Amid Coronavirus Pandemic, Mass. Cannabis Companies to Produce Hand Sanitizer
Liquor companies aren’t the only ones pivoting to the production of hand sanitizer during the coronavirus pandemic.
Several Massachusetts-based cannabis firms have stepped up to make thousands of gallons of the much-needed disinfectant alcohol that will be donated to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency for distribution to hospitals throughout the Commonwealth.
The initiative was announced on Tuesday (March 24, 2020), the same day recreational dispensaries across Massachusetts were forced to close under an order from Governor Charlie Baker mandating that all “non-essential” businesses cease in-person operations.
The hand sanitizer effort is a partnership between the Commonwealth Dispensary Association (CDA) and the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association (MHA).
In a press release, the CDA said cannabis companies were authorized by the state’s Department of Public Health and Cannabis Control Commission to make and supply sanitizer to hospitals across the state.
“The CDA would like to thank Governor Baker, DPH and the CCC for empowering the cannabis industry to directly support those on the front lines of this pandemic by producing critical supplies,” CDA president David Torrisi said via the release.
The emergency effort comes as doctors, nurses and other first-responders across the globe are tirelessly battling the global coronavirus pandemic. If the supply of sanitizer is depleted, hospital workers’ ability to combat the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, will be significantly diminished.
The CDA estimates that roughly a dozen participating marijuana companies can supply a combined 5,000 gallons of sanitizer per week.
Dan Gillan, the vice president of product at Somerville, Mass.-based Revolutionary Clinics, said the company would be able to produce about 125 gallons over the next week. The cannabis firm was able to procure 5-gallon containers from a local vendor and its initial shipment will be delivered to MHA next Monday, Gillan told THCnet.
In recent days, dozens of major alcohol companies have announced similar efforts, including Bacardi, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Dogfish Head.
The approaches those companies are taking vary, however. A-B InBev said it would first supply its brewery employees across the U.S. with sanitizer so they could continue making beer during the COVID-19 outbreak, with remaining supply going to the American Red Cross. Meanwhile, Delaware’s Dogfish Head, owned by Boston Beer Company, will sell its “scratch-made” sanitizer to the state at a “fair market rate” and redirect all proceeds to an emergency relief fund for laid off restaurant workers.
For his part, Revolutionary Clinics CEO Keith Cooper, who also serves as the chair of the CDA, said the group contacted the MHA last week to understand the needs of the medical community.
“We found our cause very quickly,” he said. “We are using our capacity, resources and know-how to donate it to those who need it most.”
Another Massachusetts cannabis company, Garden Remedies, said it recognized that its own supply of sanitizer was running “dangerously low” when it made the decision to develop its own supply to clean surfaces at its facilities.
Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), citing increased demand for hand sanitizer, issued guidance allowing for the temporary production of disinfectant alcohol.
“We are aware of significant supply disruptions for alcohol-based hand sanitizers,” FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn said via a press release. “Many manufacturers make hand sanitizers, and several have indicated that they are working to increase supply. In the meantime, these guidances provide flexibility to help meet demand during this outbreak. We will continue to work with manufacturers, compounders, state boards of pharmacy and the public to increase the supply of alcohol-based hand sanitizer available to Americans.”
According to the FDA, all hand sanitizers must be made with ethanol (80% alcohol by volume), glycerol (1.45% by volume), hydrogen peroxide (0.125% per volume) and sterile distilled water or boiled cold water.
Speaking to Forbes, Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione said his company will make about 200 gallons of sanitizer this week, which equates to about 50,000 hand washes, he added.
As of press time, the number of worldwide confirmed cases of COVID-19 has topped 511,603 while the number of deaths has reached 22,993, according to Johns Hopkins University. In the U.S., meanwhile, there are 75,233 confirmed cases and 1,093 deaths.
A press release with additional details about the CDA’s effort is included below.
Commonwealth Dispensary Association Partners with Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association to Produce Free Hand Sanitizer for Hospitals Amidst COVID-19
BOSTON – The Commonwealth Dispensary Association (CDA), the largest and most active organization representing the cannabis business community in Massachusetts, in partnership with the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association (MHA), announced that its members have been authorized by the Baker Administration, Department of Public Health (DPH) and Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) to commence producing hand sanitizer to be donated free of charge to Massachusetts hospitals. This member-driven initiative is being carried out to help maintain the supply of critical resources available during the COVID-19 pandemic following DPH Commissioner Monica Bharel’s, MD, MPH, public health emergency order.
“The CDA would like to thank Governor Baker, DPH and the CCC for empowering the cannabis industry to directly support those on the front lines of this pandemic by producing critical supplies,” said CDA President David Torrisi. “When John Hillier, who’s on the CDA Board, brought the feasibility of producing hand sanitizer to our attention, members jumped at the opportunity to partner with MHA to make this happen. 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.”
The COVID-19 outbreak has created a shortage in the availability of medical supplies, including hand sanitizer, which has been further complicated by price gouging. The need for this critical resource has resulted in hospital pharmacists allocating their time and knowledge on its production, averting them from efforts to combat COVID-19 that can only be performed by professionals with their skillset. While the production of hand sanitizer is not overly sophisticated, the materials involved are expensive.
“The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association thanks the CDA for their generosity and support during this incredibly challenging time. Given the extreme stress that our health system is facing, seeing the business community step up to produce critical supplies to ease that burden reinforces the notion that we are all in this together,” said Steve Walsh, President & CEO, Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association.
MHA played a critical in identifying the need for these supplies 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 estimates that, at full production, it can produce 5,000 gallons of hand sanitizer per week that can be fully donated to hospitals. To facilitate the production, operators have applied the World Health Organization’s guidelines to its cannabis machinery and will fill five gallon jugs labeled in accordance with USP 795 so that it can be transported for use in hospitals. Hand sanitizer inventory will be transported to Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency for distribution to individual hospitals.
“Knowing that in States of Emergencies pharmacies can produce hand sanitizer and that we have equivalent lab facilities and knowledgeable personnel, I put forth the recommendation and was thrilled to see enthusiasm from other members,” said John Hillier, CDA Board Member, Executive Director of Central Ave. Compassionate Care and Founder and President of Gage Cannabis. “I also had the opportunity to visit Lowell General Hospital and observed the production of hand sanitizer in one of their facilities. It was clear to me that hospitals are spending valuable resources producing hand sanitizer when they should be preparing for what’s coming down the road. As an industry, we have the capabilities to step in and allow them to spend more time providing care.”
Some of the members participating in the production include: Revolutionary Clinics, INSA, Central Ave Compassionate Care, Inc., SIRA Naturals, New England Treatment Access, Theory Wellness, Garden Remedies, Triple M, Alternative Therapies Group, Inc., Berkshire Roots, Cultivate, NorthEast Alternatives, Patriot Care and Mass Wellspring.
Formed in 2015, the CDA is comprised of 36 members holding operating licenses in more than 60 cities and towns across the Commonwealth and serves to provide state-licensed marijuana operators with critical insight and best practices to help them navigate the complex, highly regulated Massachusetts cannabis industry. The organization also serves as the primary voice for the cannabis business community in front of the Cannabis Control Commission and at the State House.