Cannabis dispensaries in Massachusetts are teaming up to donate up to 5,000 gallons of hand sanitizer per week to local hospitals dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. The Commonwealth Dispensary Association, a cannabis trade group in Massachusetts, mobilized more than half of its 36 members to mass-produce the much-needed hygiene product during a time when health care providers face a shortage of hand sanitizer and other protective equipment.

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“We’re just doing our part during this crisis,” association president David Torrisi told Wikileaf. “We’re donating the hand sanitizer, so we’re not trying to make a buck off of it. I’ve seen other industries do this as well, and they’re doing it to make money. Nothing wrong with making money, but our members of the CDA felt that this is something they could do pretty quickly, use their expertise, use their production facilities to help out hospitals and health care providers in the area.”

Torrisi’s comment may have been aimed at alcohol distilleries, many of which have also been producing hand sanitizer in Massachusetts and nationwide, but often selling it for profit.

The donation part is key for both the cannabis industry and the hospitals, as reports spread about price gouging on critical medical supplies and other household staples. The production effort has been authorized by the state governor’s administration, and dispensaries are coordinating with the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Organization to distribute five gallon jugs of hand sanitizer.

Although the substance is relatively simple to make (it just requires the proportional mixing of alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and glycerin, according to the World Health Organization), producing it at scale and with the precision necessary to guarantee effectiveness requires more specialized equipment.

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“They have the facilities, they have some of the raw materials, such as the ethanol, that they use for their extraction purposes,” said Torrisi of the granite state’s cannabis producers. “One of our members was reading about hand sanitizer and the shortages, and realized pretty quickly that they could help do this. It was equipment they had readily available.”

Having ethanol already on hand for THC extraction, and the facilities to safely store and handle it, the dispensaries still needed to get their hands on the other two key ingredients. Hydrogen-peroxide was relatively easy to obtain, according to one member dispensary, but glycerin was so hard to find that they ended up having to borrow some from a local e-cigarette company.

John Hillier, a dispensary owner in Ayer, Massachusetts who spearheaded the emergency hand sanitizer plan, said in a press release that he hoped local cannabis producers could help relieve some of the burden on pharmacists and hospitals. “I also had the opportunity to visit Lowell General Hospital and observed the production of hand sanitizer in one of their facilities,” he said. “It was clear to me that hospitals are spending valuable resources producing hand sanitizer when they should be preparing for what’s coming down the road.”

The move comes as cannabis companies in the newly legal Massachusetts industry try to make their presence felt in local communities. Recreational dispensaries have not been deemed essential by Governor Charlie Baker, despite liquor stores achieving essential status, and dispensary owners are chafing at what they see as a double standard.   

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