CBD Company Pivots to Hand Sanitizer

Sam Belanger runs a CBD company, and is well aware that CBD is no longer the hottest product on the market. Amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, hand sanitizer might hold that title and like nearly everyone else on earth, Belanger couldn’t find any.

Belanger is the COO and co-founder of Green Ridge Biosolutions, a CBD company based in Ronan, Montana. Since opening for business, the company, which makes CBD oils, topicals, and healthcare products, found that it ran through a fair bit of alcohol-based germ-killer during normal operations — and since the coronavirus pandemic widened, there was simply no more to be found on the commercial market.

So after a brief conversation with the company chemist, Green Ridge decided to start making its own, and is now supplying hand sanitizer to customers in multiple states as well as donating the badly needed stuff to local healthcare workers and first responders, the Missoulian reported.

The company’s been manufacturing and distributing its very own line of hand sanitizer — donating for free to health-care workers and police, and selling “at cost” to the general public in person and online — for the past week, according to the newspaper.

Green Ridge’s pivot is a good-citizen turn, but it’s also a demonstration. Using a World Health Organization open-source formula and readily available ingredients (and making a substitution or two when certain components aren’t available), other CBD companies — including those staring at unsold product, a vanished customer base, and a very uncertain future — might be able to follow suit and start producing (CBD-free) hand-sanitizer themselves.

As the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported on Monday, a Hawaii-based whiskey distillery (which just so happens to have a nearly unlimited supply of alcohol on hand, so long as there’s corn to distill) and a medical-cannabis provider have both pivoted to hand-sanitizer production.

“We’re going to start making alcohol solely for the purpose of making sanitizer,” Eric Dill, a recently retired Marine who co-founded Ko’olau Distillery, told the paper. “It was a tough decision, but it’s for the greater good.”

In the case of Aloha Green, the medical-cannabis company uses alcohol as a solvent in extraction and as an ingredient. Company spokesman Ty Cheng said that Aloha Green decided to get into the sanitizer game after that French perfume maker LVMH was pivoting to cleaning — and is producing the stuff in “gallon buckets” as well as filling 10,000 50-milliliter bottles the paper reported.

In this way, CBD and other cannabis companies with basic industrial extraction and production capacity might be able to both help reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus — “flattening the curve,” in health experts’ parlance — as well as keep their ledger in the black.

As he told the Missoulian, Belanger realized something had to be done March 13, when he visited a brace of stores to stock up on hand sanitizer for the office and found none. His chemist also had initial bad news when considering how to start producing their own sanitizer when they realized that sourcing aloe vera might be impossible.

Turned out aloe vera is mostly just a “thickening agent” and the main ingredient is, of course, 99.9% rubbing alcohol. (Public-health agencies recommend that hand sanitizer be at least 60% ethanol or 70% isoproponal alcohol in order to destroy pathogens including the stubborn and highly contagious coronavirus, which has a lipid outer shell that is also highly susceptible to hot water and soap.) “Then there’s hydrogen peroxide, glycerol, and distilled water,” he told the newspaper.

Green Ridge’s product is “much thinner” than commercial hand sanitizer we remember from before the pandemic — almost a liquid — but “works just as well” due to the alcohol content, according to the paper.

Company workers came in to “work overtime” to start producing santiizer the very next day, he said, and merchants in the area, including a gas station and restaurants, which at least in Montana have stayed open, snapped up the initial order almost immediately.

Thus far, Green Ridge has produced 2,100 bottles, half of which have been sold online or at the company’s headquarters, the other half donated to first responders, nursing homes and healthcare facilities. The company may be able to produce “a few hundred thousand” bottles of hand sanitizer, so long as Belanger can keep sourcing empty plastic bottles.

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