MMJ doctors get green light to recommend cannabis online through TeleMed; could home delivery option be next?
Currently, 88 positive cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ohio have been documented in 19 different counties. This marks an increase to 21 cases as state health officials learn more about how the worldwide pandemic is affecting us here locally.
While the public health crisis wages on, the health and wellness of Ohio medical marijuana patients and dispensary employees continue to be a top priority for state officials as they combat the COVID-19 outbreak.
COVID-19’s Demand for Action
Ohio facilities have taken extra steps to ensure the safety and well-being of both patients and employees in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aside from the sanitary measures that apply to general Coronavirus containment put forth by state officials, Ohio dispensaries have not been given any additional guidance from the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (OMMCP) to make necessary changes to prepare for and prevent unwanted infections from further spreading in Ohio.
The program’s website announces that “patients, caregivers, and dispensaries should also be aware that the offices of the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy will be closed to the general public during this time. Patients and caregivers needing assistance should use the toll-free helpline or the program’s Contact page. Dispensaries should continue to communicate through their assigned compliance agent.”
Dispensary and Cultivator Announcements
This posting left little guidance for medical marijuana dispensaries across the state. However, many state dispensaries have made important changes:
- Clubhouse Dispensary in Elyria, Ohio has adjusted hours of operation from 12 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., until March 22, when normal hours of operation are to resume.
- In a conscious effort to practice social distancing, Terrasana has postponed all vendor visits until April 6th. They, too, have adjusted their weekly operating hours.
- Verdant Dispensary is allowing patients to take a number, instructing individuals to sit in their car to be serviced, avoiding long lines.
Cannabis cultivation facilities have also been given a small amount of guidance from the state, with the following statement from OMMCP: “Cultivators, processors, and testing laboratories should continue to communicate through their assigned compliance agent.”
Some cultivators, such as Cresco labs, have released statements solidifying their efforts to be as productive and proactive as possible. From Cresco:
“We have an internal task force set up and are monitoring this situation daily so we can proactively take preventative measures to maintain a healthy environment at our corporate office, cultivation and manufacturing facilities, and retail stores. Our goal is to maintain production, distribution, and access to the trusted medical and recreational cannabis products that our customers rely on every day.” – Cresco Labs
TeleMed: New Approach for Communication
The repercussions of COVID-19 on Ohio’s MMJ industry can be seen from the perspectives of patients, dispensaries, doctors and cultivators alike.
Some offices, such as the doctors at Ohio Marijuana Card, are currently unable to see patients in the office and are forced to reschedule. But that hasn’t ceased their operations. They announced yesterday:
Ohio Marijuana Card is currently rescheduling patients into the TeleMed system, in the hopes that state officials will comply with this plea. TeleMed is a medical service provider that allows live medical consultation between doctors and patients in a virtual setting. This means that with approval from the state, patients will be able to electronically submit medical records and identification criteria.
Robbie Collier, a Patient Support Representative at Ohio Marijuana Card, expounded on the company’s plans: “Our (Ohio Marijuana Card) Medical Director has taken executive action to approach the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program to address this issue and allow for patients to see their doctor via TeleMed during the social distancing period. We are still waiting on an answer,” Collier said.
Patients statewide are counting on this initiative to pass in order to pass, as many rely heavily on their medical marijuana medicine to maintain their health and overall quality of life. Without the ability to see their doctors, patients needing assistance with using their medicine or those up for their required yearly renewal could be forced to go without their medicine at a time when traditional medical services are overburdened.
Michael Schreffler of Massillon, Ohio, was among those patients whose appointments this month were rescheduled due to COVID-19. “I had back surgery years ago and the pain comes and goes, I get back spasms. I was supposed to see the MMJ doctor, but they are moving their appointments to TeleMed. Which I hope should be easier. My appointment was scheduled for March 27th,” Schreffler said.
A Call for Home Delivery of MMJ in Ohio
Some individuals have been calling for the state to revise and amend Ohio law to allow for delivery services to Ohio MMJ patients even before the Coronavirus pandemic. The legal language currently in place via House Bill 523 prohibits dispensaries or any third parties from making home deliveries. Only those registered as state-certified caregivers are currently afforded the right to home delivery, and they are limited to filling orders f or two patients per caregiver. By reducing the restrictions on delivery drivers, it would allow more patients to get the medication they need while they are under quarantine.
The general recommendation that public health officials have given about medical marijuana and COVID-19 is to refrain from bringing anyone to your appointment or to the dispensary that doesn’t need to be with you. However, for some patients, the need to bring a caregiver is apparent. As Medicate OH reported earlier in the week, some of the Ohioans most likely to contract COVID-19 include many cannabis patients.
Continuously monitoring developments in relation to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ohio, and abroad, is crucial. Gov. DeWine has begun laying out protocols for businesses while strongly recommending employers to take aggressive action when it comes to protecting the workplace against coronavirus.
Ohioans have been advised to take the necessary precautions advised by the CDC to minimize the risk of exposure. For additional information regarding COVID-19, and what you personally can do to protect yourself and your loved ones, review the information available on the official CDC website for guidance.
MedicateOH continues to compile information for Ohioans to care for themselves and others. Check out our latest article related to COVID-19 here. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram for real-time updates.
In addition to serving as Founder/President of the Autism Alliance of Ohio, Tiffany Carwile is a cannabis and special needs activist versed in the history of cannabis policy, research, utilization, and wide spanning pharmacology. She is a Featured/Staff Writer for Ohio Capitol Journal, The Weed Blog, MedicateOH, and CannaMaps.