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Back in the day, marijuana buyers often would do deals with pot suppliers in darkened parking lots by pulling up to them in their cars.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic and state directives for social distancing, that practice is not only legal now, but mandatory.

As of Tuesday and until April 18, retail marijuana stores are required to bar customers from entering their facilities, but under an executive order signed by Gov. Jared Polis last week, a state law barring curbside dispensing of marijuana products has temporarily been suspended.

The order calls on retail stores — medical marijuana dispensaries are exempt from this requirement — to start allowing customers to order their products online, and then allowing them to pick up those orders outside.

While some area marijuana stores don’t yet have the ability to allow their customers to order online, many do, including the Happy Camper Cannabis Co. in Palisade.

In fact, the owners of that store and its sister outlet in Bailey have long operated an online ordering option, said Colleen Scanlon-Maynard, vice president for marketing.

“We have a lot of customers who will place their orders online,” Scanlon-Maynard said. “So when we had to shift to the curbside, a week ago we encouraged all of our customers who are Happy Camper fans, of which I’ve got about 9,000, to start getting used to the online ordering. If they hadn’t done it, get out there and try it.”

Under current law, retail marijuana stores are allowed to have mechanisms on their websites to let customers order products, but consumers still have to go to those stores to pick up their purchases. In other words, the stores cannot deliver products outside their establishments.

Polis’ executive order, however, suspends that rule, and allows store employees to interact with customers in their vehicles, but no further than their curbsides or parking lots.

The procedure for doing that is fairly easy.

At Happy Camper, for example, once customers place their orders, they also must schedule a time to pick them up. The Palisade store is doing it in a way so as not to have everyone arrive at the same time.

“It was a little bit hectic the first day to get everybody to understand that you pick your time and then you come,” Scanlon-Maynard said. “Today it’s moving pretty smooth, so I would say we were in front of the curve.”

When they arrive at their allowed time, customers are asked to check in with security to notify the store they are there, and then immediately go back to their cars. That’s when a store worker will come out with their orders.

Scanlon-Maynard said Happy Camper stores did see an uptick in sales Monday and Tuesday, possibly because of concerns over the new procedures and worries about supplies.

She said customers need not worry about that part, saying there are no issues about running out. Her only real concern is in ensuring the safety of her employees and customers.

“My biggest thing is keeping my customers safe, keeping my employees safe and being able to supply customers with what they’re used to receiving from us,” she said. “So far, we’ve been able to pretty well handle that. Not to say we haven’t had a little hiccup here and there because of the change, but thank goodness we already had things in place that made the transition smoother.”

Palisade’s other marijuana dispensary, Colorado Weedery, posted the following statement on its website: “Customers must remain in their vehicles curbside pickup only… You can call in your order or order online (coming soon) for pickup. An employee will greet you at your vehicle to get your order.”

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