Wednesday April 1, 2020
By Andrew Ward
So, how did everyone’s March go? Everything to plan? Nothing out of the ordinary pop up? Everyone get to do everything they had on their calendar? Not quarantined for the foreseeable future? Okay, that's enough terrible jokes. In truth, March 2020 will go down as a historic month for the world for all the wrong reasons. With much of the planet under lockdown due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, March saw events that could topple economies, lose school years, cripple businesses and so much more devastation along the way.
So, all is bleak, right? Not exactly, at least in marijuana. Cannabis is one of the interesting bright spots in a dark March that will likely extend at least through April. While 4/20 may be affected this year, marijuana proved itself worthy of affecting lives for the better during one of its worst periods in recent memory.
That said, let’s review the month that was for marijuana in America, including some noteworthy non-coronavirus news as well.
Cannabis Becomes Essential During COVID-19 Pandemic
Cannabis consumers queued up in record numbers as quarantines, lockdowns and stay-at-home-orders took effect across the globe. From The Netherlands to Illinois, medical and recreational cannabis retail shops remained open as “essential” businesses. The still semi-illegal billion-dollar American industry joined pharmacies, grocery stores and liquor shops as some of the many retailers allowed to serve the public.
Though the industry posted record numbers leading into quarantines in America, some questioned whether it is a wise move to keep doors open, allowing large crowds to gather. To remedy the issue, some states turned to delivery-only options. In some cases, like Colorado, the situation now has some wondering if delivery should become part of the state’s program going forward.
Marijuana Moves to Manufacture Essential Items
Several cannabis companies have momentarily pivoted to producing essential items to aid in America's supply shortages. For the time being, instead of pot products, ventures are turning out bottles of hand sanitizer. Meanwhile, others are donating products, like ethanol used in production, to be used in the production of hand sanitizer. Others have opened up their facility to help create essential equipment, like ventilators, to address the shortage across several states.
Marijuana Business Daily's Nick Thomas wrote that the actions of cannabis companies across the nation demonstrate how the industry is putting the local community first. "In the long run," Thomas wrote, "it could help boost the bottom line and burnish some cannabis companies’ reputations."
Edibles Sales Surge During Coronavirus
With fears of harming their respiratory systems any further, scores of customers shifted their purchasing tendencies as COVID-19 concerns rose across the nation. In doing so, dry flower and vape cartridge options, often top sellers, lost the market share to edibles.
Marijuana Business Daily's Eli McVey reported that edible sales across California, Colorado and Washington State all rose since March 13, 2020. The shift to food and beverage options are highlighted by the consumption method's minimal risk of bodily harm and the fact they are not shareable. While unconfirmed, one could assume that getting a cannabis product that also doubles as food may have played a part in some consumers' decision making.
Legalization Efforts Expected to Take a Hit in 2020
2020 was shaping up to be a year where cannabis reform may have turned the final corner it needed to reach legalization as many had forecasted. Instead, the effects of COVID-19 has upended state budgets and agendas alike.
In some cases, like New Jersey, ballot measures are safe and will go on as planned. However, in a state like New York, where the law must pass the legislature, the prospect now appears grim. Despite the claims of Governor Andrew Cuomo to continue with the efforts, his 2020 draft budget did not include adult use cannabis, which is not much of a surprise considering the circumstances.
Several other states across the country saw ballot initiatives stalled. With fears around social distancing and sharing germs via papers and touchscreens, signature gathering became an early victim of new health mandates. A few initiatives made strides attempting to shift to electronic and small mail chain signature gathering efforts. However, by and large, it appears likely that movements for medical and adult use cannabis, as well as psychedelics, will need to regroup for 2021.
In Non-Coronavirus News…
While much of the headlines were dominated by the global pandemic, March did produce some noteworthy non-COVID marijuana news.
Doctors Can Now Recommend Veterans Medical Marijuana
The Veterans Equal Access Act was approved in March, allowing licensed physicians to recommend medical cannabis to veterans in states where it is legal. It has been noted that including cannabis in the conversation would not be a departure from the current doctor-patient policy. Most significantly, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report encourages medical professionals to discuss cannabis treatment options with patients when in legally-approved states.
DEA Sued By Scientists Over ‘Secret’ Docs
The Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) sued the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) over what SRI claims are "secret" documents. Allegedly, the documents are aimed at slowing the growth of cannabis research. The suit comes three years after the DEA unveiled plans to grow cannabis research in the U.S. SRI claims it hadn't heard much if anything since. While the document SRI is claiming in the filing is not public, the case could move forward on the uncertainty of the letter.
Be sure to follow the PotGuide and the other excellent writers and outlets featured in this month’s roundup. While staying up on the news, be sure to practice safe social distancing measures. Be safe and be excellent to each other...from a distance for the time being.