Updated: Apr 6, 2020
With the new “Stay Home and Healthy” order by Governor Janet Mills, Mainers are now effectively sheltering in place. Thankfully for the Cannabis industry, medical marijuana has been deemed as an essential business. With this added privilege comes certain responsibilities: being able to stay open during a pandemic means adhering to stricter cleaning protocols, shifting business models to curb the spread and maximize social distancing. The state recently sent a memo to MMJ caregivers titled “Memorandum on Coronavirus COVID 19 Civil Emergency” where they outlined their position as the government on how they would like storefronts in particular to navigate these unprecedented times.
Let's break it down
The beginning of the article is meant to summarize the recent actions taking place across the state highlighting the prohibition of people gathering in excess of 10 people, closures of dine-in facilities and bars. She also noted her guidance on closure of non-essential businesses and distinguishes dispensaries and caregivers as “Other medical facilities” effectively exempting them from the “non-essential” list.
In the second part of the memorandum the OMP issues preferred practices which stress the increased frequency of cleaning and sanitizing services. It also advises owners and employees to think about interaction with consumers, how to make the interaction safer and encourage and implement social distancing guidelines. It concludes with a bulleted list of hygiene recommendations like, washing hands for 20 seconds, avoiding shaking hands, standing 6 feet apart and limiting patients in the store at any given time.
The third and final part of the memorandum is what many people in the cannabis industry are focusing on right now. It states, “While eyes remain fixed on a spring launch of adult use, there are several factors that may force us to reconsider the appropriateness of those plans.” It follows to say how delays are expected because communities that plan on implementing testing facilities are predicting delays. Verbatim the memorandum reads “Several communities preparing for local authorization and to opt-in for adult use-most notably those that serve as host to our prospective marijuana testing facilities-may have to postpone those actions due to the effects of COVID-19 on their communities.”
So what can we deduct from this?
Stores are gonna need to beef up some things, most importantly sanitation regimens. The good thing is many stores have implemented protocols prior to this memorandum. What can consumers plan to see? We have seen many stores move to curbside pickup only, requiring patients to place their order online or over the phone. While these efforts are great, many stores are facing issues running debit cards as the cannabis community is still dominated by cash and lacks avenues for storefronts to process cards. One method that has presented itself is a “cashless ATM” which allows stores to run the card like an ATM, operating in $5 increments and charging a $3 fee. This method is extremely confusing for consumers and does not allow options to type in the card number over the phone. This still requires more face-to-face time than some people are comfortable with. Stores that are still allowing consumers into their brick and mortar locations have limited entries depending on the size. Some are appointment based only while others are using drive up style windows. All in all the cannabis community, like many other industries, have become very creative when it comes to serving consumers in a manner that ensures their safety.
What about the recreational market and its delays?
Some are speculating that this is happening because testing facilities just can not meet deadlines; others have breathed rumors of more cynical things happening behind the scenes. Right now all we can support is that COVID-19 is delaying a lot of industries and have set back many small businesses. We believe it's important to take the situation day by day and realize that delays are normal in times like these.
Host of the Maine Potcast