The current COVID-19 pandemic has forced Florida municipalities to shut down non-essential businesses in order to curb the spread of the virus. ‘Essential’ services include pharmacies, healthcare providers, banks, news agencies, gas stations, etc.
While a few years back, people growing or selling marijuana faced the risk of being arrested, the scenario has changed drastically with the legalization of medicinal cannabis.
Marijuana is now deemed an essential commodity, and dispensaries are to be treated as regular pharmacies.
Parallel, a Surterra Wellness in Florida, has taken maximum precautions by disinfecting its stores, and providing their employees with protective gear.
Elizabeth Conway, Parallel’s Florida president, said, “Cannabis is recognized as essential in helping many people seeking relief from anxiety, insomnia, and other health symptoms. It’s never been more evident how important cannabis is to improving personal well-being than at this unprecedented time. Our customers’ well-being is the reason we exist.”
Most of the dispensaries offer delivery services, online ordering, pick up at the stores, and offer drive-thru facilities.
A letter signed by Surgeon General Scott Rivkees that says the cannabis delivery business “performs a critical role in providing healthcare delivery services,” is being carried by the delivery drivers. It authorizes them to stay open and operate outside of the state established curfews.
Several advocacy groups have tried to push government officials to ensure the availability of medicinal marijuana for patients who consume it for health reasons.
The state policies director for the Marijuana Policy Project said, “Now, not only have two-thirds of states recognized that medical cannabis should be legal—with 11 legalizing adult-use—many are recognizing that safe access to cannabis is essential.”
Ron Watson of AltMed believes that it’s crucial for the marijuana dispensaries to keep operating since they are a part of the pharmaceutical system. Mainly because “everybody’s anxiety is pretty high right now,” and 20-30% of the recommendations are for people suffering from anxiety or PTSD.
A 51-year old patient, Charity Reece, who consumes medicinal cannabis for her rheumatoid arthritis, says, “I don’t want to go in and get what I need. Coronavirus has changed a lot about how I do everything.”
For patients like her, even pick up points, and drive-thru sales are dangerous, and for them, the delivery services are essential.
A lot of marijuana sellers have increased production since the outbreak of the novel pandemic. Trulieve, medicinal marijuana’s largest seller increased its production and has also acquired additional delivery vehicles and more delivery drivers.
Trulieve has reduced its rates for the patients and is also offering free home delivery of the medicinal cannabis for patients above the age of 65. They’ve also set up “mobile hubs” for people to pick up their medication conveniently.
The state surgeon also issued an order that allows physicians to issue medical marijuana recertification to existing patients via telemedicine.
“Our goal is to make it as easy and seamless as we can for our debilitated and elderly patients .. the less steps the better,” says Barry Gordon, an ex-emergency doctor who now runs a full-time medical marijuana clinic in Sarasota.
He appreciates that the government understands the importance of telemedicine, especially in these testing times.