Medical Marijuana and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Hey everyone! Dr. Lee here.

I am reviewing some of the dispensary changes that have occurred due to COVID-19. Our friends at Consume Cannabis in Chicago are giving us a first-hand perspective of the changes retailers make to accommodate their customers, with a focus on medical patients. The pandemic is going strong, and preventative measures like social distancing and masks are probably here until we get a vaccine!

Marijuana is a strange business that has been a financial success during the pandemic. With high stress levels and people sheltering at home, legal marijuana has seen a surge and product is not often easy to find. For people that regularly use marijuana as medication, getting a card is more relevant than ever!

  1. Fully Digital Appointments for Physicians’ Letters- In a strange twist of fate, we owe our existence to the pandemic, which has legalized telemedicine for the purposes of physician certification. It’s easier than ever! Many states have also streamlined the application process and maintained a fairly short time-frame for processing applications.

  2. Mandatory Masks and Social Distancing Changes- Each of our states has released a special set of pandemic laws addressing the need for hygiene practices in dispensaries. This includes demarcating 6-ft intervals in lines for social distancing, and increased hygiene for staff.

  3. Limiting Crowds- It should be a goal for all businesses to limit the number of people indoors at one time, and dispensaries typically have a “one-in, one-out” policy.  “Our dispensary requires recreational guests to place reservations for products and pick-up time to throttle traffic in our dispensary and maintain social distancing practices,” says Janelle from Consume.

  4. Special Times for Medical Patients- Many stores are offering expanded hours, or hours for medical patients only, to limit contact with recreational shoppers. For patients with multiple medical issues, or who are immunocompromised, this can be a life-saver! “Medical cannabis patients and caregivers are welcomed any day of the week, at any time, without reservation.  I like to say we “roll out the green carpet” for our medical card holders!”  says Janelle.

  5. Special Services for Medical Patients- Janelle tells us that “We have recently added an exclusive medical patient-only service area.  We have 3 new service stations to provide a higher level of assistance with more privacy from the recreational visitors. We have also made our complimentary consultation services for medical patients more flexible by offering in-person appointments, scheduled phone calls or by email in order to create a culture of on-going support.” 

  6. Skipping the Line/Curbside Assistance- It’s well-known that medical patients skip the line. In some places, like my dispensary in southern Illinois, being a medical patient probably saves you about 45 minutes to an hour! Other dispensaries have created curbside systems to prevent medical patients from even having to go into the store at all! “Our curbside system is a further step Illinois has allowed for medical patients to remain safe while still getting access to medical cannabis.  I fondly refer to our outdoor patient care reps as “cannabis car-hops”.  We have also added extra security in order to safely facilitate the curbside transactions,” says Janelle.

  7. Better Product Selection- Due to demand and some strange quirks in the supply chain, specific products aren’t often available. In some places in Michigan and Illinois, only medical patients can purchase flower!

  8. Tax Benefits- Certainly not new due to the pandemic, but even more relevant with the financial strain people are experiencing. In Illinois, you’ll save more in tax than you spend on your physicians’ visit if you buy around $400 worth of marijuana…in a YEAR!

Let me know what’s going on in your area! How are dispensaries handling the pandemic!! And if you have any ideas for future articles…let a docta know!! And thanks again to our friends at Consume!