COVID-19: How cannabis companies are helping in the crisis

Published on April 17, 2020 · Last updated July 28, 2020
Torrey Holistics' San Diego owners donate N95 masks; part of ongoing COVID=19 relief efforts. (Courtesy Torrey Holistics)

During World War II, America crushed fascism by repurposing automobile factories into making fighters and bombers.

In today’s war on COVID-19, America’s $10.73 billion legal marijuana sector is rapidly redeploying assets to help fight SARS-CoV-2, with the goal of saving as many lives as possible. Legal cannabis makers have begun repurposing hash supply chains for hand sanitizer. Marijuana farmers are donating pest control gowns to desperate hospitals. And once-derided ‘pot shops’ are running food drives to keep America’s most vulnerable fed.

’We just want to show everyone that if everyone does a little we can accomplish a lot.’

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From hash to hand sanitizer

Healthcare workers nationwide have spent a month begging the public for more personal protective equipment—latex gloves, respirators, goggles, face shields, gowns, and disinfectants. Hundreds of thousands of lives are on the line if healthcare collapses under a wave of COVID cases.

Cannabis employs 243,700 Americans, many of them deemed “essential” and exempt from stay-at-home orders. They’re handling double the usual retail orders, and maintaining the weed supply chain, while also pitching into their communities.

Cannabis and coronavirus: Here’s what you need to know

In Santa Rosa, CA, about 5,000, 1-ounce tubes of hand sanitizer went out to Bay Area hospitals and police departments March 28, with another 20,000 on the way, courtesy of leading extract maker Care By Design.

Known statewide for the THC gel caps, tinctures, and vape pens, Care By Design converted a portion of their manufacturing space and production capacity to formulate and package up some COVID-killing gel. Hand sanitizer is back-ordered for weeks on Amazon.

care by design, hand sanitizer, covid-19

Care By Design is making hand sanitizer instead of extracts to help with COVID-19. (Courtesy Care by Design)

Jim Hourigan, CEO of Care By Design’s parent company CannaCraft, said “when we started hearing reports of a shortage in hand sanitizer, we knew that we could be of assistance without negatively impacting our employees or our operations.”

CannaCraft founder Dennis Hunter told Leafly that ingredients and packaging once used to make cannabis extracts and skin creams are now keeping cops and nurses safe at work.

Earlier this month CannaCraft called upon three staff chemists to compound ethanol and other medical-grade alcohol with 55-gallon drums of aloe vera—both of which CannaCraft had at the plant. Their on-site lab verified the compound’s strength against SARS-CoV-2, according to FDA guidance documents. CannaCraft then repurposed unused topicals packaging, industrial bottle-filling machines, and label makers to mass-produce the needed supplies.

CannaCraft had planned to release the initial 40-gallon, 5,000-tube run of hand sanitizer to cannabis stores and delivery services. But a local newspaper story drew the attention of nearby nurses and cops. On March 26, CannaCraft loaded cases of Care By Design hand sanitizer into a Santa Rosa Police Department patrol vehicle.

Cannabis companies are redeploying industrial equipment and logistics to fight COVID-19. (Courtesy Care By Design)

Cannabis companies are redeploying industrial equipment and logistics to fight COVID-19. (Courtesy Care By Design)

That’s a far cry from four years ago, when public safety officials urged voters to reject Proposition 64.

“It’s just really amazing to be able to be in that position to help people and the community, and be part of the solution to the things we’re dealing with,” Hunter said.

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Stepping up around the nation

CannaCraft isn’t the only company stepping up. Others around the industry are doing their part, including:

“The industry is rallying,” said Hunter. “Not just to help each other, but others.”

marijuana covid19 relief

CBD American Shaman distributes disinfectant on the East Coast. (Courtesy American Shaman)

marijuana covid19 relief

Caliva cannabis donates more than 15,000 pieces of PPE from its grow operations to a South Bay hospital. (Courtesy Caliva)

Jahlibyrd: masks, hospital and food bank space

On March 30, Jahlibyrd, based in Nevada County, CA, near Lake Tahoe, received a huge order of masks destined for the entire front line—cops, nurses, and cannabis workers included. The company had anticipated the community need for masks weeks ago, and put in an order.

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“We’ve been tracking this virus for a while and believe it’s a much bigger deal than most people do,” said Sky Rutherford, Jahlibyrd’s head of construction. “We are donating to multiple different first responders. We’re in touch with three different firehouses, the sheriffs department and two to three different medical clinics, as well the CEO of Dignity Health.”

Jahlibyrd has also donated the use of a 7,000 square-foot building to their local hospital for surge capacity, and 5,000 square-feet of space to the Nevada County food bank.

marijuana, covid19

Nevada County, CA cannabis brand Jahlybird distributes masks to local cops, nurses, and cannabis couriers this April. (Courtesy Jahlybird)

“We just want to show everyone that if everyone does a little we can accomplish a lot,” said Rutherford. “Just because we sell cannabis doesn’t mean we’re just in it for the money. It’s all about the community during these times.”

Food bank programs ramps up

Cannabis culture is rooted in compassion, from Brownie Mary Rathbun forward.

As sales surge at stores, cannabis retailers’ COVID-19 philanthropy efforts are just starting to ramp up. Many retail canna-businesses have existing food bank programs that they’re supporting as millions of Americans file for unemployment and face food scarcity.

For example, the Glass House group donates 5% of product sales from its Santa Barbara adult-use store to the Santa Barbara Foodbank. Farmacy employees also get paid sick leave and team lunches each day from local restaurants.

Santa Barbara’s local cannabis farming industry group has started the 93013 Fund (for the local ZIP code), and is donating $20,000 to local causes. Their fundraising target is $200,000.


  • Leading Bay Area, CA delivery service Sava donates 10% of sales to charity partners providing protective equipment for California medical workers.
  • ZoneIn CBD—a national brand from former NFL all-pro linebacker Lofa Tatupu—reports they will donate $5 of all purchases to Food Lifeline.
  • DefyCBD, co-founded by former NFL running back Terrell Davis, donated $400,000 in CBD drinks to Feeding America.

Compassion programs expand

Compassion programs earmark free or reduced-price cannabis for low-income medical cannabis patients and others. These programs have never been more important as folks on fixed incomes get squeezed hard.

Barbary Coast has two stores in San Francisco, and sold compassion eighth-ounces from Sherbinskis for $1, instead of the regular $75, to anyone in need on March 30. Dubbed Sherbinskis in Place, the eights sold out in a single morning. Similar sales will likely follow.

More marijuana business COVID-19 relief efforts

  • San Jose store and delivery service Caliva drops a truck’s-worth of shoe coverings, coverall suits, and sleeve covers at Valley Medical Center—donations from Caliva’s grow center in San Jose, CA. Caliva matches up to $10,000 in donations to Silicon Valley Strong.
  • Friends in Weed has donated over $35,000 in local restaurant gift cards, signed on more than 20 restaurant partners across Colorado and has welcomed 13 partners. In honor of 4/20, FIW is launching a four-day blitz called 420Help—a one-weekend giving push to galvanize the Colorado cannabis community to help fellow Coloradans in need during the COVID crisis. Every dollar raised during 4/20 weekend will go to the Governor’s Colorado COVID Relief Fund, which is providing millions of dollars in immediate aid to first responders, healthcare professionals, educators and other crucial community services throughout Colorado. 420Help challenges every cannabis consumer and fan to make a donation of $4.20 this 4/20 weekend and challenges cannabis businesses and coalitions to donate at least $420 or 4.2% of sales.
  • Multi-state operator 4Front Ventures in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect vulnerable populations, will shift some of its manufacturing capabilities at its Washington production facility to begin producing liquid disinfectant. In partnership with the Last Prisoner Project, starting on April 20, the organizations will donate a portion of the subsequent hand sanitizer bottles to select prison populations in need of supplies.
  • The Galley of Santa Rosa, CA, repurposes their state-of-the-art manufacturing and production facility for a first run of “Stop & Sanitize” hand sanitizer bottles—25,000 units for distribution to hospitals, retail shops, grocery, and drug stores.
  • San Diego business owners of Torrey Holistics have been combatting the shortage of medical safety supplies by donating thousands of masks and hand sanitizers to local hospitals and senior centers across San Diego. Alongside these efforts, Torrey Holistics is donating a portion of its April sales to senior centers who are the most vulnerable.
  • Oregon’s Chalice Farms implements a customer contribution program at its dispensaries, located throughout the Portland metropolitan area. Chalice Farms matches total customer contributions up to $5,000 weekly. Each of the seven dispensary locations will select a local restaurant in its community to purchase at least $5,000 worth of meals from, to be donated to local hospitals, fire departments, paramedics and police departments.
  • Connecticut spirits distiller SoNo 1420, known for their hemp-infused spirits, is using its alcohol base to produce complimentary hand sanitizers for the community. The company’s hemp-infused gins and vodkas are distilled from 100% gluten-free corn to create a 95% pure ethanol base. That base is now being used to make hand sanitizer using a formulation recommended by the WHO. With a final concentration of 80% ethanol, it is more than 99.99% effective in killing illness-causing microbes. Complimentary bottles of the hand sanitizer are available at the distillery located at 19 Day Street, Norwalk, CT 06854.

See more cannabis industry efforts to fight COVID-19? Share them in the comments below.

We updated this March 31 story on April 17.

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David Downs
David Downs
Leafly Senior Editor David Downs is the former Cannabis Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. He's appeared on The Today Show, and written for Scientific American, The New York Times, WIRED, Rolling Stone, The Onion A/V Club, High Times, and many more outlets. He is a 2023 judge for The Emerald Cup, and has covered weed since 2009.
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