Responding to the increasing demand for online sale of cannabis products, Colorado has given an affirmative nod to the recreational marijuana outlets to accept and dispatch online orders.
This is in addition to the permission already given to medical marijuana companies to provide patients with their required doses in the wake of the lockdown enforced due to COVID-19.
Medical marijuana has been declared an essential service since the beginning of the lockdown implementation arising out of the Coronavirus crisis and now recreational marijuana too has been given the go-ahead to continue sales.
Home delivery services are, however, still not permitted and customers have to pick up their orders from the stores or dispensaries maintaining strict social distancing rules. This has given rise to concerns about the safety of elderly and immunocompromised customers who might get infected during their pick-up.
Massachusetts, Michigan, Illinois and Oregon are some of the other states that have similar practices for online recreational marijuana sales. Other states have not joined the practice as credit card companies still do not offer support to cannabis industries due to its illegal nature under federal law.
The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which aims to protect financial institutions that serve cannabis-related businesses, is still a proposed legislation. Unless the law is passed, credit card companies are not willing to allow online transactions for cannabis products.
Cannabis Station by Rocky Mountain High, a dispensary in downtown Denver, has been providing curbside pickup after Gov. Jared Polis’ March 20 directive but has been unable to start online sales due to credit card issues.
Ben Prater, the dispensary’s manager, is one of the people asking for permits for home delivery as he feels that it will ease the troubles of many of his regular customers. “We need to be able to have as little contact as possible to people. If people are sick or if they’re immunocompromised, they don’t need to be leaving their house during this time. So, I think that delivery is just kind of a necessity at this point,” he said.
Colorado lawmakers legalized delivery of marijuana in 2019 but left it up to municipalities to decide if they want to implement it.
Rachel Gillette, a Denver-based cannabis attorney and a board member of Colorado’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, has been at the forefront of requesting officials to draft ordinances or resolutions to allow delivery of medical marijuana.
But she also understands that “they may have a lot of other things on their plate than trying to figure out how to facilitate delivery for marijuana businesses”.
The Colorado Governor’s office has issued a clarification stating that marijuana delivery licenses will be given only from 2021 and the online sales of marijuana would be stopped once the current crisis is brought under control.
Under state law, emergency rules can only stay in effect for 120 days and legislative action will be required to extend the authorization.
Other states such as California, Washington State and Oregon are allowing curbside pickup during the COVID-19 crisis. In California, even though the state has allowed broad legal marijuana sales since 2018, it remains unavailable in many parts of the state where local governments are against commercial activity or have not implemented rules to allow sales.
“Delivery and access really need to be made available in every corner of the state, especially during a pandemic”, San Francisco-based cannabis attorney Nicole Howell said.
For now, the temporary permission for the online sales of recreational marijuana is a relief for many buyers who would definitely like to see this practice continuing after the stay-at-home orders are lifted.