While many businesses in major metropolitan areas having closed their doors for the foreseeable future, medical cannabis patients don’t have to worry about most dispensaries closing, although Tucson Saints Dispensary announced today it will temporarily shut its doors.
Since cannabis is a medicine, it is an essential service and dispensaries will continue to sell products as usual, said Sam Richard, executive director for the Arizona Dispensaries Association.
But “everyone’s doing things a little differently,” he said.
Several dispensaries have posted notices on their websites detailing their response to COVID-19 emphasizing patient and employee safety and following Centers for Disease Control guidelines.
Common precautions include limiting the number of patients inside the dispensary, only allowing people in the waiting room and frequently wiping down surfaces. Dispensaries have encouraged employees who feel sick to use their paid time off.
Many dispensaries have also changed their hours, opening late, closing early or both.
Some, like TruMed in Phoenix, have transitioned to fulfilling online orders only, while other still allow to-go orders if patients know what they want. Downtown Dispensary in Tucson has installed special air filters to ensure a sterile environment.
However, many dispensaries have seen stocked items dwindle, especially regarding flower. But shortages are the result of the sudden purchasing shock, Richard said, and dispensaries should have their usual menu items available within a couple days.
Dispensaries across the country experienced a spike in sales over the second weekend of March, but industry experts see little need for concern for the moment.
Dispensaries may not update online menus daily, so call ahead to find out which products remain available. However, keep in mind that dispensary workers are likely busy right now and you may have to wait on the line to talk to someone.
Though patients susceptible to respiratory illness likely avoid inhalation products already, but patients concerned about contracting the virus may consider other products such as edibles, oils or tinctures.
Some dispensaries have recommended ill patients stay home to avoid exposing the virus to other susceptible patients. But dispensaries with delivery will continue to provide the service and other may yet decide to adopt delivery mechanisms should social isolation continue.
In the event of extended isolation, dispensaries may also begin offering more online deals while suspending others.
Many social gatherings, such as lounges and this month’s Marijuana Industry Trade Association meeting have also been closed or cancelled, said Tim Sultan with MITA.
The main concern lies with elderly and other vulnerable patients, Richard said.
More than 20 percent of Arizona patients are older than 61 years old, according to the Arizona Department of Health’s February report. About 5,300 patients have illnesses like cancer or AIDS that could compromise their immune system.
While business remains relatively steady for now, the virus may still have impacts on the industry. Much of the cannabis industry’s packaging and hardware production occurs in China, where the virus began.
For example, vape cartridge manufacturer CCell, located in the Shenzhen region of China, produces most the country’s cannabis cartridges. With workers quarantined and production ceased, industry supply chains could be interrupted by the virus.
For now though, patients can stay home and medicate at ease knowing they’ll retain access to cannabis.
As of today, Arizona Department of Health Services report, seven people in Pima County have tested tested positive for COVID-19. In Arizona, a total of 44 people have tested positive. Among state tests, 130 cases are still pending and 175 have been ruled out. Private labs are also conducting tests that add to the total number of cases. Statewide numbers updated here.
According to the CDC, COVID-19 symptoms typically occur two to 14 days after exposure, and include fever, cough and shortness of breath. However, some cases of the virus are entirely asymptomatic. Practices to avoid infection include social distancing (of at least six feet), washing your hands, avoiding unnecessary trips and not touching your face. COVID-19 can survive on cardboard for up to 24 hours, and on stainless steel and plastic surfaces up to three days. If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, call your healthcare provider for medical advice. For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.