On March 21, 2020, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order 107, shutting down non-essential retail businesses in New Jersey in response to the growing COVID-19 threat. However, medicinal marijuana dispensaries received an exemption as an “essential business.”
As part of the Order, any essential retail business whose brick-and-mortar premises remain open to the public must, wherever practical, provide pick-up services for advanced online or phone orders, operate online or telephone delivery service to the extent authorized under existing laws and abide by social distancing practices to the extent practicable while providing essential services. These include all reasonable efforts to keep customers six feet apart and frequent use of sanitizing products on common surfaces.
Just as people are stocking up on groceries and cleaning supplies, New Jersey’s medical marijuana patients have been experiencing long lines and possible shortages as they look to acquire a recommended two-week supply. The increased demand is of course profitable for operators, but provides new challenges on how to best comply with new health and safety and social distancing practices that protect both employees and patients from the coronavirus while meeting their patients’ needs.
In response to the State of Emergency, New Jersey State Officials are preparing to issue policy regulations that will expand medicinal marijuana access to patients and protect employees of operators. While home delivery is allowed by the recently enacted Jake Honing Act, the rules have not been formerly adopted nor implemented. The proposed emergency rules will seek to correct this by allowing home delivery in order to ensure that patients, many of whom are most vulnerable to the coronavirus, are able to receive their medications. Other proposed policy regulations may include appointment-based scheduling, exclusive shopping times for older citizens, priority access for terminally ill patients, walk-up or curbside pickup, and increased allowance on the amounts of cannabis product patients can purchase. Any proposed policies are likely to be in effect for the duration of the State of Emergency and end thereafter.
Along with state and local regulations, cannabis operators are advised to review the publication “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19,” issued by the U.S. Dept. of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Connell Foley’s Cannabis Law team will continue to monitor the N.J. Department of Health Division of Medicinal Marijuana for any further regulation developments for medicinal marijuana dispensaries. Please check our website for further updates regarding this important matter.
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