Last month, Governor Larry Hogan lifted the statewide mask mandate in Maryland with three exceptions: schools, public transportation, and healthcare settings.
This includes medical cannabis dispensaries. In Maryland, all dispensary visitors (regardless of their vaccination status) are still required to wear a mask while inside any cannabis storefront across the state. Maryland’s updated mask mandate states: “All persons in Maryland over the age of five (5) years old are required to wear a Face Covering when they are: obtaining healthcare services, including without limitation, in offices of physicians and dentists, hospitals, pharmacies, and laboratories.”
Medical dispensaries are considered healthcare settings and were deemed essential at the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
On May 21, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission released a bulletin stating “dispensaries must continue to require face coverings,” though masks are no longer required in cultivation and processing facilities.
While vaccinated people are not required to wear masks while indoors anymore in most public places, Maryland’s vaccination rate is still below 50% and many medical cannabis patients are at an increased risk of death or hospitalization due to COVID-19.
“It’s extremely important for people to continue wearing masks in dispensaries because it’s still a healthcare facility,” Jessica Morgan, a dispensary manager in Towson told The Outlaw Report. “Every day we see patients with immunocompromised systems, whether it be from an autoimmune disease or chemotherapy.”
“At least one to three patients a day are struggling with a compromised immune system,” Morgan said. “This makes them susceptible to things like a cold, let alone COVID-19.
In fact, many of the qualifying conditions to receive a medical cannabis certification from a physician are also common comorbidities for COVID-19. This includes cancer, dementia, and substance use disorder— conditions that many patients use cannabis to treat that also put them at greater risk of hospitalization or death should they contract COVID-19, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Morgan also noted that there are many patients and dispensary employees without compromised immune systems who are using cannabis to treat underlying medical conditions that could be exacerbated by the stress of contracting COVID-19. This could include anything from chronic pain to anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.
“[Dispensaries are a] medical facility, and you have to think about others who come in on their worst days who cannot afford to catch COVID-19,” Morgan said.
Existing COVID-19 restrictions vary in dispensaries across the U.S. An informal poll conducted by MJBizDaily of 163 cannabis retailers found that 50% still require masks and social distancing for customers in their stores. Conversely, 20% have no COVID-19 restrictions at all.
“You wouldn’t go see your friend on chemo without a mask—COVID or not—so you shouldn’t walk into a dispensary without one either,” Morgan said, “you have no idea whose life you could potentially be putting at risk.”