Health Canada Asks Weed Industry for Help with COVID-19 Testing
Cannabis testing labs are evaluating whether they can help test for coronavirus infections, while legal weed producers are donating masks, gloves, and other protective equipment to medical staff.
Published on March 30, 2020

Canada's legal cannabis industry is stepping up to help fight the ongoing coronavirus pandemic by donating protective equipment and testing services to the medical community.

Last week, Health Canada (HC) sent an email to licensed cannabis testing laboratories asking for assistance with COVID-19 testing. "Health Canada is working to identify lab capacity that might be available across the country in various sectors, including at licensed cannabis production sites, to assist with supporting COVID-19 testing," wrote Acting Director General Joanne Garrah, according to BNN Bloomberg.

Canadian health officials are struggling to keep track of the spread of this virus, but gaps in testing are making it difficult to identify the total number of cases. Supply shortages and lack of properly-trained medical professionals are causing delays in the testing process, and many patients have been forced to wait weeks for their test results. These testing delays make it hard to keep an accurate count of the total number of cases, leaving health officials uncertain about how fast the illness is spreading.

In an effort to decrease the wait time for testing results, HC has asked cannabis testing labs if they could use their existing staff and equipment to assist the country's testing efforts. "We are currently working to understand the specific needs and related questions, and we will be [in] touch in the coming days to request more information,” Garrah wrote. “If you have lab capacity within your facility and are interested in assisting, please notify us by email."

"We all think it’s an exciting opportunity and [are] quickly looking at whether our various lab spaces could meet needs," said Laura Gallant, spokesperson for Aurora Cannabis, to BNN Bloomberg. "We just have to do due diligence in terms of seeing if our resources will meaningfully help fill gaps HC is identifying, which is our hope."

So far, it is unclear whether cannabis testing labs will be able to help test for coronavirus, but cannabis companies are finding other ways to help out. Several major licensed cannabis producers are donating personal protection equipment (PPE) from their production facilities to medical providers. Canopy Growth, a Canadian cannabis producer, is now donating gloves, masks, and Tyvek suits from two recently-closed weed greenhouses to local medical facilities.

Quebecois cannabis firm HEXO Corp. also announced that it was donating 150 N95 facemasks to local paramedics who have run out of protective masks. Other Canadian cannabis producers are also evaluating whether they have enough stock of PPEs to donate to medical professionals. Some companies, like Aurora Cannabis, Organigram, and Tilray, have reported that they are already facing a shortage of PPE equipment, and hence will be unable to contribute to the relief efforts. 

Alcohol companies have also done their part to fight the spread of the virus, by creating hand sanitizer and other sterilization products with their own liquor, and donating them to medical professionals and prioritized hospitality workers.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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