Medical marijuana deemed an essential business

OKEECHOBEE — If you heard about Gov. Ron DeSantis issuing a stay-at-home order, which asks residents to stay at home unless working or getting essential supplies, and wondered if medical marijuana dispensaries would be considered essential, the answer is yes.

Florida statute defines dispensaries as an essential service that should be treated like retail pharmacies. In his announcement on April 1, Gov. DeSantis pointed to the essential business list that was complied for the stay-at-home order for Miami-Dade County for guidance on which businesses would remain open.

Understandably, a large number of medical and health care providers were included in that list, including hospitals, doctors’ and dentists’ offices, urgent care centers, clinics, rehabilitation facilities, physical therapists, mental health professionals, psychiatrists, therapists, pharmacies, blood banks, medical cannabis facilities, health care device manufacturers, eye care centers, home health care providers, reproductive health care providers and medical transport services.

Despite the stigma that some might still carry for the drug, medical marijuana plays a crucial role in the lives of the over 300,000 Florida residents who are registered as patients.

Columbia Care, one of the largest multi-state operators in the medical cannabis industry, reports that they continue to see strong demand at their 12 Florida locations and are implementing all CDC and state recommended safeguards to protect customers and workers.

“We’ve seen our patients truly need the services we provide to manage their conditions even with the need to shelter in place within the 12 counties we operate dispensaries from,” said Arnetra Shettleworth, Columbia Care’s Florida market director. “Patients are coming out, whether in store, drive-thru or curbside, and we are ready to assist them.”

Columbia Care has also instituted extra precautions for any patients using their service.

“Our goal is always to maintain the most safe and clean environment for our patients and staff,” explained Ms. Shettleworth. “We have put additional COVID specific protocols in place, mirroring the CDC recommendations, to include the use of gloves with specific language for their use and changing, even more frequent handwashing, full sanitizing of all work stations and POS areas after each transaction, offering drive-thru where applicable, curbside pickup and ordering in all locations, encouraging online and phone-ahead ordering, and offering other cashless payment options.”

Florida is currently the second-fastest-growing market in the United States in terms of patients joining the registry, with registered patients making up 1.6% of the state’s total population.

The cannabis data company New Frontier Data has projected the Florida medical cannabis market to approach $1.6 billion by the end of 2020.

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