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By: Bryan Renbaum, Marylandreporter.com
While many Maryland businesses have been forced to close or cut back on staff due to restrictions implemented to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, some say the medical marijuana industry in the state is thriving. There are 774 confirmed cases of the virus in Maryland as of Friday morning, according to the governor’s office.
“Generally though the market is doing well because those that are using medical cannabis to treat a medical or health and wellness condition still have those needs and they continue to be served. And so we continue to move along,” Adam Goers, vice president of corporate affairs at Columbia Care, an NYC-based medical cannabis company that has pharmacies and dispensaries in 15 U.S. jurisdictions and the E.U. — including Maryland — told MarylandReporter.com in a phone interview on Thursday.
Goers said business has improved since the outbreak of the virus.
“We have seen an increase in sales and I think that’s obviously partially driven by some folks making sure that if they’re going to be isolated that they have the medicine that they need. And, also, something that we’ve been encouraging to our patients as well — which is to make sure that they can limit their trips and visits outside of the house. And that’s why, for instance, we’re offering curbside pickup.
“So, yes, we’ve seen demand grow. And I think some of that will be adjusted over time, meaning that it’s not an abnormal amount of demand. But it’s also not hoarding, either…We’re increasing on a day-in and day-out basis more and more patients that are joining the rolls because they are seeing the benefits to this treatment.”
Goers said anxiety surrounding the coronavirus is part of what has led to an increase in sales.
“There’s certainly a lot of anxiety surrounding the COVID-19 crisis. And what we know from physicians and pharmacists is that many patients are always looking to cannabis medicines — particularly now-as a treatment for that anxiety and potentially sleeplessness.”
Goers was asked if having an anxiety disorder serves as a legal justification in Maryland for a cannabis prescription. “Things in Maryland are like nausea, muscle spasms, post-traumatic stress disorder and other chronic medical conditions which are severe. And so I think that’s probably where a lot of folks are finding relief for conditions that have other treatments that have not been effective. And so perhaps for some folks, chronic anxiety is one of them,” he said.
Goers was asked how sales would be affected if the virus continues to spread for a prolonged period of time. “Our hope is that sales stay the same and certainly don’t drop underneath where it’s been before because what that would mean is there would be fewer people being able to access the medicine that we know is helping them,” he said.
However, Dwight Blake, who is editor-in-chief of American Marijuana — a leading CBD reviewing site — said sales in Maryland are down due to the virus.
“Reduced human traffic … has led to low sales, and businesses have had to innovate to comply with social distancing. Keeping distance is especially vital because many marijuana customers have compromised immune systems.
“One dispensary in Edgewater has repurposed its premises to allow for drive-through purchases. Shops are preventing customers from [walking] the aisles. They also have restricted the number of shoppers allowed inside at a time. Online sales and phone orders are now encouraged over walk-in purchases.”
Gov. Larry Hogan in a statement on Friday urged Marylanders to brace for a long fight against the virus and to continue to practice social distancing.
“Over the last three days, the number of COVID-19 cases in Maryland has more than doubled. Cases in the National Capital Region have more than quadrupled over the last week alone. There is no timetable and no model that can tell us exactly how long this will last or how bad this is going to get. …I cannot stress this enough: Marylanders need to stay in place at home to help slow the spread of this deadly virus.”
Medical marijuana pharmacies and dispensaries are considered “essential businesses” in Maryland during the state emergency under Hogan’s executive orders.
“I’ll take a moment here to really thank the [Maryland Medical Cannabis] Commission and policymakers in the governor’s office for recognizing that in the state that this is an important medical need of Marylanders,” Goers said. “And I think they’ve shown that by being willing to help with a variety of fast regulatory changes…like curbside pickup — to make sure that when we look back we don’t look and see that Marylanders have not been able to get the access that they need and deserve.”