canna-corona connection

Let’s start with the freshest news: The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission announced late Friday that doctors can ask for a waiver from the agency allowing them to issue and renew medical marijuana recommendations via “telemedicine”/internet video. Patients and physicians had asked for the accommodation, arguing that requiring in-person appointments increased the risk of spreading the virus. (Not virus related, but another announcement from the commission as we went to press: It will begin accepting applications for the next wave of social equity trainings on May 1.)

• Big picture: The Massachusetts marijuana industry is bracing for massive disruptions. For now, most licensed facilities are still open. But one of the state’s busiest stores halted recreational sales to focus on medical patients, another firm ceased wholesale operations, and most retailers are taking precautions such as sanitizing surfaces, requiring orders to be placed in advance, and keeping patrons separated. Meanwhile, demand for pot is skyrocketing as consumers stock up in advance of a possible lockdown, leaving medical marijuana patients nervous about their access to needed medicine. Workers, too, are anxious, fearful of losing their jobs, getting infected at work, and being exempted from any forthcoming federal bailout because their industry is federally illegal. More details on all that in the first link above, and stay tuned for some more updates about workers next week. 

• Entrepreneurs in the marijuana industry are getting absolutely crushed right now. Funding was already scarce before the markets and economy collapsed this month, thanks to a crummy 2019 in the cannabis sector. Now, things are truly brutal. A small cannabis processing startup in Massachusetts that’s about to get regulatory approval to begin operations told me that many of the retail customers it had lined up have now cancelled their commitments. And a consultant who makes her living helping operators set up their retail operations reported that she was dropped by nearly every one of her clients within a single 48-hour period, as firms cut back nearly all discretionary spending. And Holyoke Community College was forced to shutter its marijuana training and apprenticeship program, after its industry partners bailed.

• Bigger cannabis corporations are suffering too. 4Front Ventures, which operates retail marijuana shops and medical dispensaries under the “Mission” brand, reportedly cut a significant number of non-operational positions in part because of the crisis.

• Some lobbyists are pushing the Cannabis Control Commission to temporarily allow firms already conducting medical marijuana deliveries to also offer recreational drop-offs. I’d speculate it’s somewhat unlikely the agency will assent, since it had reserved such permits for certain disenfranchised applicants and was preparing to boot up the program later this year. Then again, a lot of things we would have never predicted are happening right now, so don’t hold me to that one. 

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