The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has issued marijuana policy guidance for lawmakers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, along with a statement regarding the designation of medical cannabis facilities as “essential.”
For information on getting your Florida medical marijuana card during the COVID-19 pandemic, please see CannaMD‘s Coronavirus Resource Page. To learn more about medical marijuana treatment center (MMTC) delivery services, please see: Florida Dispensaries: COVID-19 Policies.
Medical Marijuana Doctors & Dispensaries are “Essential”
Countless states, including Florida, have designated medical marijuana doctors and dispensaries as “essential” during the coronavirus crisis. Addressing this designation, NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri states:
NORML commends the decision of various state governments and local jurisdictions during this pandemic to designate medical cannabis facilities as ‘essential’ to the community. This designation permits them to continue to provide important services to patients who rely on them.
There are several million state-licensed medical cannabis patients in America. Because many of these patients are among our more vulnerable populations, it is essential that they maintain uninterrupted, regulated access to lab-tested products during this time.
Policymakers must not push these patients to the illicit marketplace because unregulated products may contain contaminants, adulterants, molds, pesticides, or other components that could potentially endanger their health.
Further, NORML advocates that these facilities be permitted and encouraged to deliver products directly to patients and the elderly so that they can continue to engage in social distancing, as recommended by most public health departments.
For those facilities that continue to maintain operations for on-site retail sales, NORML encourages them to engage in recommended best practices in order to keep both their employees and their customers safe. This includes frequent sanitization of shelving and other public spaces, limits on the total number of customers permitted to congregate together at one time, and potentially imposing specific hours of operation for elderly or other higher-risk patients.
For updates on all current Florida dispensary policies, see: Dispenary COVID-19 FAQs.
NORML: COVID-19 Memo to Lawmakers
On April 1, 2020, NORML issued a memo to state lawmakers, regulators, and prosecutors in an effort to mitigate the COVID-19 crisis by “evolving cannabis policies.”
As the NORML memo notes, seventeen states still prohibit the legal use of cannabis for medical purposes and 39 states prohibit the consumption of the substance by adults. In these jurisdictions, public servants ranging from police officers and prosecutors to judges and prison guards are required to engage in interactions with members of the public for the sole purpose of enforcing cannabis prohibition.
Given the unique nature of the coronavirus pandemic, NORML recommends the following policy changes:
- Immediately deprioritize the enforcement of criminal and civil violations specific to nonviolent marijuana-related crimes in order to reduce non-essential interactions between law enforcement and otherwise law-abiding members of the public;
- Immediately withdraw all charges for those currently facing prosecution for nonviolent marijuana-related offenses in order to reduce non-essential interactions between members of the judicial system and otherwise law-abiding members of the public;
- Immediately review and release currently incarcerated individuals who are either in jail or in prison solely for the commission of a nonviolent marijuana-related offense;
- Immediately review and waive all pending probation requirements for individuals who have solely been convicted of a nonviolent marijuana-related crime.
NORML – along with the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, the Last Prisoner Project, Clergy for a New Drug Policy, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, National Cannabis Industry Association, the Marijuana Policy Project, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy – sent a letter to the National District Attorneys Association, the National Governors Association, the National Sheriffs Association, the National Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Fraternal Order of Police, the American Correctional Association, the National Correctional Industries Association, and AFSCME calling for these changes.
NORML Recommendations: Legalized Cannabis States
To ensure that regulated, state-licensed businesses can serve their consumers “in a manner that best comports with public health guidance,” NORML recommends the following policy guidelines for states, such as Florida, where cannabis is legal for medical and/or recreational use:
Designation of Dispensaries and the Supply Chain as Essential Services
- There are millions of state licensed patients in America who require uninterrupted access for their physician-recommended medicine, many of whom are elderly or are more vulnerable/at higher risk;
- These patients must not be inadvertently directed to the illicit market, where they may be exposed to non-lab tested, tainted or adulterated products that may compromise their health;
- In addition to providing patients with uninterrupted, above-ground, safe access to regulated cannabis products, designating the cannabis industry as an essential service also guarantees that retailers must comply with strict public health requirements and guarantees that employees are eligible for unemployment protections.
Note: Medical marijuana doctors, such as CannaMD, and dispensaries have been designated as “essential” in Florida.
Allow for Home Delivery and Curbside Pickup
- In order to limit patients from congregating in one place, regulators should amend or expand existing regulations so that licensed facilities can engage in home delivery and/or curbside pickup;
- Both of these policies have already been adopted in various states, including: Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont, among others.
Note: Florida dispensaries also offer home delivery and curbside pickup options. To learn more, visit: Florida Dispensary Delivery Policies.
Permit and Encourage Physicians to Advise Medical Cannabis Patients via Telemedicine
- In order to mitigate time and interpersonal contact between physicians and patients during this outbreak, regulators should amend or expand regulations permitting patients and their physicians to engage in telemedicine for the purpose of medical cannabis authorizations and/or re-authorizations;
- This policy has already been adopted in various states including: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, among others.
- Waive or lower existing recommendation fees;
- Waive or amend existing patient re-authorization requirements.
Note: On March 16, 2020, the Florida State Surgeon General authorized medical marijuana doctors to conduct telehealth appointments for renewal patients. To learn more and/or to schedule a physician appointment, please see: CannaMD: COVID-19 Policies.
Aggressively Address Fraudulent Claims of Cannabis/CBD “Cure All” Scams from Predatory Marketers
- NORML is aware of a growing number of predatory marketers seeking to profit by making unsubstantiated and/or false claims regarding the use of cannabis and/or CBD products as COVID-19 remedies;
- There is as of yet no substantiated clinical data supporting either the prophylactic or therapeutic use of cannabis products in the treatment of COVID-19;
- In the interest of public health and safety, NORML urges regulators to take appropriate actions against marketers who are engaging in the spread of misinformation and are seeking to profit financially from it.
To read NORML’s full memo, please visit NORML.org.
NORML’s Federal Policy Guidelines
NORML also issued guidance for lawmakers regarding federal policies:
Make Licensed Cannabis Businesses Eligible for Small Business Administration Crisis Relief Funds
- The state-licensed cannabis industry employs more than 240,000 American workers, over four times the number of American workers as does the coal industry;
- Currently, these cannabis businesses are ineligible for economic/crisis relief or access to low-interest loans;
- With the exception of businesses that produce or sell hemp and hemp-derived products (Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Public Law 115-334), marijuana-related businesses are not eligible for SBA-funded services;
- By enacting legislation such as The Ensuring Safe Capital Access for All Small Businesses Act, HR 35405, which was introduced by House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez, small business owners would be better positioned to weather the crisis and continue to employ their workers and serve their consumers.
Allow State-Legal Business Access To Banking Services
- Currently, the state-legal marijuana economy is prohibited from obtaining bank accounts, forcing consumers and employees to engage in cash-only transactions thus increasing the potential for COVID-19 transmissions;
- By enacting legislation such as The SAFE Banking Act, HR 15956 , which has already passed the House of Representative by a bipartisan 321-103 vote, businesses would be able to significantly reduce the amount of interpersonal contacts between patients and employees.
As one of the largest networks of medical cannabis physicians in Florida, CannaMD supports these federal recommendations.