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New York Department of Health Rules Medical Cannabis as an Essential Service

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New York Department of Health has issued a statement that cannabis is an essential service for the patients who use it and not something that should be shut down for social distancing.

According to Marijuana Business Daily on March 18, health regulators in the state declared that all licensed, medical cannabis businesses are considered to be “essential” services, which allows them to remain open in New York even if nonessential businesses have to shut down. 

This could be a signal for other states about how to treat medical cannabis businesses in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Many businesses in the U.S. are currently concerned that they may be forced to close temporarily, which would not only hurt them financially and impact the industry, but it would also affect patients who need access to medicine. And, in fact, this could happen if cannabis businesses are deemed nonessential.

Emergency COVID-19 provisions that is being considered in New York would allow for several changes to medical cannabis as it works now. It would let operators dispense cannabis from the doors of businesses, in other words, curbside services, as long as exchanges are still on camera and IDs are still checked.

It also allows businesses that have already been approved of delivery to begin serving customers.  “To help facilitate social distancing, the Department directs that until April 16, 2020, registered organizations who have been approved to deliver medical marijuana products to the homes of registered patients and designated caregivers may expand delivery services statewide without seeking the Department’s prior written approval,” reads the Department of Health’s statement. Delivery drivers are encouraged to use masks and gloves. Patients are also allowed to set up appointments to go to the dispensary in order to minimize time outside.

New York has recently been leaning the way of increased legalization. Before COVID-19 measures took effect, the governor was planning on touring legal cannabis states to see how programs worked, and even the state bar association supports medical cannabis.