FREMONT – Like most industries in Ohio, the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries are scrambling to adjust to widespread upheaval caused by coronavirus-related health concerns.
Medical marijuana patients come to dispensaries to get relief from a wide range of medical conditions, including cancer, ALS, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain.
“We’re on par with the pharmacy. We have people that rely on us to get them their medicine,” said Brandon Lynaugh, Standard Wellness Company’s director of external relations.
Dispensaries like Terrasana’s Fremont location and The Forest in Sandusky are stepping up cleaning and disinfecting efforts, asking sick employees to stay home and doing what they can to make their lobbies and sales areas safe for customers.
What those dispensaries can’t do at this point is offer carryout and delivery services for customers.
Ali Simon, a spokesperson with the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, said Wednesday the board is working with dispensaries to best serve medical marijuana patients and caregivers during this time.
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Ohio law prohibits the use of a pickup unit or drive through window at medical marijuana dispensary sites.
“It is important to remember that patients are purchasing medical marijuana using cash. The board wants to protect patient safety and allow a patient to make purchases in a secure location, while also protecting a patient’s right to privacy,” Simon said.
Simon said the pharmacy board is working with dispensaries to best allow for social distancing prevent lines.
She said board staff is working with dispensaries to set up processes that would allow a patient to avoid lines and maintain social distancing.
A dispensary employee would go to the patient’s car and provide a number and a dispensary menu.
When the patient’s number is called, the patient would be allowed into the dispensary to make their purchases, Simon said.
“This would limit the number of patients in a dispensary at one time,” Simon said.
Emilie Ramach, Terrasana’s marketing director, said the company’s Fremont site, as well as its other retail locations, had temporarily reduced hours to 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the wake of coronavirus concerns.
Terrasana has also increased its cleaning and personal hygiene procedures with a focus on continuously disinfecting public areas such as counters, door handles, tabletops, iPads and ATMs.
The company has provided extra cleaning and sanitizing supplies to every location, where workstations are wiped down every night.
The Forest opened in Sandusky in January 2019, with Terrasana’s Fremont site opening in April.
Lynaugh said Standard Wellness dispensary sites in Ohio are seeing a general uptick in demand in recent weeks.
As of March 2, the state’s commerce department reported dispensary sales of $78.8 million since the first Ohio dispensaries opened in January 2019.
That sales figure jumped to $85.2 million by March 15.
There were more than 84,000 registered patients in Ohio as of Jan. 31, with 60,260 unique patients that had purchased medical marijuana.
Standard Wellness’ Gibsonburg cultivation and processing facility has also undergone some significant changes to minimize the risk of spreading coronavirus.
Of that 55,000 square feet, 25,000 is devoted to growing space.
Lynaugh said any employees that were deemed non-essential have not been coming into the Gibsonburg plant since last week.
He said essential site employees were limited to the company’s cultivation team and security officers.
“Everything else is done remotely,” Lynaugh said, adding there had been no staff reductions as a result of the health emergency.
Employees displaying coronavirus symptoms will be required to stay home.
A new protocol requires employees at the Gibsonburg plant to dispose of protective gloves if they move from one room to another at the facility.
Standard Wellness has put in sanitizing stations throughout the facility, Lynaugh said.
Lynaugh said there has been no change in daily hours so far at any of Standard Wellness’ sites.
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