Sean Hocking, Author at Green Market Report

Sean HockingSean HockingMarch 31, 2020


Authored By: Patrick McKnight.


Businesses are on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak. Employers must attempt to balance public health concerns, compliance with emergency government orders, employee safety, consumer demand, and financial reality. Many states are enacting restrictions on business activity or even forcing “non-essential” companies to close or transition to a work-from-home policy.

When the crisis began it was not at all clear how the medical marijuana industry would fare. Recent developments suggest the industry has not only escaped closure, but many states have relaxed existing restrictions to encourage greater patient access while containing the spread of the virus.

The United States medical marijuana market is estimated to reach nearly $8 billion in sales in 2020 with annual growth of around 17%. 33 states currently have some type of medical marijuana program with an estimated 3 million total patients across the country. The industry employs 240,000 people.

The onset of the COVID-19 outbreak presents a new arena of legal uncertainty for a rapidly expanding industry known to inhabit a constant state of flux. The Pennsylvania medical marijuana industry reached $500 million in total sales over just its first two years of existence. The Keystone State currently has about 150,000 medical marijuana patients. The New Jersey medical marijuana industry has likewise demonstrated remarkable growth following recent expansions of eligibility.

Mid-Atlantic States Respond to COVID-19

The COVID-19 outbreak is hitting the Mid-Atlantic states harder than many other areas. New Jersey and Pennsylvania have been among the most aggressive in enacting emergency measures to slow the spread of the virus. Many of these executive orders restrict the ability of “non-essential” businesses to operate for the duration of the ongoing emergency.

The ambiguity over which businesses are “essential” or “life-sustaining” has generated confusion amongst business leaders and warranted multiple clarifications from officials. Most states have policies in place allowing businesses to apply for waivers. New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey also enacted statewide shelter in place orders. Pennsylvania currently has a shelter in place order across 22 counties.

On March 19, 2020, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced all “non-life-sustaining businesses” would be ordered to close physical locations. New York announced similar restrictions on March 20, 2020. On March 21, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order 107 forcing all “non-essential” retail businesses to close.

Is Medical Marijuana an Essential Business?

Nearly every state with a medical marijuana program has determined the industry should continue operating as an essential business. Under this designation, medical marijuana dispensaries are basically treated like pharmacies providing essential healthcare products.

Not only have states refrained from shutting down businesses engaged in the production and sale of medical marijuana, but many states have also relaxed existing restrictions.

Government promotion of social distancing may be making it easier for medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in Pennsylvania. On March 20, 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced the temporary suspension of several important restrictions. For the first time, patients and caregivers may pick up medical marijuana at the curb outside of dispensaries. Other loosened regulations in Pennsylvania include:

  • Waiver of limits on how much medical marijuana may be purchased.
  • Elimination of background checks for caregivers.
  • Relaxed restrictions on the number of patients per caregiver.
  • Allowing remote consultations for the renewal of medical marijuana cards.

“In the midst of COVID-19, we need to ensure medical marijuana patients have access to medication,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said in a press release. “Medical marijuana grower/processors and dispensaries are considered life-sustaining businesses under the Governor’s order for nonlife-sustaining businesses to close. We want to be sure cardholders in the medical marijuana program can receive medication for one of 23 serious medical conditions during this difficult time.”

New Jersey also relaxed restrictions on medical marijuana establishments, known as Alternative Treatment Centers (“ATCs”). New Jersey is allowing curbside pickup and reducing fees for caregivers from $100 to $20. On March 24, 2020, the New Jersey Department of Health’s Division of Medical Marijuana released guidance on how ATCs may hire employees during the emergency period. The guidance relaxes restrictions on background checks for “provisional” employees. New Jersey has about 73,000 medical marijuana patients and generated an estimated $100 million in sales in 2019.

The New York Department of Health considers all medical marijuana companies to be “essential businesses” and implemented similar steps to ensure access during the outbreak. Regulations on home-delivery are temporarily relaxed and sales are now permitted at the door of dispensaries.

Like several other states, Connecticut defines “essential businesses” in terms of guidance from the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The Agency has a list of 16 critical infrastructure sectors. Notwithstanding federal law, Connecticut created an exception from this guidance by placing medical marijuana within the healthcare sector.

Some states are placing additional restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries as part of their response to COVID-19. Maryland announced rules requiring dispensaries to limit over the counter interactions. The federal Small Business Administration is prohibited from offering disaster relief loans to any cannabis business.


The initial demand for medical marijuana during the COVID-19 outbreak was reported as very strong. Industry analysts estimate demand increased 20% nationwide in mid-March, 2020. Dispensaries in Pennsylvania and New Jersey reported long lines as patients added medical marijuana to their emergency shopping lists. Available data suggests this preliminary spike in demand was followed by a steep, sudden decline.

The long-term legal ramifications of the COVID-19 outbreak are difficult to predict. As the unprecedented public health emergency continues to spread across North America, the medical marijuana industry should continue to monitor the developing legal implications.


Patrick McKnight is an Associate in the Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg LLP Litigation

Practice Group and member of their COVID-19 Task Force. He can be reached at

Sean HockingSean HockingMarch 30, 2020


Guest post by Hanson Bridgett

On Thursday, March 19, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a stay at home order to protect the health and well-being of all Californians and to establish a consistent approach across the state to slow the spread of COVID-19. This order went into effect on Thursday, March 19, 2020, and is in place until further notice.

The order identifies certain services as essential, including food, prescriptions, and healthcare. These services can continue despite the stay at home order. Because cannabis is an essential medicine for many residents, the Governor clarified his order on March 22, 2020, by declaring that cannabis retailers are an essential business and workers supporting cannabis retail and dietary supplement retail are an essential worker force. In conjunction with the Governor’s declaration, the California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), and the CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing division of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) have issued advisories stating that licensees may continue to operate at this time so long as their operations comply with local rules and regulations.

Any licensee that continues to operate must adopt social distancing and anti-congregating measures and must follow the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease at all times.

Further, the CDPH’ s advisory states that to continue to ensure the integrity of products, it is important that employees handling cannabis or cannabis products continue to follow good manufacturing practices (GMPs), as required by regulation. GMPs include safe handling practices to prevent contamination, such as washing hands and work surfaces, wearing clean outer clothing, and any precautions necessary to prevent allergen cross-contact or other contamination. CDPH encourages posting the poster below in cannabis manufacturing facilities to highlight these essential routine tasks:

There are no requirements to notify CDPH if one of your employees is subject to quarantine or tests positive for COVID-19. However, CDPH requests that licensees do what they can to limit exposure to other employees, and follow all social distancing and safety instructions provided by your local and state public health departments.

The analysis in this article is limited to current local or state laws and regulations as they relate to the cannabis industry. Readers should note that there is a divergence between Federal law and California’s laws regarding the legality of the production, distribution and sale of cannabis. This article does not address the applicability of Federal law in this area and should not be considered legal advice.


Sean HockingSean HockingMarch 30, 2020


Authored By: Arundati Dandapani

According to Vividata’s National Cannabis Consumer Study, 70% of consumers are not sure they know the difference between THC and CBD. Moreover, quality remains the top criterion in selecting a cannabis product for purchase. How are companies setting the standards for quality and how are we researching consumers to understand their experiences with cannabis products accurately and ethically? This post explores the manufacturing and research standards to consider when conducting research studies with cannabis.

Product Quality in Manufacturing

At an HIV Community Cannabis Education event held in Toronto, a cannabis company proudly declared their company had not had a single product recall to date. Product recall happens when a product is defective, damaged or does not meet the customer’s expectations causing the product to be called off the shelf. This “zero recall” standard, the team said, was attributed to the fact that their cannabis product standards with regard to food safety and health was high and involved documentation of over 100 pages.

High product quality relies on a true understanding of the entire supply chain, from seed to sale with sanitized processes and quality checks including the creation of well-detailed preventative control plans that are in place to avoid instances of hazards like contamination or other public safety risks. These are the responsibility of the manufacturer.

Setting Standards for Cannabis Research Studies 

When companies, individuals or groups conduct or commission research of any kind on cannabis product one or more of its various forms (edibles, topicals, beverages, etc.) among human subjects, legal knowledge of the laws outlined the Cannabis Act should be distributed to all participants ahead of time. In fact, it is encouraged that respondents are tested on their knowledge of cannabis to ensure they understand the ins and outs of the product they are being researched for or with.

Respondent experience must be central to the research exercise. With cannabis, every user has a different experience, but the law that applies to everyone is the same. This is also why it’s so challenging to create standards that accommodate for the medical as well as the recreational standards in the conduct of consumer research around cannabis. The guidelines below detail some prime facets to consider in order to maintain high quality control standards in the cannabis research space:

o  Compliance with the Cannabis Act and the MRIA Code of Conduct including referencing the guidelines listed in the Pharmaceutical Research section.

Respondent checks: Age gates are in place to ensure compliance, and if underaged, then medical licenses must be checked.

Product testing: The products have been through rigourous checks and audits by Health Canada and display the legal seal.

Technology powered research: Virtual clinical trials and other accelerated technologies that mix the potential of new technologies with cannabis to create research insights quickly and more accurately, are being classified as Cannabis 3.0, triggering new innovations and improved data quality through better user experiences.

o   Medical conditions: A panel of doctors must be present at the time of any product research to ensure no adverse effects lessen or damage the health of participants.

24-hour follow up: All respondents must be followed up with after a period of 24 hours to see that no negative consequences have occurred since the research.

An individualized approach to research must be adopted when the product is being tested for consumers. With cannabis research studies, companies might appear to follow different standards of benchmarking product quality, making it difficult for customers to judge products without trying them. While the medical legal market has been commercially legal since 2013, the adult-use or recreational market only became legal in October 2018, with the complete legalization of all product forms happening in October 2019.

Some industry insiders and veteran consumers will argue that legal market cannabis has fallen short on expectations with price-point, being 62% more expensive than black market cannabis according to Statistics Canada. Canada’s largest syndicated study of cannabis consumers reveals that price remains a top barrier to legal cannabis consumption.

As legal cannabis is still new in Canada, DIY methods and products are rampant. The gatekeepers of standards are constantly challenged when the market draws a false line between efficiency and quality. For individualized products, standards are new and developing, even as the industry is fast-moving and dependent on an intuitive honour code across the supply chain for effective quality control. An example that best demonstrates the need for quality control is around the lack of information about what cannabis is made of, what its effects and health benefits (where applicable) might be, and how to understand consistency, potency, and dosage in consuming (or trading) medically and recreationally.

Instituting Dialogue and Collaboration

There are differences in standards and best practices between micro-cultivation and commercial growing according to the NACPT Pharma College that advocates for quality and accredited expertise at every point in the supply chain. One of the goals with an industry as fast-moving as cannabis (disproportionate to the pace of information flow) should be to bring both Health Canada and the licensed producers (LPs) in ongoing communication with one another, and this can happen best through an association that works to protect the industry.

Some companies are proud of not having had a single product recall since their setup. This is owed to the intensive process and documentation in place, popularly dubbed “GXP” encompassing the gamut of standards including GMP, GPP, GACP and other international manufacturing and production standards. Others have faced the wrath of their consumers, media, and everyone in their supply chain networks for not complying with Health Canada’s standards and the Cannabis Act. Cannabis brands still have a long way to go as consumers understand the full legal market ecosystem.

Modelling the Future of Cannabis Studies with Care

Cannabis companies have a relatively empty legal canvas to fill, when compared with other industries, and the category’s future success will draw from the gold standards of ancillary industries including (and not limited to) technology, logistics, transportation, data analytics and market intelligence, packaging, and the media among others. A large proportion of new users’ information is gained from the media, posing an important responsibility for online outlets and websites to be posting the most accurate and well-researched cannabis insights for consumers.


Arundati Dandapani is Chief Editor of MRIA-ARIM, Canada’s foremost association for marketing research and intelligence professionals, and Founder of, a cross-sectoral resource for Canada’s newest residents. A well-published researcher and insights storyteller, she advises businesses and non-profits across a range of industries, was named a 2020 AAPOR Burns Bud Roper Fellow and has earned industry honours like the 2020 QRCA Young Professionals Grant, and the Inaugural GRIT Future List Award in 2019. 

Originally published By:

Sean HockingSean HockingMarch 7, 2020


First up let’s give you the press release

Financial Firm Behind the World’s Largest Cannabis Fund to Partner with SALT on all Content in Emerging Vertical

NEW YORKMarch 5, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — SALT, a leading global thought leadership forum, announced that ETF Managers Group (ETFMG), the thought leader and issuer behind the world’s largest cannabis ETF, MJ, will take on a leading content production role at this year’s flagship Las Vegas event. The firm will be the exclusive sponsor and curator of the first ever cannabis track taking place on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 20.

The agenda will cover the business, banking, regulation, and innovation of cannabis, hemp, and CBD. At SALT Las Vegas last year, ETFMG led the “New Frontier of Cannabis Investing” panel on the Nuveen Stage, in addition to hosting two exclusive thought leadership events with their partner in education, Canopy Growth Corporation.

“We are proud to partner with one of the most forward-looking firms in the financial space,” said SALT founder Anthony Scaramucci. “As the cannabis business and the regulatory environment both mature, investors are looking for trusted information. Together with ETFMG, we aim to educate delegates about this complex and increasingly competitive market.”

In addition to managing the production of the cannabis stage during the conference, ETFMG will host a second annual invitation-only “Legends and Leaders” cocktail event at Bellagio. This will be complemented by a reprisal of its “Cannabis Innovator Breakfast” at Lago, this year’s topic and featured speaker(s) will be announced closer to the May event.

“We are excited to return to SALT with the opportunity to produce the first ever cannabis content track and interactive experience allowing delegates and media alike to immerse themselves in this global investment theme,” said ETFMG’s Chief Marketing Officer, Tricia Vanderslice. “The cannabis track will cross industries and borders unveiling a lineup of featured speakers that are paving the way in this rapidly evolving industry.”

Here’s his SALT bio which includes a rather understated line about his train disaster time at the White House

He served as the White House Communications Director for a period in July 2017.

Remember That Week !


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