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How The Coronavirus Disrupts The Cannabis Industry

coronavirus cannabis
Written by Alexandra Hicks

The coronavirus. If you’re following any sort of media outlet, you’ve definitely heard about it, and if you’re involved in any sort of the cannabios industry, you’re probably wondering how this disease could affect you.

Update: many European Cannabis events are already been cancelled…

We believe that the Coronavirus outbreak will have a strong negative effect on the cannabis industry. This is particularly true when it comes to networking events like large conventions. Thousands of people gather in a relatively confined area, they shake hands, touch products, exchange business cards, and the like. If anyone isn’t practicing proper hygiene, it’s easy to pick up a virus anytime you’re in a densely populated public area.

That said, what kind of impact will the coronavirus outbreak have on the blossoming cannabis event industry? Events are a cornerstone of the cannabis and hemp industry and a very important aspect of networking and business expansion. Although we shouldn’t expect this virus to kill the convention sector completely, it certainly seems poised to bring everything to a grinding halt until more is known about this disease.

*** Update (Feb 16th): The Health Ministry of Israel just issued a special statement asking travelers returning from Thailand, Hong-Kong, Singapore and Macau to remain in isolation for 14 days. Previously, only travelers coming from China were subject to such a self-quarantine.

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What is Coronavirus?

Let me start by saying that even though coronavirus has existed for a very long time (the deadly SARS is a form of coronavirus), this 2019/2020 outbreak is a new strain of coronavirus. Since this strain has only been recently discovered, not very much is known about it. What we do know, is that coronavirus (2019-nCov) was first detected in Wuhan City, China.

It was initially kept under wraps by the Chinese government, but after making headlines, over the last few weeks health officials have reported tens of thousands of cases. So far, there are over 42,000 infected with the total number of deaths at more than 1,000 – most of which are either in Wuhan, or have recently traveled to the area. In total, 25 different countries including the U.S. have reported cases, although outside of China, the numbers remain very low and only 1 death has been reported (in Thailand).

Researchers only recently confirmed person-to-person spread of coronavirus, which they believe is airborne. This means that it would spread similarly to the way the flu spreads, when someone coughs or sneezes into the air and the respiratory droplets are inhaled by another person. As with most other respiratory viruses, patients with coronavirus are thought to be most contagious when they are the most symptomatic.

Reported symptoms in confirmed cases range from mild flu-like symptoms to severe illness and possibly death. So far, the calculated death rate for 2019-nCoV is roughly 2 percent, with most deaths occurring in elderly patients and those weakened immune systems. The most common symptoms to look out for at the moment are: fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The incubation period – or time between exposure and first symptoms – ranges from 2 to 14 days.

One interesting discovery and possibly the only silver lining here is that this virus doesn’t seem to impact children the way it does adults. Very few child cases have been reported and of those that exist, their symptoms remained mild and manageable. The reason for this isn’t exactly clear, but it’s always a wonderful thing when diseases bypass the pediatric population. Not only can children be more susceptible to complications (generally speaking when it comes to pathogens), but they’re also not the cleanest among us, so viruses and bacteria can spread quickly among children.

Barcelona Tech Event Cancelled

The world’s largest phone convention in Barcelona, Spain was just cancelled due to growing fears over coronavirus. The Mobile World Congress, scheduled to take place between February 24th and 27th, will no longer be happening this year.

According to GSM Association CEO John Hoffman, the coronavirus outbreak has made it “impossible” to hold the event. “With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event.”

He continued: “The Host City Parties respect and understand this decision. The GSMA and the Host City Parties will continue to be working in unison and supporting each other for MWC Barcelona 2021 and future editions. Our sympathies at this time are with those affected in China, and all around the world.”

This move sets a precedent for what’s to come if this virus isn’t soon contained. Numerous cities around the world depend on the income earned from hosting conventions, which not only benefit the city itself but also the surrounding businesses like hotels, restaurants, and bars. Las Vegas is one such city that would suffer tremendously if the convention industry were to ever collapse, even temporarily.

Coronavirus and Cannabis Events

By nature, there is a lot of close contact at conventions, especially cannabis industry ones. Products are being shared and sampled, people shake hands, exchange business cards; and this all takes place in an enclosed space. The thought of this might be off-putting to people while a viral epidemic like coronavirus is taking place, and it’s likely that recreational cannabis events will suffer more in this regard.

Not only that, but there will likely be an absence at the upcoming events with all the major production businesses, vape manufactures, and many medical companies from China not making an appearance. I will report more on that after the CBD Expo in Las Vegas this weekend.

Furthermore, all the attention being driven towards solving the coronavirus crisis may result in everything else going on the back-burner, including cannabis research and regulatory updates. Cannabis experts are concerned that the coronavirus outbreak in China could de-accelerate progress being made here in the U.S. for the vaping crisis, as well as for cannabis and CBD regulation.

According to POLITICO, new FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn is putting all of his agency’s resources into containing the spread of coronavirus in the U.S., as well as additional research, and it is unclear when the crisis will end and business will return to normal.  

Top 11 Global Cannabis and Hemp Industry Events of 2020 (And Others To Look Out For)

Future Vaccine

Once Chinese scientists finally released the genetic sequence for 2019-nCoV, a group of researchers from Inovio quickly got to work trying to create a vaccine, and within only 3 hours, they were successful.

Inovio researchers have a vaccine for coronavirus in the works

“We have an algorithm which we designed, and we put the DNA sequence into our algorithm and came up with the vaccine in that short amount of time,” said Dr. Trevor Smith, director of research and development at Inovio.

So far, the vaccine has been tested on rats and guinea pigs and trials on a group of humans will begin very soon. The vaccine is expected to work like “a piece of biological software”, meaning it will guide the immune system to create T-cells and antibodies that will protect against this strain of coronavirus.

If all goes according to plan, the vaccine will be available to the public early this summer – which would be faster than most, if not all, of their previous vaccines.

Inovio Pharmaceuticals, which is located in Sorrento Valley, California, has also created a vaccine for the Zika virus, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and the vaccine for Ebola. According to Dr. Smith, “It’s something we are trained to do, and the infrastructure is here and the expertise is in house.”

Final Thoughts

Luckily for me, I’ve always been a bit of a germophobe so I’m well-prepared for any sort of pandemic; as far as hand washing and not touching my face goes. But in all seriousness, a virus this contagious and with so many unknowns has the potential to turn numerous industries on their heads. All we can do at the moment is hope that a solution is found quickly, before coronavirus causes any irreparable damage to cannabis industry stakeholders.

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About the author

Alexandra Hicks

Managing editor at Cannadelics and U.S based journalist, helping spread the word about the many benefits of using cannabis and psychedelics.