The COVID-19 pandemic, while catastrophic in scale, also allowed for many gains in the realm of accessibility, with many formerly in-person services having to shift to a virtual model out of necessity. Now, as many states begin to roll back the previously enforced guidelines, the medical cannabis industry is seeing changes reverting back to the pre-COVID-19 days. Namely, Colorado has set a new, extended deadline in ending their telemedicine visits for medical cannabis.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis had initially signed an executive order last year that would temporarily allow legalized, medical cannabis telemedicine. The order was set to expire on June 11 but was extended to July 10. The order allowed medical cannabis doctors and patients to conduct appointments virtually, which many have argued, COVID-19-aside, has allowed for greater accessibility among many Coloradans who otherwise may not have it.
“I commend the governor for recognizing that medical patients are often the most vulnerable to COVID-19, and taking the swift action to protect all of us that he did. And I’m sad to see it end,” Truman Bradley, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, told The Denver Channel. “The people from the disabled community, the rural patients, the people who are immunocompromised—those are the people that suffer as a result of this going away.”
Going forward, any permanent changes to cannabis and telemedicine would need to come from within the state legislature. A House bill that would have allowed for permanent changes in this regard already died in a House committee in May.
Bradley says those opposed to making cannabis telemedicine a permanent option in Colorado are worried that it leaves room for fraud. When the executive order ends, it will also mark the end of online dispensary payments.Drive-thru and walk-up dispensary services, however, were approved by the Marijuana Enforcement Division and are allowed to continue in the industry moving forward.