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Marijuana dispensaries want provisions put in place during coronavirus pandemic to stay

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

The coronavirus outbreak has prompted several states to allow cannabis delivery and curbside pickup, services that advocates championed before the pandemic but may otherwise have been delayed for months or years — if they were approved at all.

The question now is whether regulators will allow these temporary measures to continue after the pandemic is over.

Jurisdictions including Washington, D.C., Michigan, and Louisiana have either initiated or expanded cannabis delivery in response to social-distancing measures and shutdowns. Meanwhile, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and others are allowing curbside pickup.

“These are important changes,” Kelly Fair, US general counsel for Canopy Growth Corp., said in a May 5 media briefing hosted by the Cannabis Information Project. “As related to COVID, we don’t see curbside or delivery going away anytime soon.”

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While the measures were put in place as a direct response to the pandemic, they’re beneficial under any circumstances for medical marijuana users, particularly those who have limited mobility, said Heather Allman, who uses cannabis to alleviate symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

“Speaking as a patient, I would like to say all these changes made by the dispensaries have effectively and efficiently worked,” Allman said. “My wait times have been shorter and I’ve gotten more notifications about my orders.”

The fact that the measures were implemented quickly and successfully will hopefully prompt regulators to keep them in place after COVID-19 has passed, said Nick Etten, vice president of government affairs for Acreage Holdings Inc.

“We definitely expect to see a lot of the provisions we’ve gotten over the last two months to continue,” Etten said. “We’ve shown we can operate in an environment whereby some of these restrictive regulations have been removed and we believe it’s important to keep them in place.”

Cannabis companies have also invested in new technologies to facilitate delivery and pickup, and allowing those services to continue “would make these investments more sustainable,” said Susanna Short, government affairs and public policy associate for iAnthus Capital Holdings Inc.

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“Cannabis policy is relatively nascent, so there is always a bit of building the plane while we are flying it about these things,” Short said. “We are grateful for the rapid response around these particular types of improved access, and we will continue to push for permanency.”