Updated on July 28, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
It will be over someday. Hopefully soon. The Covid-19 pandemic that has changed the American cannabis industry in many ways. The designation of medical cannabis as an “essential service” did more than allow dispensaries to remain open. It created a new era of mainstream legitimacy. Medical marijuana is a necessity for patients. And so was medical cannabis delivery.
No one could predict how agile the medical marijuana business was. Or that among all retail sectors, it would be the winner with increased sales during the pandemic. Since patients weren’t able to visit dispensaries to purchase products, medical marijuana retailers had to pivot. And they did, rather quickly. Not only to protect sales but to ensure that the wellness products that patients relied on were kept available, without any disruption.
Delivery was not an option in all states that had medical cannabis programs. In 2019, California blazed the trail for home delivery of both recreational and medical marijuana. Regardless of how local cities and municipalities felt about it, it was state legislated. Enter Covid-19 and medical marijuana delivery went mainstream in legalized states. But will the convenience of online order for home delivery go away after the pandemic is over?
Here are five reasons that patients and the industry feel that medical cannabis delivery should become a permanent service. Even when lawmakers in some legalized states have their reservations.
1. Caregivers Do Not Have to Leave Patients Alone
Caregivers are legal guardians or parents to patients with a chronic condition or terminal disease. Caring for someone who has a life-threatening illness is an act of love that is demanding on the guardian. Leaving a child or elderly patient with a health condition alone is not an option. However, given their medical condition, taking them with you isn’t an option either.
Talk about a hard decision, right? But it is one that parents and caregivers face as part of home care. The legalization of medical marijuana deliveries (like prescriptions delivered from pharmacies) created a solution for caregivers. They could shop online and get it delivered. It also meant that caregivers would not have to go into a dispensary. Many chronic diseases or terminally ill patients have compromised immunity. They can get a life-threatening bacterial or viral infection quickly.
If social distancing has been essential to any group, it is to caregivers who couldn’t afford to expose themselves to the Novel Covid-19 coronavirus. And risk passing the virus on to their patient. Common immune-compromised conditions include:
Wounds and burn injuries
If catching the Novel Covid-19 virus was easy for healthy people; you can understand how critical it has been to isolate immune-compromised patients. A single exposure to a virulent strain of bacteria or virus can quickly turn from chronic to significant and life-threatening. At home and safe has been the rule for social distancing.
2. It Is Compassionate to Patients With Moderate to Severe Mental Health Conditions
Leaving the house before the pandemic to visit a dispensary? If you are a medical marijuana cardholder, it’s something you probably didn’t think would ever be an issue. But what if you had a mental health condition that made you feel distressed every time you left your house?
Patients who have post-traumatic stress disorder, for example, may have episodes where they experience high-anxiety symptoms. For severe cases of PTSD, they may not even be able to leave the house. Symptoms like nausea, fatigue, and irritability can make engaging with anyone outside of the home, terrifying for PTSD patients.
What about patients with severe depression? Treatment-resistant depression can cause chronic fatigue and make it difficult or unsafe to travel outside the home. If the patient is experiencing extreme depression, they have two difficult choices; leave home and visit the dispensary or suffer the impact of symptoms. Without medical cannabis, they rely on for relief. And neither one is a good option.
The majority of medical cannabis dispensaries nationwide have an e-commerce or online ordering. Delivery laws vary by state. In some jurisdictions, only a staff member of the dispensary can deliver to the patient home. And the patient must be present to sign for the package, to prevent fraud and theft.
Some dispensaries like Thrive Cannabis Marketplace in Nevada offer 24-hour delivery, seven days a week. They also allow patients to track their delivery (just like takeout pizza) through their app.
3. Delivery Helps Protect Revenues for Medical Cannabis Dispensaries
As retailers in other sectors such as consumer goods (non-grocery) were laying off employees, cannabis dispensaries were rapidly recruiting new staff. The reason? Just like American’s hoarded everything from flour to toilet paper, medical marijuana sales rose starting in March 2020. That’s when COVID “got real” for patients, who feared a shortage of marijuana products.
Patients were unsure whether cultivation and manufacturing businesses in the United States could continue production during the pandemic. And “just in case,” the average medical cannabis patient decided to stockpile weed to the limit of what was allowed by law. Consumers reacted to fears of shortages or non-competitive price jumps. Price gouging for other essential retail products occurred. Retail dispensaries managed to stabilize prices for patients, despite increased operational costs for preventative health measures.
Cannabis dispensaries made accommodations to ensure that patients received the wellness products they needed. Retail services like delivery (where permitted) and “herb side pick-up” were implemented. Measures that made it safer for patients with health conditions and caregivers. Delivery allows dispensaries to stay open, in any health emergency, protecting jobs and providing patient care.
4. Cannabis Delivery Is ADA Compliant
For many Americans with disabilities and health impairments that make it impossible to drive, delivery is an essential service. Not everyone can drive to a dispensary. In some areas, public transportation is not available either. If you are a registered medical marijuana cardholder, you may have to rely on someone else to drive you to the dispensary. Only registered caregivers can pick up medical cannabis ordered online, on behalf of a patient.
Medical care and services must transition to accommodate patients as a legal requirement in compliance with the American Disabilities Act (ADA). How did in-store purchase perhaps limit access to medical cannabis, or make it more difficult for patients with disabilities?
“When it is not readily achievable to provide an accessible entrance, the goods and services must be provided in some other way, if doing so is readily achievable. For example, if a restaurant has several steps at the entrance and no accessible entry is possible, providing home delivery or some alternative service may be required. In other cases, it may be possible to receive an order by telephone and to have a clerk bring the order to the customer outside the store or business. If alternative service is provided, it is important that it be publicized, so a customer knows how the goods and services are offered.”
Cannabis Delivery Should Be a Permanent Option for Patients
Making the temporary delivery option a permanent fixture for “essential services” like the cannabis industry would help patients with disabilities feel confident about accessing wellness products. Reliable access to medical cannabis for qualified patients should not be reserved only for individuals with a car or public transit. Delivery solves the problem for patients.
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