It is no more news to anyone, there is a pandemic currently gripping the world. The Corona Virus designated as Covid-19 is novel; that is, it has never been seen before. The virus has currently hit 200 countries in all continents and sent billions into lockdown; with some being partial and others full. There are currently 700,000 plus confirmed cases globally with about 33,600 plus deaths worldwide. Although the United States has the highest number of confirmed cases (138,000 +), Italy still leads the total number of deaths (10,700 +) worldwide.
The reason for such high figures is explained by the nature of the virus. It is highly contagious and remains relatively asymptomatic in many cases until about 14 days after an infection has occurred. It can be passed easily from one person to another through direct contact, by touching infected surfaces or even from fluid droplets from an infected person. As a result, washing hands frequently, cleaning of surfaces in the home and maintaining social distancing is greatly advised to reduce the spread of the virus.
Despite its rapid spread, 95% of the currently infected cases are mild conditions and only about 5% are critical. Also, out of the 197,000 confirmed cases with outcomes, about 160,000 have been said to have recovered or been discharged. Thus, countries with major hits are currently seeking ways to contain the virus, the most extreme measure being a total lockdown of major cities in the world.
Currently, in the US, about 23 states have stay-at-home orders. They include Colorado, California, New Jersey, New Mexico, Louisiana, Illinois, Indiana, Delaware, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, New York, Ohio, Washington, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Idaho, Hawaii, Connecticut, Michigan, New Hampshire, Montana, and West Virginia. Also, about 10 others have asked “non-essential” businesses to shut down. They include; Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Puerto Rico, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Nevada, Guam, Montana and Washington, DC.
Although the definition of “essential” varies in different states, “non-essential” businesses would mainly include those that are for recreational purposes. So parks, movie theaters, museums would fall under “non-essential” businesses. Most food businesses, banks, and pharmacies are staying open with a large number of restaurants resorting to food deliveries or take-outs. Medical marijuana dispensaries, on the other hand, fall along the borderline of “essential” or “non-essential’ as most states that have legalized medical cannabis have not decided on which category it should fall.
Not all states have their medical marijuana dispensaries open and as such, the ones that still have are experiencing a rise in sales and also in products purchased. Many people are currently buying in bulk to stock in their homes as a result of the restriction of movement now imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A lot of persons view medical dispensaries as an essential service that shouldn’t be shut down because individuals who purchase them usually have a qualifying medical condition such as chronic pain, cancer, HIV or Alzheimer’s disease. Hence, it’s okay to say that cannabis dispensaries fall in the same category as regular pharmacies or drug stores.
Although most states have now allowed for medical dispensaries to still function, bulk buying is still the case in many areas. Maryland, for example, is one of the states where medical cannabis is legalized and is deemed as an essential business. When the stay-at-home restrictions were placed on other states, there was a lot of panic buying. Although most of the stores tried to keep up with the demand, there are fears of what might happen if the increased demands don’t reduce.
Maryland’s medical dispensary operators are facing more challenges because last year there was an increase in the number of registered patients, resulting in over 95, 000 registered patients as stated by the cannabis commission. An increase in demand would mean an increase in supply and although cultivators and vendors are doing their best to make as much of it available, there is only so much they can do. This is because cannabis is a plant that has to be grown, extracted and dried. A process that could take up to months before reaching its final consumer.
After an announcement by the state governor of Maryland, that labeled medical dispensaries as part of essential services that would remain open despite the restrictions, most stores have had a little breathing space with a reduced number of buyers compared to before. In fact, states like Maryland will be allowing online recertifications for the short term.
Various methods of delivery are also being implemented in different states to ensure minimal contact and maintenance of social distancing. In Maryland, some medical dispensaries make use of curbside and parking lot deliveries to their patients. The aim of this is to reduce overcrowding at the dispensaries and also ensure that medical cannabis is readily available and accessible to patients when they need it.
The Covid-19 pandemic has shed more light on the importance of medical marijuana and the number of individuals who rely on medical dispensaries for their daily meds. With about 52% of the American population being forced to stay indoors, access to food and medicines become vital, thus highlighting the importance of medical dispensaries.