As COVID-19 cases continue to drop, most restrictions, including indoor mask mandates have been lifted throughout the Philadelphia region. But some families, particularly those with young children who are not eligible to be vaccinated, may have concerns about protecting their children.
Dr. Julia Shaklee Sammons, a physician in the division of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, detailed why it is an appropriate time to drop mask mandates. She also acknowledged that some people may not feel comfortable going maskless.
“We are seeing some of the lowest levels of COVID-19 disease activity and hospitalizations to date,” Sammons said during a media briefing Monday. “At my own institution, we have seen test positivity decline from a peak of over 40% at the height of the omicron surge to now around 2%.”
Sammons, who is also an assistant vice president in CHOP’s Office of Preparedness, Prevention and Response, said this trend is expected to continue over the next several months. She also noted that the region is at a different point than when the pandemic began two years ago – vaccinations and natural infections have built a much higher level of collective immunity.
“And finally we are also seeing differences in the virus,” she said. “While we expect that new variants will emerge, what we saw with the most recent omicron variant is that while it was more contagious, it was less virulent. I can say as a pediatrician, we saw a large number of children infected with the omicron variant – many more than we had seen in other stages of the pandemic – but many were presenting with clinical syndromes that are very similar to the ones that we see year after year during peak respiratory virus season due to viruses such influenza and respiratory syncytial virus.
“These syndromes are things like croup and bronchiolitis, so for us, these were all signs we are beginning to move to another stage of the pandemic.”
Though the conditions are right in certain places to start lifting mask mandates, Sammons said that some communities may be slower to lift COVID-19 restrictions and that mandates might need to be reinstated if case counts and hospitalization rates spike again.
“Even with lower cases numbers, some individuals may not be ready to unmask yet and that is OK,” Sammons said.
In areas without mandates, going maskless becomes a personal decision that families must make based on their risk tolerance, especially for parents of unvaccinated children or those who are immunocompromised.
Because it remains a fluid situation, Sammons recommended parents consult guidance from local public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to get a better sense of the level of COVID-19 transmission in their areas.
She also encouraged anyone who has not been vaccinated to do so, noting it takes time to get to the highest level of immunity. Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has not yet been authorized for children under age 5, but Sammons said it may happen as early as April.
Source Here: phillyvoice.com
A Toast to Cannabis Beverages, a Growing Market Segment
Even if you don’t know much about cannabis pop culture, people are probably familiar with the phrase, “puff, puff, pass.”’But what if the future of cannabis is really more like “sip, sip, sip“? That’s what has everyone from the largest cannabis companies to the most mainstream beverage companies buzzing.
Soft drinks, beer, juice, tea, coffee and bottled waters are major categories of the beverage industry, valued at approximately $1.5 trillion globally and $150 billion in the U.S. It’s no secret beverage companies have long eyed the next big growth opportunity in the cannabis market. Beverage makers, large and small, are now experimenting ‒ some even bringing to market ‒ cannabis-infused drinks in each of these categories.
Pepsi Co. created a hemp-infused energy drink; Canopy Growth introduced a top selling CBD drink, Quatreau, and the company is backed by beverage industry leader Constellation Brands. Meanwhile, Molson Coors revealed a cannabis-infused beverage line with Truss, and Boston Beer developed cannabis-infused beverages in Canada. Jones Soda recently announced its launch of a line of cannabis-infused sodas under the name Mary Jones. These are just a few of the major beverage industry names adding cannabis drinks to their product lines.
That’s not to mention the established cannabis beverage brands and market leaders such as BellRock Brands, Keef, Evergreen Herbal, CannaCraft and CANN, or infusion technologies companies like Vertosa and mainstream beverage packagers such as Zukerman Honickman.
When will you be able to go to a bar, restaurant, concert venue or lounge and drink your cannabis? Maybe sooner than you think.
Right now, several states are formulating plans to launch adult-use markets, with New York and New Jersey figuring prominently. And with more mature state markets contemplating venues such as lounges, many are pushing for expanded access to beverages. Internationally, Canadian regulators have taken notice of the segment and recently issued regulations on cannabis beverages.
It’s the mainstreaming of cannabis.
Companies are betting big that consumers who choose not to consume cannabis because of perceived social stigmas or fear of getting “too high” from highly concentrated THC products, or who simply don’t want to smoke or vape a product, can find an alternative in cannabis beverages. Cannabis beverages offer consumers an option to microdose and are often more socially acceptable and user-friendly ways to consume cannabis.
It makes sense given larger trends. Consumers who are health-conscious are less likely to smoke anything, let alone cannabis, and are looking for alternatives in their lifestyle choices ‒ and for a relatable product experience that doesn’t ruin the next day.
Think of it this way: Cannabis beverages are to high-THC cannabis products such as vapes, butter and shatter what beer and wine are to high-proof alcohol products such as tequila, vodka and gin. Consequently, just as the lower alcohol content of beer and wine makes those drinks more appealing to more people for more situations, cannabis drinks can reach a larger consumer base than traditional cannabis products.
However, for cannabis beverages to meet their growth potential, a number of things need to happen according to industry experts.
First is the harmonization of state requirements on labeling, testing and packaging and the regulatory acceptance of beverages as a form factor play a role. If regulations are not harmonized, it will impact the cannabis beverage companies’ ability to scale. Second, cannabis beverages need their own separate regulations. Too often, cannabis beverages are shoe-horned into edibles when they are different and distinct product offerings. Third, opportunities for on-site consumption are critical to mainstreaming cannabis beverages.
And, cannabis is still federally illegal. Therefore, many beverage giants are approaching and entering the industry cautiously. Alcohol companies have largely been quicker to jump into the fray than traditional, nonalcoholic beverage brands. It is illegal to combine alcohol and cannabis in the United States, however, so the cannabis-infused market consists of water-based drinks.
Due to national prohibition, beverage companies bringing cannabis into their portfolio are largely operating under state-by-state laws and a varied regulatory environment – catering to states with adult-use cannabis programs. This patchwork of regulation impacts business operations from advertising and marketing to packaging, labeling and even dosing instructions. For most companies, the cost of doing business increases in this operating environment as laws vary across state lines.
When federal prohibition ends, a policy priority for the industry and regulators will be to reconcile the regulatory environments and state-by-state differences. We’re also likely to see the industry come together and advocate for responsible consumption, standard policies and best practices. Expect massive public service campaigns and industry and trade groups coming together to educate the public and policymakers on smart, responsible use of infused cannabis beverages.
Today’s federal cannabis prohibition is also why some manufacturers are embracing CBD-only drinks. Sales of CBD drinks (federally legal as they are derived from hemp versus the psychoactive component of THC) are expected to hit $2.5 billion and are available in places where cannabis is not legal yet.
Meanwhile, THC-infused beverages will account for $1 billion in U.S. sales by 2025, according to Brightfield Group. While not a huge part of the pie in relation to the $24 billion cannabis industry, cannabis infused beverages are one of the fastest growing segments.
So don’t be surprised if sometime soon you see a cannabis drink for sale. Companies are betting big and it might just be time to imbibe.
Cannabis Extraction Virtual Conference
Source Here: cannabisindustryjournal.com
Mitigating Counterfeiting in the Cannabis Industry
According to projections, counterfeiting and piracy could reach $2.3 trillion in the US alone, bringing the economic cost to $4.2 trillion globally by 2022. The pandemic made the billion-dollar problem even worse. Products that you directly ingest or place in contact with your body have become a target for counterfeiters introducing some serious side effects.
More than 70% of the CBD products purchased at unlicensed CBD shops in the Los Angeles area failed after-market laboratory testing according to the SC Labs report brought by the United Cannabis Business Association (UCBA). More than half of the tested samples labeled as hemp or hemp-based did not qualify as hemp. Perhaps the biggest concern is the level of contamination which in some cases, were several hundred times the allowed limit.
With the rise of synthetic cannabinoid agonists, some of them having a structure similar to THC, it is hard to keep track of the complete list. The majority of these chemicals are produced in Asia without standards or regulations. The most extreme case has been a version of synthetic cannabis laced with rat poison that led to several deaths.
Last year in Florida, synthetic THC was to blame for daily emergency calls to Poison Control. Poisoning cases linked to counterfeit cannabis edibles tripled between 2019 and 2020.
Vaping is growing rapidly in popularity. An illicit market has emerged and with it a rise in Vaping-Associated Pulmonary Illness (VAPI). Over a hundred cases have been reported in California contributing to over a thousand reported cases nationwide.
Consumers pay a harsh and unnecessary price with their health, risking long-term damage or even death. If you don’t know the source, it is very difficult to identify counterfeit cannabis products. Still, some telling points can help you identify the fakes:
Authentic-looking products available at dubious prices perhaps bought at a gas station or a convenience store.
Packaging that matches a reputable brand, without the brand’s logo and missing required details such as an amount of CBD and THC per serving.
Missing laboratory testing information
Authentic-looking counterfeits can have labeling that mimics a brand’s look, but could be missing key information.
Legitimate product manufacturers and brand owners suffer financial losses, as well as something even more precious – trust and reputation.
Essential elements of a brand protection program
Are you running a business in the cannabis industry? It is your top-quality product the customers want and not some third-rate knockoff. How can you provide your customers with the means to verify that their product is genuine? Let’s weigh several methods.
1. Provide images and videos of an authentic item on your website
Customers can visually compare the details of the product.
Customers need to know your website and navigate to a specific page with product details. You need to capture several details of the product.
2. Label each item with a unique product code. Optionally use a hologram image as an additional anti-forgery
Customers can verify a single product code instead of several visual details.
You must be able to generate unique product codes and maintain a database of these codes for later verification.
You need to implement a solution for customers to authenticate their product codes.
3. Use a product number authority like ProdNum to issue and validate unique QR product codes for you
Customers don’t need to retype an alphanumeric product code, merely scan a QR code with a camera to get instant verification.
The manufacturer doesn’t need to implement and maintain a custom solution.
You need to arrange printing of the QR codes on the package or stickers you will attach to each product.
The inevitable drawback of a profitable cannabis business is the fact it attracts counterfeiters. Businesses and customers joining forces in the never-ending battle against counterfeiting is a winning scenario for both.
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