Qualifying patients for Washington D.C.’s medical marijuana program can now have cannabis delivered to their door under a temporary measure introduced by Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Department of Health in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
“This emergency rule-making is necessary to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the District’s residents reducing the spread of COVID-19 by enabling District of Columbia residents registered as qualifying patients to obtain medical marijuana while also adhering to social distancing guidelines and the District of Columbia Stay at Home Order,” the text of the emergency rule-making reads.
The measure is in effect and will remain in place until August 12 or 45 days after the jurisdiction’s public health emergency order is lifted.
Washington D.C. now joins Louisiana in allowing for marijuana delivery services as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some cities in Colorado rolled out medical cannabis delivery services last month as emergency coronavirus measures were first introduced, but this was already due to be implemented. Delaware is also hoping to introduce medical marijuana deliveries during the coronavirus outbreak with the intention of continuing the service once the pandemic subsides.
The emergency measure drawn up in Washington, D.C. contains a raft of regulations that medical cannabis dispensaries must comply with in order to take part. Only patients registered through the Department of Health and residing in Washington, D.C. qualify for home deliveries. Even though D.C. now accepts medical marijuana cards from others states, dispensaries face the threat of penalties and revocation of licenses if deliveries are made to nonresidents of Washington, D.C. or patients with illegitimate registrations.
Dispensaries are required to register the delivery vehicles they will use, as well as their drivers, with the Department of Health. Those vehicles are not permitted to display advertising or any indication that they are delivering marijuana. The delivery vehicles must also use GPS to “ensure that the most direct delivery route is followed.”
Home deliveries are only permitted between 11 AM to 7 PM, and no driver can make more than 10 deliveries in one run. Further, vehicles are not allowed to contain more than $5,000, either in cash or the total value of the products.
The temporary policy allows for curbside and at-the-door pickups from dispensaries. Under the provisions of the emergency rule-making, these transactions must be filmed by security cameras in their entirety to help ensure social distancing guidelines are followed.
Marijuana possession and cultivation have been legal in Washington, D.C. since 2014 following a voter-approved ballot measure. But it remains illegal to purchase cannabis owing to a federal spending rider prohibiting the District from using local revenues to establish a legal adult-use industry. Mayor Bowser introduced legislation to legalize retail sales last year, while a coalition of advocacy and civil rights groups called on Congress to lift the prohibition. These calls are intensifying as lawmakers look to new sources of revenue to alleviate the economic damage caused by the coronavirus outbreak.