Utah cannabis dispensaries can offer drive-thrus, delivery to practice social distancing

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Who would have thought that a global pandemic would trigger a herd of people to register for Utah’s medical cannabis program? March – when Utah’s medical cannabis industry launched – saw patient enrolment steadily climb by 300-400 on a weekly basis. 

In spite of the confusion surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, one thing is clear: patients want weed. State officials confirmed this when they predicted that approximately 10,000 residents will have enrolled in the newly-launched medical cannabis program in Utah by the end of 2020. Currently, the registered patient count sits at around 3,500… and counting.

Why are medical cannabis patients in Utah so interested in enrolling in the state’s program amid a contagious virus crisis? Convenience is a key factor in the ever-increasing patient registration count; social distancing measures have been implemented to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread further.

Among the recent policy changes for medical cannabis in Utah is delivery; a service that has been made available to all registered patients. Additionally, Utah regulators have been swayed to permit drive-thru windows at all of the state’s licensed medical cannabis pharmacies.

Two of Utah’s medical cannabis dispensaries are preparing drive-thru windows

The medical cannabis industry in Utah got off to a wobbly start, with its initial dispensary launch occurring just a fortnight prior to the quarantine kicking into high gear across the U.S. Fortunately, there has been a silver lining for the newly-launched medical cannabis program, with the latest regulation amendments ensuring that patients are not forgotten about during this unstable time.

For the time-being, health officials who are in charge of monitoring and regulating Utah’s medical cannabis market are allowing at least two of the state’s three actively-operating cannabis retail stores to allow “drive-thru” windows. One of the dispensaries that is currently serving registered medical cannabis patients in the mountainous state is Salt Lake-based Dragonfly Wellness, which started serving customers on March 2.

Due to an existing drive-thru feature on this dispensary’s exterior – Utah’s Dragonfly Wellness cannabis pharmacy is concealed within a former bank building – the owners saw an opportunity to safely provide customers with their medicine; all the while maintaining social distancing rules. Drive-thru cannabis pick-up services have been proving popular in numerous states amid the COVID-19 pandemic — a virus outbreak that has caused significant economic collapse and fear mongering on a global scale.

Progressive growth in Utah’s medical cannabis industry could indicate even better things on the horizon, according to Richard Oborn — Director of Clinical Services at Utah Department of Health (DOH). Oborn’s Department is responsible for dealing with a wide spectrum of cannabis industry-related matters, from reviewing patient cards and pharmacy operations to confirming the rollout of new pharmacies in Utah. 

This year, Oborn says that another 11 medical cannabis retail stores will open across various Utah locations; dispensary launches are expected in Cedar City, Lehi, Payson, Provo, St. George, Salt Lake and West Bountiful.

Utah’s medical cannabis market has room to grow, spurred by COVID-19

Pro-legalization lobbyists were keen to get a medical cannabis initiative approved in 2018 and, thanks to the solid efforts of devoted voters, it was a successful outcome. Utah Proposition 2, Medical Marijuana Initiative (2018), passed two years ago in Utah. Since this time, regulations have been hashed out to ensure that the state’s medical cannabis industry is able to grow steadily and progressively; even during a health pandemic like COVID-19.

While some cannabis-friendly states have rejected delivery services, others have managed to swerve disruptions in sales revenue by offering social distancing-abiding methods of collection and emergency delivery. States like California, Delaware, Nevada and Pennsylvania have been inspired to provide these services, whereas others like Utah – and states that had already authorized drive-thru cannabis dispensaries prior to the COVID-19 pandemic pandemic, including Colorado and California – are learning how to maintain safety protocols, profits and consumer satisfaction by other means.

Hopefully, by the end of the year – when state regulators anticipate patient involvement in Utah’s medical cannabis program to exceed 10,000 – the soon-to-be launched dispensaries will be fully operational and able to serve the growing consumer demographic.