On April 13, an emergency rulemaking announced by Washington DC mayor Muriel Bowser and DC’s Health Department allowed the district’s medical marijuana dispensaries the ability to deliver for the first time. It was in response to COVID-19 which makes access to DC’s seven medicinal cannabis dispensaries extremely limited which means many patients cannot access the cannabis doctors have prescribed to them. 36% of D.C.’s medicinal cannabis patients are over 55 years old and among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.
To get a sense of how this emergency rulemaking is being enacted, The Outlaw Report spoke to Rabbi Jeff Kahn, owner of Takoma Wellness Center and Linda Mercado Greene, owner of Anacostia Organics and chair of the DC Medical Cannabis Trade Association (DCMCTA). It was the DCMCTA that crafted the emergency rulemaking to provide guidance to elected officials to help patients and licensees.
“As the chair and a dispensary owner/licensee, and a former Chief of Staff to the late Marion Barry, I worked with our political consultant, former Councilmember Yvette Alexander, to get this passed with the Executive Office of the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services, and the members of the DC City Council,” Greene said. “We were elated to be notified they accepted our proposal for home delivery.”
Anacostia Organics has not yet delivered cannabis to patients but is developing a plan—the rulemaking is fairly complex and involves registration of cars and drivers, limitations on how much cannabis can be delivered at one time, can only happen between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., and more.
“Anacostia Organics will be doing home deliveries very soon,” Greene said. “There are a lot of compliance and security mechanisms that must be in place before we begin for the protection of our staff and our patients.”
Kahn’s Takoma Wellness Center was the first dispensary in DC to deliver, he said, and they were able to make a delivery the day after the rulemaking was announced. That dispensaries in DC are delivering at all—putting them on equal footing with the gray market which has been delivering for years—is exciting for the medicinal cannabis industry, Kahn added.
“We were delighted to achieve this milestone. We’ve been working with the District for permission to deliver for several years, and this is the first crack in the wall,” Kahn said. “Although a small step, it is great the District recognizes that there are folks who are home-bound and need their cannabis meds delivered.”
So far, Takoma Wellness Center’s deliveries are “on a very limited basis,” Kahn explained, focusing deliveries on those patients who need it most.
“We are able to deliver to some of our sickest patients, who we know would go without their meds without the delivery,” Kahn said. “Right now, it is helping a handful of patients. It is not a process designed to help many patients or the dispensaries.”
Greene stressed that separate from COVID-19 concerns, medicinal cannabis delivery would be greatly beneficial to older patients and other patients at a disadvantage because of lack of mobility or even lack of access to a car: “We have many patients who are elderly, patients who do not have transportation, patients who simply don’t feel well enough to come out to a dispensary to get their medications, patients who are in hospice, patients who have to depend on caregivers,” she said.
The order ends 45 days after DC’s public health emergency regarding COVID-19 is lifted or on August 12. Kahn and Green both hope that the delivery rulemaking will increase the likelihood that medicinal cannabis dispensaries will be allowed to deliver all of the time.
“We would like to continue to deliver to our sickest patients on a limited basis,” Kahn said. “And, we would like to be able to expand delivery to all our DC patients. I think this current ‘experiment’ will help us achieve that goal.”
“Medical marijuana dispensaries—legally licensed—should have the same benefits as pharmacies,” Greene said. “It is a patient’s right to have access to their medications, whether medical marijuana or prescription drugs.”
Illustration by VectorV / via Shutterstock