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Utah Approves Cannabis Drive-Thrus and Delivery to Facilitate Social Distancing
news  |  May 14, 2020

Utah Approves Cannabis Drive-Thrus and Delivery to Facilitate Social Distancing

Utah's first medical marijuana dispensary only opened its doors two weeks before quarantine began, but the state's cannabis industry is growing fast, and these regulations are certain to help.

Utah's first medical marijuana dispensary only opened its doors two weeks before quarantine began, but the state's cannabis industry is growing fast, and these regulations are certain to help.

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Utah health officials are now allowing medical cannabis dispensaries to offer drive-through windows and home delivery in order to help patients maintain social distancing.

Although many businesses shuttered since the pandemic began, most states ruled that medical cannabis dispensaries are essential services. But, even though they are allowed to remain open, these businesses now have to find creative ways to implement social distancing regulations.

Many dispensaries are now using curbside pickup in order to minimize interactions between customers and staff, but a growing number of states have also implemented emergency weed delivery rules. Some states, like California and Nevada, already allow home delivery. But Pennsylvania, Delaware, and other states are enacting emergency delivery rules.

Similarly, the health crisis has inspired a number of states to allow dispensaries to sell their products via drive-thru. Some states, like Colorado and California, already authorized drive-thru dispensaries before the pandemic began, but Maryland just allowed two dispensaries to open drive-thrus to help maintain safety protocols. 

Now, Utah has joined the list of states that are allowing drive-thrus and home delivery to keep cannabis patients safe during the pandemic. Out of the three dispensaries that are currently serving the Beehive State, two just announced plans to open drive-thru windows. Dragonfly Wellness in Salt Lake City, which is housed in a former bank, is working on converting the existing drive-thru into a viable means of safely transferring medical pot to customers.

Unfortunately, neither of these businesses expect to open the drive-thrus until July, which surely doesn’t help right now. But who knows what the state of the world will be like then — we might be social distancing for the next year. Thankfully, regulators have also authorized home weed delivery, which will likely be faster to implement. In order to begin deliveries, dispensaries will either need to comply with a restrictive set of delivery regulations or employ a licensed medical cannabis courier service.

Utah voters legalized medical cannabis through a ballot initiative in 2018, despite concentrated efforts from anti-cannabis lobbyists, government officials, and church leaders to discourage support for medical pot. State officials continued to interfere with the rollout of the program, and Dragonfly Wellness, the state's first dispensary, wasn't able to open its doors until this March — just weeks before quarantine began.

The state's new regulations are likely to help the medical pot industry expand at a more rapid pace, though. At present, only 3,500 Utah residents have received medical cannabis cards, but that number is growing fast. State regulators have issued between 300 and 400 cards a week, and expect to have as many as 10,000 patients enrolled by the end of this year. And although only three dispensaries have opened so far, 11 more are slated to open in 2020.

chrismoore

Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.

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