How Colombian medical cannabis producers are adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic

A Clever Leaves worker at a production site in Colombia. (Photo by Matt Lamers)

Medical cannabis producers the world over are scrambling to adapt to fast-evolving business and health implications from the novel coronavirus pandemic, with those in Colombia adapting stricter health and safety protocols.

The country saw its first regulated sales of medical cannabis – a milestone amid otherwise turbulent times.

According to the Ministry of Health, Colombia had 2,054 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 55 deaths as of April 8.

Marijuana Business Daily reached out to some of the top medical cannabis businesses in Colombia to find out what they are doing to try to lessen the risks associated with the COVID-19 outbreak.

Blueberries

Blueberries Medical has operations in the Colombian Cundinamarca department.

The company “has a well-prepared supply chain that is positioned to minimize disruption,” according to a recent news release.

As part of its COVID-19 response, Blueberries:

  • Instituted remote working practices for staff, where possible.
  • Implemented “rigorous” screenings processes at all operational locations.
  • Maximized physical distancing at operational facilities.
  • Mandated two-week self-isolation for any employee or contractor showing potential symptoms.
  • Restricted and tracked all employee travel.

Clever Leaves

Julián Wilches, chief regulatory officer of Clever Leaves, told MJBizDaily that the company is taking measures as recommended by authorities in each of the countries where it operates. The company encourages social distancing and hand-washing throughout all its operations.

“Every employee that can work from home is doing so,” Wilches said.

At cultivation facilities in the Boyacá department of Colombia, Clever Leaves has:

  • Canceled all visits and travel to the facilities for nonessential staff.
  • Increased sanitary measures, including reducing the concentration of workers. For instance, lunch hours are now more flexible to avoid physical gatherings of employees.
  • Mandated the use of face masks.
  • Banned employees from bringing their own food to the facilities. The company provides lunch and snacks to all workers.
  • Expanded transportation to the facility for workers.

In its extraction facility in Cundinamarca, the company designed a plan to minimize the number of people working indoors.

Employees were divided into working groups that go to the laboratory only on the specific dates and times they are needed.

Khiron Life Sciences

Asked by MJBizDaily about the specific measures the company implemented to mitigate risks associated with the pandemic, Khiron CEO Alvaro Torres said the company is:

  • Postponing or canceling scheduled travel and programming events in all countries.
  • Working remotely in every country in which it operates.

At its production facility in Colombia, Khiron is “operating according to the decree established by the national government, only with the necessary people and with all the security measures, following the protocols dictated by the World Health Organization and the national authorities so we can reduce to the minimum any risk,” Torres said.

Khiron also “implemented an innovative teleconsultation system to meet our patients needs while respecting social distancing in Colombia,” he added.

Pharmacielo

Pharmacielo CEO David Attard told MJBizDaily that the company is prioritizing worker safety.

“Our 450 Colombian employees are our most valuable resource, and their safety, health and both mental and financial well-being are top priority for us, as well as are the well-being of their families and the community,” he said.

“As the world unites on both the health and economic fronts to tackle this pandemic, we are doing our part and taking the necessary measures to protect our people while enabling the company to return to full operations quickly once restrictions are lifted.”

Specific measures being taken by Pharmacielo include:

  • Continuing all agronomic-based operations but with reduced staff levels.
  • Carrying out rotating shifts with required on-site adjustments to enable physical distancing.
  • Utilizing appropriate protective equipment as part of laboratory and processing activities.
  • Implementing work-at-home measures for administrative and support staff; providing those workers with the tools and technologies that enable them to telecommute.
  • Keeping staff who work at the indoor extraction facility on full salary but requiring them to stay at home and practice physical distancing.

A Pharmacielo spokesperson noted that “purchase orders of ethanol, which is used as an extraction solvent, has been temporarily halted as suppliers redirect distribution to the benefit of the local health-care and sanitation sector for use in disinfection and other applications.”

Alfredo Pascual can be reached at [email protected]

For more of Marijuana Business Daily’s ongoing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the cannabis industry, click here.

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