By now, most everyone in the world knows a bit about COVID-19 — but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone knows how to survive and thrive in a world threatened by this new, poorly understood virus. There are many questions surrounding when it is appropriate to venture out of the house and how to do so safely, without risking exposure to the virus or wantonly spreading the disease to someone at-risk.
Unfortunately, medical marijuana patients tend to be in a high-risk category, suffering from a variety of illnesses that weaken their immune systems and/or respiratory health and increasing the likelihood of developing life-threatening problems from COVID-19. Worse, medical marijuana patients need to venture into the world with some frequency to obtain cannabis products that help them manage their conditions. In places like Washington and New York, where the new coronavirus rages with particular intensity, how can medical marijuana patients stay safe?
Obtain a Card or Prescriptions Online
Technically, doctors are prohibited from “prescribing” medical marijuana; they can only suggest the use of marijuana or recommend a patient for a medical marijuana license. Most states’ regulations mandate that patients seeking a medical marijuana recommendation must consult with a doctor in-person, to verify that they suffer from a qualifying disease.
Now, states are loosening regulations on medical marijuana in the hopes of reducing stress on the health care industry and keeping at-risk patients away from coronavirus hotspots, like doctor’s offices. Patients can now obtain medical marijuana recommendations online, via telehealth solutions. To be clear, this is only essential for those who need new recommendations, not necessarily those who have a valid medical marijuana card. However, the expanding guidelines for telemedicine in general — as read about here: https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/key-changes-made-telehealth-guidelines-boost-covid-19-care — will be exceedingly beneficial to those with less pressing health concerns, who do not need to risk exposure in a hospital or health care facility.
Order Marijuana Products Online
Once a medical marijuana patient has a valid license, they need to obtain the products that will help them manage their condition. Previously, marijuana could only be bought and sold on legal dispensary property. This regulation helps states curb the marijuana black market, which continues to thrive in spite of legalization.
Fortunately, for at least the duration of the pandemic, many states are allowing dispensaries to process online orders of cannabis products. This allows patients to survey available items and make buying decisions far from other members of the public, who may unknowingly be spreading COVID-19.
Unfortunately, not all dispensaries are capable of managing online orders. The financial services available to marijuana dispensaries remain limited; because marijuana sales remain illegal under federal law, banks and other financial institutions, which would typically be happy to manage online transactions, are more reluctant to support dispensaries, even those serving medical users. Medical marijuana patients can use resources like this one, https://weedmaps.com/dispensaries/in/united-states/washington, to find dispensaries that offer safe and secure online ordering.
Opt for Curbside Pickup or Delivery
For the same reasons listed above — differentiating between legal and illegal marijuana sales — states have long prohibited drive-through, takeout and delivery marijuana sales. But again, for the same reasons listed above — maintaining safe distances between people — they are relaxing these rules and permitting pickup and, in rare cases, delivery of cannabis products. If online ordering is not an option, dispensaries will take orders over the phone or through car windows to reduce the likelihood of transmission and keep people from congregating in close quarters. Patients can read more about the changes here: https://www.benzinga.com/markets/cannabis/20/03/15653899/governments-relax-marijuana-delivery-and-curbside-pickup-restrictions-amid-covid-19-outbreak.
Observe Social Distancing in Public
In the few instances when medical marijuana patients must venture inside dispensaries, patients should be careful to adhere to the recommendations made by the CDC as well as state governments. For example, patients would be wise to wear a mask and disposable gloves in public spaces, and they should wash their hands immediately after returning home. Additionally, medical marijuana dispensaries will likely undergo changes, with PPE available to budtenders and restrictions on how many customers can be present in a dispensary at one time. Patients might notice partitions between budtenders and patients, and there might be lines on the floor denoting where patients can stand.
Most medical marijuana patients need to be careful during this time of pandemic because many are at greater risk of experiencing a more severe form of the disease. Still, that doesn’t mean patients should or must forego the medications they need on a daily basis. Though the inconsistency of medical marijuana regulations has harmed study of the drug in the past, the COVID-19 pandemic could make access to medical marijuana easier for sufferers across the U.S. By taking advantage of restrictions loosened for their safety, patients can mitigate their risk of infection and continue partaking medical cannabis products.