How Coronavirus / COVID-19 is Changing the Cannabis Landscape
There is no doubt that Coronavirus COVID-19 has changed our lives forever. As of today more than 38 states and 297 million Americans are under a “stay-at-home” order. In these states, only people who are deemed “essential workers” may leave home and go to work. Thankfully (and appropriately), Cannabis workers have been deemed essential in many states including (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington with recreational and Massachusetts with medical-only), which is a huge step in the ongoing legitimization of the industry. The acknowledgment by state governments that cannabis is essential during this time of crises proves that it has become a vital part of our lives, is crucial in terms of public health, and is also a legitimate part of our economy.
“Stay-at-home” restrictions have presented challenges to those responsible for enforcing state law while ensuring easy access to cannabis throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Most states have clear regulations that require cannabis to be sold in designated areas that are generally inside dispensaries. In order to protect workers, patients, and customers, cannabis businesses are required to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state marijuana agency guidelines. In the past, these guidelines have created challenges for cannabis firms that are focused on maintaining compliance while delivering an enjoyable customer experience and operating a profitable business. My observation is that over the last few weeks, many enforcement agencies such as the M.E.D. (Marijuana Enforcement Division) in Colorado and the B.C.C. (Bureau of Cannabis Control) in California have risen to the occasion and introduced new regulations to ensure that people have safe and ready access to cannabis during these hard times. For example, some agencies have quickly created new guidelines that will allow patients and customers to either order cannabis by phone or computer. These electronic orders can be picked up at a dispensary curbside or in some cases, can be delivered. These new protocols offer obvious and much-needed safety benefits for workers as well as patients and customers.
The COVID-19 emergency has accelerated the need for Cannabis delivery. California and other states already have rules for delivery. Colorado had just approved a new rule (HB18-1092) that will allow medical dispensaries to deliver to patients. The second part of this Colorado bill is scheduled to go into effect in 2021 and will allow recreational dispensaries to deliver. Currently, only Colorado medical dispensaries can apply to deliver to their patients as long as they register with M.E.D. first and they have approval from their local jurisdictions.
I don’t know what life is going to be like after the Coronavirus, but watching legal cannabis adapt to these trying times makes me feel very positive about the industry and its future. As challenging as these times are, I am proud to be working in an industry that has such a profound impact on peoples' health. I’m also very thankful to see some of the regulators react as quickly as they have to ensure access to cannabis isn’t adversely impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic.