DC Loosens Medicinal Cannabis Delivery Restrictions As Covid-19 Concerns Continue

Back in April, Washington D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser and the Department of Health (DOH) announced that they would allow medicinal dispensaries in the District to deliver cannabis to patients for the first time. This was in response to Covid-19, in which it was imperative that in-person interaction was limited especially among the most vulnerable.

Now, nearly seven months into the pandemic, the delivery restrictions for dispensaries have been loosened even further. At the time, the rules allowed a dispensary only one vehicle for delivery per dispensary and limited those delivery times to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Now dispensaries can deliver in up to three vehicles and can deliver between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Following April’s announcement, The Outlaw Report heard from Linda Mercado Greene of Anacostia Organics—who as chair of the DC Medical Cannabis Trade Association (DCMCTA) was also involved in drafting the delivery rules— and Rabbi Jeff Kahn of Takoma Wellness, both of whom praised the changes and also expressed a desire that this would only be the beginning.

“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.”

Along with expanding the number of delivery vehicles per dispensary and the hours for delivery, D.C’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) is now responsible for overseeing the medical cannabis program, taking over for DOH. Back in May, not long after the medicinal cannabis dispensary delivery allowances went into effect, Mayor Bowser proposed in her 2021 budget that ABRA take over D.C.’s Medical Marijuana and Integrative Therapy program from the DOH through the Medical Marijuana Program Administration Amendment Act of 2020. That budget was authorized and ABRA’s takeover of the medicinal cannabis program went into effect on October 1.

“The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has added to the strain on persons with health conditions for which they were recommended medical cannabis. The increased demand for qualifying patients to obtain medical cannabis by delivery has demonstrated the need for greater flexibility as it relates to the number of delivery vehicles that dispensaries are permitted to deliver medical cannabis and the hours in which qualifying patients and caregivers can have medical cannabis delivered,” ABRA’s rulemaking notice says. “The ongoing nature of the pandemic coupled with District residents’ medical needs warrant immediate action. Thus, the Board finds that emergency action is necessary for the promotion of the health, safety, and welfare of District residents.”

In a press release announcing the expanded regulations, ABRA Director Fred Moosally said, “A debt of gratitude is owed to DC Health for helping to pioneer medical cannabis in the District, and to Mayor Muriel Bowser and the DC Council for entrusting ABRA to shepherd the program into its next chapter.”

Most importantly, it is believed that Bowser’s budget moving D.C.’s medicinal cannabis program from the DOH to ABRA would in the long term, make a regulated, recreational cannabis industry happen more efficiently once it was accepted (though the budget did not in and of itself establish a commercial industry). Currently, there is a push for a regulated industry through the The New Modern-Day Criminal Justice Cannabis Reform Act of 2020, a ballot initiative.

You can read the full text of the recent emergency rulemaking announcement here.

Illustration by Kathy Wyche

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