Even with 85 percent of their business on hold because adult-use cannabis is not considered “essential” by Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration, Garden Remedies is now using its lab to create much-needed hand sanitizer for healthcare workers.
Because the Washington Street store is still open for medical marijuana patients, staff knew that due to shortages, they would need to produce disinfecting supplies to protect employees and customers during the coronavirus crisis. Soon, they decided to help out the greater community as well.
“We joined other cannabis companies to [make hand sanitizer] collectively,” said Shayna Vigliotta, marketing program and public relations specialist for Garden Remedies.
“We’re going to continue to make it as long as there is a need,” said Jim Comber, Garden Remedies’ director of marketing. “We don’t see this ending any time soon.”
The effort began after the Commonwealth Dispensary Association (CDA) last week said that its member companies were approved by the Department of Public Health and Cannabis Control Commission to produce the high-demand product in a partnership with the Mass. Health and Hospital Association (MHA). The group estimated its members could produce roughly 5,000 gallons of hand sanitizer per week.
According to Comber, Garden Remedies has produced about 110 gallons of hand sanitizer so far.
“I am incredibly proud of members who are allocating time and resources to produce hand sanitizer, at cost, to help clinicians in the fight against COVID-19,” CDA President David Torrisi said.
The CDA said the process of making hand sanitizer is “not overly sophisticated,” but “the materials involved are expensive.”
The dispensaries said MHA identified the need for additional hand sanitizer production and “spearheaded a convening between CDA and directors of pharmacy from hospitals and health systems across the state to create protocols, standard operating procedures and to assist with production knowledge.”
The CDA said its members involved in hand sanitizer production will apply guidelines from the World Health Organization and will fill five-gallon jugs to be transported to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency for distribution to individual hospitals.
So far, Comber said Garden Remedies hasn’t had to lay anyone off, despite the 85 percent loss in revenue.
“It’s a significant hit to us,” he said.
Since they are still selling to medical marijuana patients, “We completely changed our business model to make sure people stayed safe and our employees stayed safe” by taking online orders only, said Comber.
Before the coronavirus health crisis, only 20 percent of the company’s business was done online. Not surprisingly, medical marijuana sales have been up.
Comber said some lawmakers are working to allow adult use again. He said that if it continues to be prohibited, some people will likely try to get marijuana through black market sources.
Without adult sales, Comber said people who don’t have medical marijuana cards, including veterans treated through the VA or those worried about their jobs, don’t have access anymore.
He also pointed out that the cannabis industry won’t get any federal relief for their losses or potential closures.
In terms of fairness, he posed the question of why package and liquor stores can remain open when marijuana businesses cannot.
Reporting from our news partner WCVB was used in this story.