Making Sense of the COVID Cannabis Surge 

How can we make sense of the COVID Cannabis surge? As reported previously, a pandemic-induced cannabis bubble has now burst. Total market cannabis sales are now in decline but what’s happened is a return to pre-pandemic market conditions. We can answer some pressing questions using real-time sales reporting from Headset Insight. Namely, did we see a more significant decline in transaction volume or transaction size? Which products fared best and worst during the last couple of years? And which customers […]

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Broad spec CBD reduces viral replication via stress, no result for synthetics

After two years, everyone has grown tired – dare we say we’re stressed. But new research does not recommend we sit back and smoke a joint, or even consume cannabis just yet. Fortunately, though, cannabis formulations consumed orally did reduce coronavirus replication in a lab. Cannabidiol (CBD) regulates the stress response which reduces viral replication […]

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Does Cannabis Use Actually Thwart Coronavirus Infection?

A new study this week has potheads gloating, late night talk show hosts snickering and a pandemic-scarred public contemplating a scenario straight out of a stoner comedy: Could cannabis actually stave off Covid?

The truth is, annoyingly, less straightforward than that. 

The study, published in the Journal of Natural Products, found that “cannabis compounds prevented the virus that causes Covid-19 from penetrating healthy human cells.”

According to the authors of the study, “cannabigerolic acid and cannabidiolic acid prevented infection of human epithelial cells by a pseudovirus expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and prevented entry of live SARS-CoV-2 into cells,” while “cannabigerolic acid and cannabidiolic acid were equally effective against the SARS-CoV-2 alpha variant B.1.1.7 and the beta variant B.1.351.”

A report by Bloomberg helped distill all that for the laymen. 

“The two compounds commonly found in hemp — called cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, and cannabidiolic acid, or CBDA — were identified during a chemical screening effort as having potential to combat coronavirus, researchers from Oregon State University said. In the study, they bound to spike proteins found on the virus and blocked a step the pathogen uses to infect people,” Bloomberg explained. “The researchers tested the compounds’ effect against alpha and beta variants of the virus in a laboratory. The study didn’t involve giving the supplements to people or comparing infection rates in those who use the compounds to those who don’t.”

“These compounds can be taken orally and have a long history of safe use in humans,” Richard van Breemen, a researcher with Oregon State’s Global Hemp Innovation Center said in a statement, as quoted by Bloomberg. “They have the potential to prevent as well as treat infection by SARS-CoV-2.”

There are a few details to keep in mind. TheOregon State University in vitro study hasn’t gone as far as human trials, as limits in medical cannabis research continue to be the norm. Futhermore,cannabigerolic acid and cannabidiolic acid are converted to other compounds after decarboxylation and/or smoking. So smoking, for instance, probably isn’t an efficient way of gaining these benefits.

Nesas Hemp is maker of “the world’s first living full-spectrum organic CBDA hemp extract.” The company uses living hemp and preserves the plant’s natural molecular structure and naturally occurring CBDA, and other beneficial phytonutrients.

“The recent study done by researchers at Oregon State University, underscores what we’ve known for years—CBDA has medicinal properties. The big takeaway from this study however, is that the compounds that help prevent the virus that causes COVID-19 from entering human cells are cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, and cannabidiolic acid, CBDA, NOT the generic CBD compounds that are found in so many hemp products today,” Nesas Hemp CEO Inesa Ponomariovaite told High Times. “That’s because CBGA and CBDA are produced using raw, living hemp, which ensures the healthy compounds that naturally occur in the plant end up in the final product that is eventually consumed by people. Regular CBD products are often made by burning the plant, which is not only carcinogenic, it also damages the molecular structure of the plant and changes its medicinal properties. In fact, research shows CBDA is often 1,000 times more potent than CBD and helps reduce inflammation, improves digestion, boosts the immune system, improves sleep and stabilizes moods.”

Ponomariovaite continued, saying “currently, most CBD products use extreme temperatures and other harmful processes to extract cannabinoids from the hemp plant to produce hemp extract, also known as hemp oil. This damages the natural cannabinoid acids and the medicinal properties found in the plant.”

The study has gone viral and has also prompted laughs and notes of caution from experts. The revelations proved to be quality fodder for late night monologues.

“This would be interesting. All this time we’ve been listening to the C.D.C., we should have been eating CBD,” cracked Jimmy Kimmel on Wednesday.

“You know, it’s funny—all these crazy cures, I’m like ‘Oh, that’s ridiculous.’ Ivermectin, the horse dewormer; bleach. And then somebody says marijuana prevents Covid, I’m like ‘Oh, really? Do tell,” he said.

Stephen Colbert couldn’t resist either.

“Great news for all the teenagers whose parents find weed in their room: ‘Oh, Mom, I see you found the Covid-stopping compounds that I hid in my sock drawer. Those aren’t mine. No, no. Those aren’t mine. I’m just holding them for my friend, Tony Fauci,’” he said Wednesday.

“In other words, the pot enters the body and asks Covid, ‘Are you a cell? You have to tell me if you’re a cell,’” Colbert added.

Cannabis Use Won’t Replace Coronavirus Vaccinations

Still, this doesn’t mean that you should swap a jab for a joint.

As Chris Roberts explained over at Forbes, what the Oregon State study does show is that “that certain cannabis-derived preparations, given in the right amount, might help people fight off Covid-19,” which he said is “exciting stuff.”

“What this research does not mean is that smoking cannabis helps protect you from the coronavirus, or that ‘weed stops Covid’ (at least in the practical sense), or that the reason why someone got sick with Covid while someone else didn’t had anything to do with cannabis,” Roberts wrote.

Forbes highlighted some other reasons to be skeptical of the study, with Dr. Mikael Sodergren, the head of Imperial College London’s medical cannabis research group, telling the outlet that the findings would still need to be “confirmed in animal models and tested on humans in clinical trials.”

Sodergren told Forbes that the study furthermore provides “no evidence to support the smoking or ingestion of cannabis products to do the same.”

The benefits of hemp and cannabis continue to unfold. Dr. Raphael Mechoulam was ahead of the game, praising the health benefits of cannabinoid acids in 2019.

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Study Shows Psychedelics Users Had Less Stress During Pandemic Lockdowns

A study on the COVID-19 outbreak’s impact on mental health has found that users of psychedelics experienced less stress during the pandemic than those who had not used the drugs. 

Before the pandemic, approximately 8.5 percent of U.S. adults reported being depressed. But as the nation experienced the fear, lockdowns, and isolation associated with the COVID-19 outbreak, the figure spiked to 27.8 percent, according to data published last year. Prof. Sandro Galea, a dean at Boston University School of Public Health, said that the impact on mental health caused by the pandemic is unprecedented.

“Depression in the general population after prior large-scale traumatic events has been observed to, at most, double,” he said after publishing research on mental health aspects of the pandemic last year.

Anxiety levels also increased during the pandemic, with researchers reporting a 14 percent rise in anxiety among residents of the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia.

Psychedelics and Depression

Other research has shown that psychedelic drugs including psilocybin have potential as treatments for mental health conditions including depression, anxiety and addiction. To learn if the use of psychedelic drugs affected the impact that the coronavirus pandemic had on mental health, researchers affiliated with organizations in the Netherlands, Spain and Brazil conducted a study of how previous psychedelic use affected mental health. The study was performed from April through July of last year, when much of the world was under lockdown to help stem the spread of the virus.

The researchers conducted an online survey of 2,974 people, with most respondents living in Spain, Brazil and the United States. Among the participants, 497 said they regularly used psychedelic drugs, 606 were occasional users and 1,968 said they had never used psychedelics. During the study period, most of the United States and Spain were under lockdown, although that was not the case in Brazil.

The survey asked participants about their use of psychedelic drugs including psilocybin, peyote, MDMA, ayahuasca, LSD, San Pedro, and 5-MeO-DMT, both before and after the outbreak began, as well as information about the settings in which the drugs were used. Study subjects also completed a series of questionnaires on psychological distress, perceived social support, post-traumatic stress symptoms, psychological status and measures of personality.

“Psychedelic drug users, especially regular ones, reported less psychological distress, less peritraumatic stress, and more social support,” the authors of the study wrote.

Half of the participants who had used psychedelics said that their previous use of the drugs had a significant positive impact on their ability to cope with the stress associated with the lockdowns. About a third (35 percent) said their past use of psychedelic drugs did not impact their ability to cope, and 16 percent said their experience with the compounds had a small beneficial impact.

Psychedelic drug users also reported having more access to outdoor spaces and spending more time outside. Regular users of psychedelics also reported more engagement with activities including music, meditation, yoga and Pilates, while those who do not use psychedelics said they spent more time doing aerobic exercise, playing video games and watching television, movies and news coverage related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Regular users were also less likely to follow suggested public health measures such as wearing face masks and gloves. In personality tests, people who reported using psychedelics scored higher on scales for novelty seeking and self-transcendence, and lower for cooperativeness.

Correlation or Causation?

The study also revealed other consequences of the pandemic that could have an impact on mental health. Nearly a fifth of participants reported losing their job, while almost half said their income had declined during the outbreak.

The researchers wrote that although psychedelics users reported experiencing less stress during the pandemic, it is unclear if the drugs are responsible for the difference. They called for continued research, noting that other factors including more access to outdoor space, spending more time outside, healthier eating habits, and spending less time viewing or listening to news coverage about the pandemic could also have an impact on mental health.

“Our findings showed that regular users of psychedelic drugs had less psychological stress and some personality differences when compared to occasional users and non-users,” the study’s authors concluded. “This suggests that either the use of psychedelics might be a protective factor itself or people with certain previous traits are more prone to frequently using psychedelic drugs.”

An article on the research, “Cross-Sectional Associations Between Lifetime Use of Psychedelic Drugs and Psychometric Measures During the COVID-19 Confinement: A Transcultural Study,” was published online by the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.

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If You Love Pre-rolls, Stock Up Ahead of the Shortage

Lovers of pre-rolls and stuff-your-own cones, beware: an international shortage of cones is imminent, according to several paper and cone manufacturers and supply chain managers.

According to Alen Nguyen, CEO of supply chain management platform MainStem, the majority of the world’s cones, regardless of what company ends up sticking their labels on them, are assembled by hand in “less than 10” factories in Indonesia. The rest are handmade in India, for the most part, with just a few exceptions. 

Rolling papers, in general, are mainly produced in factories in Europe, India and China, with the majority coming from European countries like Spain, France, Czech Republic and other continental nations. 

Regardless of where cones are produced, Nguyen explained that a crucial aspect of their manufacturing process—the actual construction—relies on human labor. The actual rolling paper production process is “pretty automated,” and there are currently no wrinkles in that corner of the supply chain. But cones require careful assembly to preserve shape and structure without wrinkles, tears or creases while the paper is rolled and glued. The process simply hasn’t been able to be automated yet.

Being the COVID era, this means that in Indonesia, specifically, there have been factory closures and work stoppages since the beginning of the pandemic. This has led to a backlog in production and order fulfillment at a time when demand for cones has rapidly increased. Add to that a global shipping slowdown, and cones intended for weed stuffing have become the latest casualty of the current supply chain meltdown.

“Cones were invented about 20 to 30 years ago by this Dutch guy who opened one of the first facilities in Indonesia,” said Bryan Gerber, co-founder and CEO of Hemper, which also owns Hara Supply. Gerber called Hara “the largest pre-rolled cone manufacturer in the world.” He explained that, over time, someone from the original factory split off and opened another, and so on and so forth, which has resulted in the large handful of factories making cones that now exist in Indonesia. 

Gerber, along with everyone else interviewed for this story, said that Indonesia remains one of the main hubs for cones because labor is cheaper there. But strict unionization laws and previous labor stoppages have inspired cone manufacturers to look elsewhere in recent years.

Labor is also inexpensive in India, where Hara constructs its cones—Gerber says that Hara’s output accounts for about 20 percent of the world’s cone supply. For manufacturers, India also has the benefit of “basically being open, COVID-wise,” Gerber said.

He added that pandemic-related shutdowns are no longer occurring, especially not in factories, so while his company is not experiencing a backlog in production like those that rely on Indonesian labor, they are weathering shipping delays, along with the rest of the world. Technically, Gerber said, they could handle overflow for cone suppliers interested in making the switch to Indian assembly, but they would all be hamstrung by the same shipping woes the rest of the world is facing.

Either way it’s sliced, this will result in a noticeable shortage of cones, which will see some brands temporarily removed from the market while things level out. There are also likely to be price increases for what does make it onto shelves, Nguyen said.

Demand for Cones is at its Highest

The shortage comes at a particularly crunched time for an already pressured market. “The demand for cones is infinite,” Gerber said. “Literally infinite.” Gerber says Hara is currently producing 16 million cones a month, which he hopes will increase to 100 million cones a month by January. He bases this on the demand he has seen from the marketplace, which both he and Nguyen commented are heavily multi-state operator-driven.

Concerning MainStem, Nguyen says that from 2019 to 2020, there was a 51 percent increase in average order size. From 2020 to 2021, so far, there was a 43 percent increase in average order size from the previous year. This means that, since the pandemic started, average customer order size is up 116 percent for MainStem’s wholesale shoppers, who are the companies that either stuff pre-rolls or sell cones under their own brands.

The size of the market bears this out. According to a study performed by Custom Cones USA and Headset, a cannabis industry data company, from 2019 to 2020, pre-roll sales grew 59 percent—from $704 million to $1.12 billion. In 2020, pre-rolls made up 10 percent of overall cannabis sales, up from 9.5 percent in 2019. Full 2021 data isn’t available yet, but it’s safe to say the market is steadily growing. Even if 2021 doesn’t see more growth, what already exists is big.

“Overall, we’re experiencing a two to three multiplier on manufacturing lead time in the last couple of months and at least three to five multiplier on shipping time by sea due to the back up at the ports,” Nguyen said. “This is from the manufacturer shipping to the distributors in the U.S., as well as larger clients with which we work directly with the manufacturers. This results in anywhere between 13-18 weeks for product delivery,” he predicted. He added that this is all subject to change, which means delivery times could also increase. 

Several retailers—all of whom sell either pre-rolled joints, cones or both—all confirmed they were battling delays and shortages of their own stock as a result of the problems with Indonesian cone production. 

“The paper and cone shortage has been a major factor in Blazy Susan’s growth over the last year. Many of the larger brands have had trouble keeping up with demand thanks to huge increases in port congestion and shipping rates,” said Colorado-based Blazy Susan CEO Will Breakell. 

Breakell also mentioned another factor, which was also echoed by Gerber: production hiccups for rolling papers in China, where some of paper production has shifted over the years. Breakell said “major” power shortages have been happening across the country, resulting in some regions only being able to produce two days a week or less. 

Gerber said that rising labor costs have caused rolling paper companies to look further afield. Some papers produced in China have also tested positive for heavy metals in several instances over the last decades, which has also scared off manufacturers.

The CEOs from Space Coyote, Fuzzies, Daily High Club Greenlane and Snail also confirmed they have seen disruptions in inventory due to the cone shortage. Nguyen, from MainStem, said that he has several multi-state operator clients who regularly place large orders, and that their supply will be affected. 

Not every brand will see a shortage, per se, but even individual brands with more solid supply chains won’t be able to make up the difference with their own inventory. Overall, there will be fewer cones for sale, period. 

“Our team has heard our competitors are having issues sourcing paper and assembling cones, thereby causing inventory shortages on their end,” Paul Marobella, president and chief marketing officer at Republic Brands, said. Republic owns OCB, E-Z Wider and Job. He explained that Republic owns its entire supply chain, including paper manufacturing and booklet assembly, and therefore will not see any shortages in its brands for either papers or cones.

Nick Kovacevich, CEO of Greenlane, which owns rolling paper brand Vibes, said that they are also seeing increased demand for paper products, including cones. Vibes’ papers are made in France, he said, and he offered consumers a reminder. “Keep in mind this will only affect pre-rolled cones and not flat paper which still allows consumers to roll their own joints,” he said. “We cannot get enough cones, but we are expanding production in two different regions to meet demand.”

Don’t know how to roll? It seems like there’s never been a better time to learn. 

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NBA Won’t Randomly Test Athletes for Cannabis During 75th Season

The National Basketball Association (NBA) recently released a memo stating that it won’t be testing its athletes for cannabis for the entirety of the upcoming season.

The NBA Spokesman Mike Bass announced on October 6 that cannabis testing athletes will not occur for the rest of the association’s 75th season, which begins on October 19 and runs through May 2022

“We have agreed with the NBPA to extend the suspension of random testing for marijuana for the 2021-22 season and focus our random testing program on performance-enhancing products and drugs of abuse,” Bass stated.

NBA players were given a memo about the news, but ESPN was the first to obtain the memo and report the information, as of a statement from ESPN Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski. 

“Players won’t be subject to random tests for marijuana this season,” according to @NBPA memo shared with players and obtained by ESPN. That’s been adjusted policy through Orlando restart and 2020-‘21 season. Testing continues for “drugs of abuse and performance enhancing substances,” he shared on Twitter.

The NBA first announced that it would suspend random drug tests for cannabis in March 2020, back when the pandemic was ramping up. According to the Associated Press, testing resumed later in summer 2020 at the Orlando Bubble to check for performance-enhancing substances—but cannabis wasn’t among the substances athletes were tested for, mainly in an effort to reduce unnecessary contact for players. 

Reporter Ben Dowsett was among the first to confirm this change through league sources later last year, which he shared in a Twitter post in December 2020. 

“Sources say this decision is largely based on COVID safety–just another way of limiting unnecessary contacts. However, there’s also significant expectation from many in the league that the entire marijuana testing program is on the way out in the near future.”

It is still a possibility that the NBA could eventually decide to end testing for cannabis permanently, although no official announcement has been made. Cannabis wasn’t included on the list of testable substances in the last NBA season, and now it is confirmed that cannabis will again not be tested for by athletes in this current season as well.

There are many factors that can be attributed to the NBA agreeing to halt cannabis testing for athletes, but one of the reasons is because of athletes speaking out in favor of cannabis and its efficacy as a medicine. Countless athletes have spoken up, and many of them have started their own cannabis businesses, such as former NBA athlete Chris Webber. His company, Players Only Holdings, recently broke ground on a $50 million production and training facility in Detroit Michigan. Another former NBA player, Kevin Durant, used his company Thirty Five Ventures to partner with Weedmaps in an effort to fight the stigma against cannabis.

The news of running athlete Sha’Carri Richardson testing positive for cannabis, resulting in her disqualification in the Tokyo Olympics, made global headlines as well. The outroar garnered intense support for her situation from many sources, including the White House and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, as well as U.S. state legislators

Tennessee Congressman Steven Cohen joked that cannabis is a performance-enhancing substance in only one case. “Marijuana is not a performance-enhancing drug unless you’re entered in the Coney Island hot dog eating contest on the Fourth of July,” Cohen said in July.

Other sports organizations have also begun to loosen restrictions on cannabis consumption. In April, the National Football League announced that it would no longer test for cannabis during the offseason. In December 2019, the Major League Baseball association announced that it would remove cannabis from its list of abused drugs and would only continue to test athletes for opioids and cocaine.

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Covid-19 and Cannabis: A farmer’s tale.

Covid-19 impacted cannabis culture in strange ways. In Morocco, stoners have spread the rumour of an authentic cannabis tour. Being the world’s top cannabis producer, we flew to Morocco to check that rumour. My friend Marco and I wandered through the blue city of Chefchaouen before reaching our hotel on the main square. A delicious […]

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Do BC Covid cases justify vaccine passports in the cannabis sector?

Certain non-essential services in provinces like Ontario and British Columbia now require customers to be vaccinated. But, how does the skeptical process provincial governments use to report Covid cases to justify vaccine passports in the cannabis sector? Cannabis — a medicine for many — was deemed an essential service during the pandemic in BC. This […]

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Curbside Recreational Weed Pickups End in Massachusetts

Cannabis dispensaries in Massachusetts will no longer be permitted to offer curbside pickup of recreational marijuana purchases to their customers after state regulators allowed an emergency rule permitting the practice to expire. 

At a meeting of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission on September 17, regulators voted to extend some emergency regulations put in place at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, including a rule that allows medical marijuana patients to receive recommendations from their physician via a telemedicine appointment. The commission also voted to continue curbside cannabis purchase pickups for medical marijuana patients but declined to extend a similar authorization for adult-use cannabis customers.

Decision Ends Pandemic-Era Rule

Cannabis dispensaries in Massachusetts were barred from making sales of recreational marijuana for two months under an executive order issued in March 2020 by Governor Charlie Baker that directed nonessential businesses to close to help stem the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. 

Medical marijuana dispensaries were deemed essential businesses, however, and allowed to remain open with special safety precautions including social distancing and curbside pickup put in place. Shops supplying both medical marijuana and recreational cannabis were directed to serve registered patients only. Sales of recreational marijuana resumed the following May with similar restrictions in place, including social distancing and curbside pickup for most transactions.

“The Cannabis Control Commission, with the cooperation of licensees, municipalities, and most importantly, registered qualifying patients, has demonstrated that we are effectively able to preserve public health and safety through curbside operations and other emergency protocols,” CCC executive director Shawn Collins said at the time. “I am confident that our adult-use licensees and their customers will adapt just the same when they reopen under similar protocols next week.”

Leave the Kids at Home

Only a week after curbside pickup of adult-use cannabis began, however, the commission clarified that customers picking up recreational marijuana orders could not have children with them in the car. At a June 2020 CCC meeting, commissioner Britte McBride said that state law forbids people younger than 21 from being on the premises of cannabis retailers and argued that vehicles used for pickup transactions are included in the restriction.

“It states really explicitly in the statute what our obligation is,” McBride said. “For me, that’s the beginning and the end.”

Commissioner Jen Flanagan also opposed allowing children in vehicles making pickups at cannabis dispensaries and said that recreational marijuana is not an essential service.

“While I understand that parents may be having difficulty accessing this product, given the circumstances that we’re currently in… I don’t believe that anyone under 21 should be in the car,” Flanagan said. “I’m sorry, this is not something that is absolutely necessary. This is not food… we’re talking about a choice a parent is making.”

Emergency Rules Expired this Month

The emergency regulations for cannabis dispensaries were based on a state of emergency declared by Baker’s 2020 executive order. When the governor rescinded the state of emergency declaration in May of this year, the CCC voted to extend the authorizations for curbside pickups and telemedicine appointments until September 1, a deadline that passed without action from the commission until the meeting on September 17.

Members of the commission noted that as the COVID-19 pandemic continues with the Delta variant raging across the country, it may still be unsafe for some medical marijuana patients to pick up their purchases in person.

“Patients may not be comfortable just yet entering a dispensary,” Collins said at this month’s meeting.

Although he acknowledged that adult-use cannabis customers may also still be wary about making in-store purchases, Collins noted that lawmakers passed legislation authorizing home delivery of recreational marijuana late last year. 

In June, the CCC began accepting applications for home delivery of recreational marijuana under a program that prioritizes social equity applicants who want to enter the regulated cannabis industry. While delivery is not yet available in all areas of Massachusetts, Collins said that new delivery operators are being approved every month.

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COVID Vaccines in the Cannabis Industry

On September 13, 2021, proof of vaccination became an entry requirement for a number of businesses, social events, and activities. For consumers, the rules are clear but for employers, they’re not. When it comes to employee vaccine requirements, it’s up to the discretion of each employer; even in the case of essential businesses. The only […]

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