At one of his daily press conferences, Gov. Gavin Newsom touted the importance of public-private partnerships to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
Locally, a number of people in the latter half of that group are buttressing his statement.
Jahlibyrd — a local cannabis cultivator, manufacturer and distributor — has ordered about 40,000 KN95 masks and distributed about 15,000 of them as of Wednesday to fire and police departments as well as medical facilities and cannabis retailers in northern California on a need-basis.
In addition to teaming up with Grass Valley’s South Fork Vodka to produce and donate hand sanitizer to local groups, Jahlibyrd also donated 10,000 feet of space from one of its buildings to be used by The Food Bank of Nevada County for storing and packaging purposes.
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Jahlibyrd’s business leaders said they began thinking about the pandemic in late February after it spread in China, and began considering how to help local institutions.
“We wanted to get ahead of this thing,” said Jahlibyrd owner Chris Anderson.
Anderson and Sky Rutherford, the operations manager for the company, have been helping to distribute sanitizing materials in addition to masks.
Penn Valley Fire Protection District Capt. Jon Pitts said Jahlibyrd donated 250 masks as well as hand sanitizer bottles to the fire department around April 2. Pitts said the fire department’s staff of 12 really needed the masks.
“We were running pretty low on our stock order of masks,” said Pitts. “We’re able to use these on a daily basis.”
North San Juan Fire Battalion Chief Boyd Johnson said in the next couple of days his department is expected to receive about 200 masks from Jahlibyrd.
Nevada County Cannabis Alliance Executive Director Diana Gamzon was heartened, but not surprised, to see an outpouring of goodwill from the cannabis organization.
“It’s encouraging to be living in a time where our leading cannabis businesses, such as Jahlibyrd, can openly contribute during times of crisis,” she wrote in an email. “As the cannabis industry strengthens, we’ll see more contributions from these local businesses while we all work to build a resilient community.”
‘WANTING TO HELP’
Doug Fleming — who in March won a Nevada City Council seat, and is president of The Food Bank of Nevada County board of directors — said Jahlibyrd has provided critical help.
“(Chris Anderson) was just so willing to help and open his whole facility,” said Fleming. “It’s really helped us to stockpile more food (because) the need, really, it’s just gone through the roof.”
The Food Bank of Nevada County Executive Director Nicole McNeely agreed.
“They’re just an amazing group of people,” she said. “They’re really wanting to help the community.”
McNeely said the food bank’s headquarters didn’t have enough space to store all their food because the number of food recipients has increased significantly, from 1,800 individuals in mid-March to 2,378 last week. The executive director said she expected 3,000 recipients at Thursday’s distribution.
For all its volunteer work, Jahlibyrd, which conducts its cultivation work in Grass Valley, has continued its daily operations. Anderson said they are offering a “buy one, donate one” option — buy a product and the company donates a mask to a dispensary of the customer’s choosing. The company has donated about 6,500 masks to 32 northern California dispensaries, according to Sky Rutherford.
Neither Anderson nor Rutherford were concerned much about the cannabis industry not receiving support from federal or state agencies, but they do hope local governments, like Nevada County, loosen restrictions around the cannabis industry and become more accepting of their trade.
“What I’d like to see is the county supporting cannabis full-on,” said Anderson, hoping government officials begin to say things like: “‘Hey, cannabis isn’t this bad industry.’ We are here in the county and we can make a difference.”
One example of that, said Anderson, is removing the 30-60 day wait period for cannabis businesses to employ an individual, as is in place now. Anderson said Jahlibyrd would hire five people immediately if they didn’t have to overcome this barrier.
But despite existing bureaucratic hurdles in the industry, the two cannabis leaders are committed to helping wherever possible — and to whomever needs it during the pandemic.
“I think we just wanted to do as much as we could,” said Rutherford. “If everybody does a little bit, we can accomplish a lot as a community.”
To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4219.