Home Business Viral Outbreak Spurs Legislative Change for Cannabis Businesses

Viral Outbreak Spurs Legislative Change for Cannabis Businesses

by Anna Wilcox

The entire globe is in a state of emergency. Yet, amidst stalled economies, confusion, and frustration, progressive new policies are finding their way in front of state Governors and legislative agencies. Among the most surprising? Fast regulatory action for cannabis businesses. Deliveries, curbside pickups, and telemedicine are now on the table for many businesses for the very first time. And for a good reason, too–these seemingly progressive emergency orders keep patients, consumers, and retailers safe in a time of severe distress. Here’s a look at some of the new policies for cannabis businesses:

Michigan Approves Cannabis Delivery & Curbside Pickup

Delivery has long been a point of contention for emerging legal cannabis businesses. Some states, like California, have created individual licenses for cannabis delivery services. But, licensing and regulation for delivery services are far from standard across the board. Prior to the first wave of adult-use legalization, delivery services were commonplace among medical cannabis dispensaries. After legalization, however, delivery services fell out of favor with legislators.

Now, amidst a global health crisis, cannabis delivery may be back on the table for some states, Michigan among them. On March 16th, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order permitting cannabis delivery and curbside pickup during the current state of emergency.

This order comes shortly after the Governor’s executive order to create a Marijuana Regulatory Agency, which came through at the beginning of March. The new agency intends to streamline cannabis regulatory efforts under the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). Although these changes are recent, Michigan now represents one of the most progressive states in regard to cannabis-friendly legislation in response to COVID-19.

Colorado Grants First Cannabis Delivery Permit 

Michigan isn’t the only state putting delivery on the table. On March 17, the city of Boulder issued its first-ever permit for medical cannabis delivery. Now, medical cannabis patients in the city can still access the plant via at least one dispensary. The Dandelion, which is owned by Native Roots, will begin serving delivery customers by the end of the month. 

The state of Colorado made big legislative changes in regard to delivery services and tasting rooms via House Bill 1234 last spring. The bill gave individual municipalities the power to permit or deny medical cannabis delivery on their own volition. Thus far, however, Boulder is the only city to take action; and action is needed now more than ever. If empty shelves and lines are any indications, the demand for cannabis during a pandemic is higher than normal. 

Florida Allows Remote Medical Recommendations

If you are already a medical cannabis patient in Florida, you can re-certify their recommendations remotely. On Monday, March 16, Florida’s Surgeon General Scott Rivkees issued an emergency order that allows physicians to re-certify cannabis recommendations and prescriptions for controlled substances via telemedicine.

This simple move prevents patients with pre-existing conditions from needing to travel to their doctor’s office to get their prescriptions or renew their medical cannabis authorizations. The switch to telemedicine, however, only applies to existing medical cannabis patients. New patients hoping to see if they qualify will still have to make an appointment to see a doctor in-person.

Illinois and Pennsylvania Allow Curbside Medical Sales

Like Michigan, Illinois and Pennsylvania are also allowing curbside pickup. But, only for medical cannabis patients. Medical cannabis patients can drive up to their favorite dispensary, and budtenders can legally provide service outside the shop. Normally, cannabis regulations mandate that sales be made inside of a dispensary only. So, the approval of curbside pickup is a progressive policy change, although it’s likely only a temporary one.

Pennsylvania Approves Home Deliveries (Sort Of)

Apart from curbside pickup, Pennsylvania’s Governor Wolf made another progressive change. On March 20, he approved de facto home delivery for medical cannabis patients across the state. Now, according to the Inquirer, an approved caregiver can deliver medical cannabis to the homes of an unlimited number of patients. The state also eliminated background checks for caregivers seeking to renew their licenses, and increased the amount of cannabis that medical patients can purchase at one time. Patients can now purchase a 90-day supply instead of a 30-day supply.

Massachusetts Recreational Sales Ending, Medical Continues 

Among the states that have shelter-in-place orders, Massachusetts is the only one that does not view cannabis dispensaries as “essential” businesses. All sales of recreational cannabis must end by noon on Tuesday, March 24th. Medical cannabis patients, however, need not worry. Dispensaries will remain open to serve medical consumers. The Cannabis Control Commission also gave the a-ok for geographical expansion for cannabis delivery services. Similar to Florida, doctors can now renew medical cannabis recommendations over the phone.

Canadian Post Stops Cannabis Deliveries

Some U.S. states may be ahead of the curve, but not all legislators see the value of deliveries, curbside-pickup, and emergency regulations for cannabis businesses. The Canadian postal service recently declared that they will no longer be making deliveries that require a signature upon delivery, which includes cannabis products.

Instead, businesses have to use an alternate private shipping retailer or customers must physically pick up their cannabis at the post office in-person. The latter seems like an odd choice, given that social distancing is of vital importance. Demand for cannabis is also soaring, and medical cannabis patients still need safe access. Plus, before COVID, Canada had one of the most organized and regulated cannabis delivery systems in the world. 

 

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