COVID-19 keeps ravaging the world’s economy, but even as the economy collapses, the cannabis industry holds up and manages to still be a profitable business. In China, where the virus first originated, there are still people interested in cannabis, looking to keep doing business with other countries. Still, the different restrictions placed around the globe make cannabis distribution a difficult task.
After the declaration of the coronavirus COVID-19 as a pandemic, the medical and recreational use of cannabis has increased, at least in the United States and Canada, said Puerto Rican pharmacologist Ricardo Rivera Acevedo.
“The entire economy is collapsing, except for cannabis, which is in full swing. For me, that has been incredibly good, because none of my clients have stopped working. On the contrary, they have more people coming in,” he said in a telephone interview.
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On the instruction of the Canadian government, all citizens, except those providing essential services, are working from home to curb the spread of COVID-19. Th quarantine has prevented Rivera Acevedo from visiting his clients, with whom, however, he maintains constant communication.
Cannabis in times of a pandemic, a profitable business
“I am even working with clients in China, where the virus originated, but it has already begun to diminish. I am working very closely with them to order products and equipment. Right now, the Chinese, who have managed to counteract the outbreak, are solving quite a lot for us. We depend on the companies over there to provide us with the equipment we need, because the ones over here are not at full capacity,” he said.
Rivera Acevedo did not hesitate to say that the perceived increase in cannabis use is directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Cannabis, along with alcohol, has been designated as an essential product or service. Cannabis companies and shops, which distribute online and physically, are still open and adapting to the system. Purchases have exploded. Not only have people increased their purchases, but also the amount they buy, and that has a direct relationship with COVID-19,” he said.
Usually, he added, when people congregate in large groups, they prefer to drink alcohol. But, when they are alone, as in these days of quarantine, they opt for cannabis.
“More people use recreational cannabis, but those who use it for medical purposes have also been able to stock up. It’s good that people at home are looking for a way to escape,” he said.
According to Rivera Acevedo, cannabis sales in Canada and the United States have increased “almost 100%.” The expert did not have statistics from Europe, but, in his opinion, “this is a global trend.”
“I’ve seen pictures of the coffee shops in Holland and they’re full, with rows that go all the way to the corners. In Puerto Rico, sales records have also been broken. I know the cannabis industry very well,” he said.
Online tutoring as an alternative at times of crisis
On the other hand, the pandemic forced Rivera Acevedo to make his debut as an online professor. He teaches in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of British Columbia, where he heads a laboratory.
The academic institution closed its doors two weeks ago and ordered the teachers to continue classes online.
“This whole process has been very interesting because I am a person who enjoys interacting with the students. Now, there is an electronic division, which requires a bit of adaptation in terms of being able to transmit the information,” he said, acknowledging that, for his students, the process has been much easier.
“But I have adapted. I’ve been able to get a handle on it and I’m more confident in the process,” he said.
In total, Rivera Acevedo gives three courses – one introductory and two concentration courses – to 225 students. Other teachers are also involved in his classes.
Distribution chain disruption as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic
As of Wednesday, March 25th, Canada had 3,281 cases of COVID-19 and 30 deaths. That day, the government ordered that all travelers returning from abroad be placed in isolation.
In addition to these measures, all citizens are required to stay in their homes. In Vancouver, Rivera Acevedo said, police “are checking everywhere.”
“It’s in one’s heart to be in solidarity with the people. Shops and banks are closed. It’s pretty hard to get supplies. Many grocery stores are closed and people arrive early at supermarkets that are open and take everything,” he said, noting that the province of British Columbia, where Vancouver is located, has the most cases of COVID-19.
“Compared to what’s happening in Canada, what Puerto Rico is doing about the virus has been good. A lot of the things that were done in Puerto Rico should have been implemented here before. Now they are accelerating the process a little bit, although it has not been that bad, because the Canadian health system is much more developed,” he said.
Rivera Acevedo explained that there is no curfew in the city and that businesses have established their own closing hours.
People can leave their homes, for example, to get food, go to the pharmacy or the hospital, walk the pets, and if they are essential employees, such as doctors or nurses.
“If you are caught on the street without a valid reason, you will get a severe fine. Other than that, the most they are stressing is not to be within 6 to 9 feet of people, and you can’t have more than five people in a store at once. The stores have put up fences to keep people out,” he said.
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First published in El Nuevo Dia, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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