SANTA FE – New Mexico medical cannabis dispensaries have been allowed to stay open under Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s order closing all businesses other than those deemed essential in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
But some dispensaries have moved to a new model – involving advance orders and curbside pickup – to limit person-to-person contact.
Len Goodman, CEO of Best Daze in Santa Fe and one of New Mexico’s medical cannabis pioneers, said the new system requires dispensary employees to take orders by phone or internet.
When customers arrive to pick up their orders, staffers go outside to verify their identification and medical cannabis ID cards – all of which is typically done through a car window.
“It’s more complex, it’s more difficult for patients, and it’s more difficult for us, but it’s far safer,” Goodman told the Journal.
The Department of Health, which oversees the state’s medical marijuana program, has encouraged licensed producers to use pickup or delivery systems to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.
The agency has also made several other allowances, including a 90-day extension for enrolled program members whose identification cards are scheduled to expire between mid-March and mid-June and temporarily suspending criminal background check requirements for newly hired medical cannabis employees.
As for sales, Goodman said there was a spike in purchases shortly after the Lujan Grisham administration ordered the closure of nonessential businesses, possibly due to concern that medical cannabis dispensaries would be shut.
Since then, he said, his dispensary has seen fewer patients daily, but those who have placed orders have often bought larger amounts of cannabis.
Meanwhile, Ben Lewinger of the New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce said its members are suspending all special promotions and events on April 20, the unofficial annual holiday for cannabis users and activists.
Instead of in-person events, the producers will promote virtual events, possibly through videoconferencing or other remote technology.
“We’re taking the designation of ‘essential business’ seriously, and our actions demonstrate that,” said Robert Munro, the cannabis group’s board president and the owner of Seven Clover dispensaries in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho. “While this may not be a popular decision with everyone, suspending 4/20 sales and promotions is the right thing to do.”
Overall enrollment in New Mexico’s medical cannabis program has skyrocketed in recent years as additional dispensaries have been opened around the state and more qualifying conditions have been added.
There were 82,147 patients enrolled in New Mexico’s program as of last month, according to Health Department data.