The District of Columbia has adopted broader delivery rules earlier this month after the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) took control of the district’s medical marijuana program, reported Marijuana Moment. This is in line with the capital’s move to make MMJ more accessible to patients and consumers in light of the current public health issue.
Formerly handled by the DC Department of Health, the capital’s medical cannabis program was given to ABRA consistent with the current budget, which was proposed by Mayor Muriel Bowser in May. The made goal of this change is to further encourage the full legalization of the plant, expected to aid in the regulation of the supply chain of the products, from growing to consumption.
New Rules Amid the Pandemic
ABRA, which took control on October 1, has made developments in marijuana rules as it affects the current situation with the pandemic. This includes extending the time in which patients and consumers can order cannabis deliveries. Customers now have a 12-hour window from 9 AM to 9 PM to have their supplies transported to their location. Before this new rule, DC dispensaries can only deliver products from 11 AM to 7 PM, giving them only 8 hours.
New rules also apply to dispensaries in charge of making deliveries. They are now able o deploy three vehicles for this service, whereas they were only allowed to release only one before the change.
According to ABRA, the decision to make such amendments is motivated by patients’ and consumers’ need for easy access to cannabis products, while minimizing risks of exposure. ABRA said, “The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has added to the strain on persons with health conditions for which they were recommended medical cannabis.”
The agency added that these changes are “necessary for the promotion of the health, safety, and welfare of District residents.” The pandemic remains to persist not only in DC but across the United States with no end still in sight. Moreover, the changing nature of the pandemic has prompted the agency to offer flexibility when it comes to medical marijuana access.
Aside from cannabis delivery, ABRA also made changes in onboarding process of employees in the district. Candidates for positions in any industry who are still undergoing criminal background checks are given the opportunity to work in marijuana organizations for 45 days until they receive results. They can work in companies that handle cultivation, lab testing, and retail, just to name a few. This move seeks to enable cannabis companies to keep up with the demands for products.
With the handing over of the medical marijuana from the Department of Agriculture to ABRA, Mayor Bowser proposed to change its name to the Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Administration (ABCA).
Obstacles to Full Legalization
ABRA and other supporters of full legalization are facing challenges in their advocacy in the form of “a congressional rider.” The rider “blocks DC from using its own local tax dollars to set up a legal adult-use cannabis market.” According to Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), who is a critic of the said ride, there is a need for a more open MMJ industry in order to address the economic effects of the pandemic.
However, because of the rider, ABRA has decided to stimulate retail and give better access to products by expanding the district’s delivery rules.
Current State of Cannabis Safe Access in DC
With the wider opening for cannabis deliveries, the district is working toward a safer and more preventive way to access marijuana products with the pandemic persisting. For patients and consumers who prefer purchasing methods other than delivery, there are a few other ways to obtain cannabis supplies namely curbside pick-ups, meet-ups, and in-store visits. The following are vital information about these options:
The district allows customers to pick-up orders from their dispensaries. To minimize risks of exposure, they are only allowed to pick items up from a designated spot, usually in parking spaces, to which dispensary staff will be handing over their orders. Some allow store pick-ups. Stores may have limited modes of payments in an attempt to exposure risks, so checking in with the establishment is advised.
Some dispensaries offer meet-ups in nearby areas to make their products more accessible to customers. Customers need to coordinate with their preferred stores to set appointments. Dispensaries may impose a minimum purchase amount to make the meet-up more worthwhile for both parties.
Individuals who prefer visiting stores can opt to do so as long as the establishment allow walk-ins. However, customers and staff are required to follow safety protocols such as wearing masks and face shields. Constant sanitizing of hands and high-traffic spaces may also be required. Some establishments adopt the No Mask, No Entry policy, along with body temperature checks and contact tracing actions.
It is important to note that some activities may no longer be allowed or offered such as the availability of sniff jars. Staff may also conduct disinfection of surfaces and equipment to minimize risks. To know what actions are allowed and not allowed inside dispensaries, customers are encouraged to check with the staff.
For other marijuana-related healthcare needs, patients are given safe access options such as online MMJ card extensions and telemedicine. According to DC rules, patients and service providers with licenses that expired on or after March 11 can avail of a 45-day extension after the public health emergency is over.
Patients can also renew their MMJ cards via telemedicine as long as they set appointments beforehand. Keep in mind that first-time registrants will not be able to use telemedicine to obtain their medical marijuana cards.
The Bottom Line
With these new rules, patients and consumers in DC can enjoy the flexibility offered by ABRA’s actions. Other marijuana-related laws not covered by the recent amendments still apply and customers are urged to comply with such regulations including limitations in amount possessed on their person, plants cultivated in their homes, and paraphernalia used for consumption. Public use remains to be a misdemeanor.