners have the same rights as free individuals during the current outbreak, including fair access to health care.
The organization advocates for “clemency, expungement and reentry” to ensure that prisoners receive proper care and attention after years, and sometimes decades, of incarceration. It specifically targets those who were sent to prison because of low-level cannabis convictions.
In a recent press statement, the LPP brings attention to the plight of prisoners everywhere who don’t have access to free coronavirus tests, and don’t receive free calls home to check in with their families. The group sees this as a human rights violation and thinks something should be done to protect prisoner rights during this trying time. “Now is the time to come together as a community to support our most vulnerable populations,” the plea on their site explains. “If you are financially able please consider donating today to ensure that our constituents have the funds they need to access medical care and connections to loved ones.”
The group would also like to see prisoners who will get out of prison in the next six months released for home confinement now so they can be safe from groups in prison carrying the virus and the overcrowding that can happen. The organization also wants parole priority for patients over 65 and suspended copays. Additionally, the group has a special message about cannabis prisoners.
“RELEASE ALL CANNABIS PRISONERS,” the group’s statement reads as the last point to consider. “No one incarcerated for a victimless cannabis offense should continue to be incarcerated today. Now is the time to free our cannabis prisoners and further reduce the risk of outbreaks in correctional facilities.”
Many cannabis prisoners have already had cannabis-related charges dropped, and many past political leaders have been in favor of releasing prisoners held on cannabis charges. This pandemic could be what spurs more people on to want to support and free cannabis patients.
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