As the novel coronavirus COVID-19 continues to take more lives left and right, it’s no surprise that the disease affects more than just the sick. Even establishments and cannabis businesses alike have been plagued by the virus, often being shut down as countries and governments alike call for extreme measures in order to safeguard the health and wellbeing not just of its citizens, but also aid in the call towards flattening the curve.
Though there have been recent developments in the field – what with the testing phase of the coronavirus vaccine being rolled out in the United States and even other parts of the globe, as well as additional funding towards finding the cure, as in Johson & Johnson’s case – the current landscape is still very much vague, especially as this is an altogether unprecedented time in recent history.
One of the most severely hit and impacted industries is the marijuana industry. Though many shares and stockholders have taken a fall in company shares, there are still fledgling businesses who are struggling to remain afloat against the government’s ban on these dispensaries and cannabis shops to close down shop, albeit temporarily.
Despite these orders from the United States federal government and respective state notices, many cannabis dispensaries and companies continue to supply marijuana and cannabidiol (CBD) to their customers, particularly those who are prescribed with these drugs as medication. In light of the disease’s further spread, partnered with the isolation and self-distancing practices imposed by the government, more and more individuals have found themselves becoming reliant not only on the drug itself but also on businesses who can cater to their needs.
The phenomenon is particularly prevalent in some parts of the country. In the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) area, the pandemic has affected the economic, physical, and social lives of its residents. Take a look at how the pandemic has affected not just these states and respective cannabis businesses, but also its citizens.
The Novel Coronavirus and Its Effects
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that the coronavirus disease classified COVID-19 as an infectious disease. It is normally characterized by symptoms of fever, dry coughing, and even shortness of breath. While most individuals are said to recover from the disease without special treatment or measures, older aged people as well as those with underlying chronic conditions, regardless of age, are slated to develop more serious conditions.
Should the disease further takes effect on individuals in question, it could potentially be fatal, as with most cases afflicted with the virus. Most patients develop respiratory problems such as pneumonia or experience physical weakening of the body.
To counter the spread of the disease, people are enjoined to practice certain hygiene measures, such as frequent and thorough washing of hands, as well as observing social distancing. Individuals should also refrain from going outside their homes, especially if they feel sick. Proper coverage of mouth when sneezing and coughing should also be observed to prevent transmission.
Other preventive measures have also taken place in the DMV area. For one, the mayor of Washington, D.C. and the governors of Maryland and Virginia have issued orders for residents to stay inside their home, except for buying essential items such as food and medicine. Individuals are also limited to physical interactions to caring for family members and certain exercises that can be conducted outdoors.
The same notice was given by Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland last Monday, March 30, 2020. On the same day, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam enacted the same order, detailing that residents from the state are to stay at home until June 10, 2020. Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C. also issued a lockdown within the Capitol.
Orders from the three respective states were given after the DMV area experience a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases. As of Monday morning, Business Insider reports that the state of Maryland already had 1,413 cases with 15 deaths. 300 of these cases were already subjected to hospitalization.
Meanwhile, Virginia also experienced a rise in its cases, with 1,020 individuals being confirmed for the COVID-19 virus. Its death count already comes up at 25. On the other hand, the Capitol already tallied 401 cases by Sunday, March 29, 2020, with 9 having died of the said disease.
In line with these increasing number of cases and deaths, District of Columbia, as well as Maryland and Virginia, already banned large group gatherings. Moreover, non-essential businesses have also been ordered close, including a number of cannabis shops. These states have imposed hefty fines for violators, such as jail time or a fine of up to $5,000.
The Current Cannabis Landscape in the DMV Areas
With ‘non-essential’ establishments shutting off their doors in compliance with government orders, more and more medical marijuana patients are finding it challenging to obtain their prescriptions to tide them over the next few months. The same goes for cannabis businesses and dispensaries in the area, most of which rely on enthusiasts and patients to purchase their products. With the demand for this product at an all-time high – what with its calming and stress-relieving effects for users – governments and jurisdictions have come to include marijuana stores as part of the essential businesses that are expected to remain in operation.
Thankfully, cannabis dispensaries in Maryland and Virginia, as well as D.C., remain part of these essential businesses. However, many of these stores have had to rethink and restructure their approach, particularly with social distancing rules in place. Now, some shops have enabled curbside pick-up, deliveries, as well as online transactions, especially as many of these firms have been urged to scale down their operations.
Despite these changes in operations, Maryland’s cannabis landscape seems to be picking up more than ever, reports The Baltimore Sun. As a matter of fact, most patients have resulted in panic-buying tactics in order to secure their needs. However, dispensary operators reveal that this approach also directly affects the overall supply chain, voicing out concerns that these may cause bigger problems in the future.
Some of the main areas of concern are the post-harvest production and the delivery, given that most companies in these three jurisdictions have less manpower and lesser working hours. Maryland, in particular, has been experiencing bottlenecked operations due to the increasing number of patients buying and being prescribed with medical marijuana. Approximately 95,000 patients are being catered to by dispensaries in the area.
The panic buying started prior to states closing up non-essential businesses. However, after Governor Hogan’s announcement, many companies in Maryland have reportedly seen a ‘decline’ in the number of people they have been seeing on a daily basis, especially when compared to the previous days and weeks when patients have been fearing where to get their supplies should a total lockdown or shutdown commence.
Importance of Cannabis in the Time of Coronavirus
The rise of cannabis use and consumption in the time of COVID-19 may be attributed to the drug’s ability to reduce anxiety and treat depression. At the same time, the drugs pain-relieving and soothing properties remain an important factor as to why it is widely consumed by patients and why it is prescribed by medical professionals.
Patient Possession Limits in the Following States
With the increased patronage and purchases from cannabis retailers, a number of activist groups around the country are calling for a moratorium on recreational dispensaries to be lifted. Depending on the government and its jurisdiction, patient possession regulation may also change with the times.
The District of Columbia is still observing three ounces of marijuana, either 48 ounces of cannabis-infused products in solid form, 216 ounces of cannabis-infused products in liquid form, or 21 grams of marijuana concentrate.
For MMJ patients living in Maryland, a 30-day supply of cannabis will be allocated for use. However, this is still largely restricted to THC or the plant itself, rather than cannabis or cannabidiol-based edibles.
Possession of medical marijuana in Virginia is still considered an offense under Class 1 misdemeanor. However, the state has already passed a law allowing patients to obtain medical-grade CBD to treat certain conditions. Under this law, patients may possess supplies for up to 90 days, provided these products contain a minimum of 5 to 10 milligrams of CBD or THC-A. These can be classified under a variety of products, such as creams, topical ointments, edibles, capsules, and many more.
Getting Cannabis in the DMV Areas
Now that we have seen a rise in cases in the DMV jurisdictions, it’s important that patients and individuals follow certain protocols not only to keep the safety and protection of people in place but also to keep risk and contamination to a minimum. Before getting CBD in DMV areas, keep in mind that there are practices being observed across the three states include:
Suspending Deli-Style Sales and Sniff Jars
Deli-style and sniff jars are a type of service particular to dispensaries where a budtender normally packages cannabis flowers and certain strains in front of a customer. This approach also allows the customer to familiarize his or her self with the strain and its scent prior to purchasing it.
However, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission has issued a new order regarding this sales strategy. Given that individuals should be observing social distancing and refraining from sharing paraphernalia or instruments, this step safeguards the health of both sellers and employees as well as customers.
Implementing Curbside or Pickup Delivery
Parking lot deliveries, as well as curbside pick-ups, are now more popular than ever. This measure coincides with the call to reduce the number of individuals who can access a certain area, as promoted by the Centers for Disease Control or the CDC. This limits interactions between individuals while maintaining respectable distance, which is approximately 6 feet or 2 meters away.
Putting Advanced Ordering Systems
Advanced ordering systems are a godsend these days. Apart from allowing employees and staff to prepare your orders, it also allows limited physical interaction. This results in shorter periods of possible exposure to the virus and other illnesses.
Through this organization and order-taking system, patients and customers can either phone in their orders to the respective licensed dispensaries or course their orders via the brand’s website. Some companies may also offer delivery services to those in need, provided customers have their vehicles located within the establishment’s parking area or premises.
Practicing Social Distancing
Medical marijuana dispensaries who have yet to observe the following steps above seem to have implemented certain smaller changes that still give customers some semblance of normalcy. While most dispensaries are not ordered to turn away patients and customers who still come to their physical stores, most of these establishments are enjoined to provide mitigating measures to ensure public health.
As such, stores have started entertaining customers in batches. In Maryland, some cannabis dispensaries have only allowed three customers in the store, while some businesses in the District of Columbia only allow ten people at a time, to ensure distances between people and to minimize exposure between customers and employees alike.
Another step towards this direction are states temporarily suspending receipt-signing affairs. This facilitates social distancing and prevents further spread of germs via hands, items, documents, and other materials.
Enhanced Hygiene Measures
Though the CDC states buyers are not required to wear protective gear such as masks and gloves when you are in good health, frequent and thorough handwashing is a must. Using sanitizers and alcohol to prevent the spread of germs is commonly observed not just in households, but also in stores. Most cannabis establishments these days have asked their customers to sanitize their hands before coming in.
In the same way, these companies and brands have also enacted preventative measures when it comes to handling their goods. Employees are asked to wear gloves and masks, with some being asked to wear protective gear. Staff must also refrain from shaking hands with customers nor directly touching the customers’ hands, ensuring that a no-contact approach is observed.
The Bottom Line
Now that you know how the DMV area is faring in terms of cannabis accessibility during the coronavirus outbreak, you can effectively create a game plan on how to get your essentials including cannabis products. This way, you can minimize the risks while ensuring that you have enough supply to last the quarantine period ordered by your states. Just make sure to remember the marijuana laws in place to avoid any legal issues.