Medical marijuana patients in New Jersey can now breathe a sigh of relief after New Jersey approves cannabis home delivery. The long-awaited move will ease patient access and enable them to stay away from the dispensaries and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Home delivery of medical cannabis
In a statement issued by the State Department of Health on Thursday, the department announced the waiver that allows for home delivery of medical cannabis.
The Department continues to prioritize patient access during this unprecedented pandemic. This new waiver will allow [alternative treatment centers], once they have submitted a plan to the Department for approval, to deliver across the state, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said in a statement.
The push for home delivery was included in Jake Honig’s Bill, which sought to expand the state’s medical marijuana program. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed the bill into law last summer but since then, the home delivery service never happened.
At the onset of Coronavirus outbreak in March, NJ dispensaries experienced hours-long queues with some of the patients having pre-existing conditions that make them vulnerable in the middle of a raging pandemic.
To avert further spread of the crisis, dispensaries had to enact new hygiene and social distancing policies. Some stores even started to offer curbside pickup and online appointments to avoid close contact with others.
78,000 patients on medical marijuana program
So far, New Jersey has more than 78,000 patients who have signed up for the medical marijuana program. Since the program has grown, patients have been complaining of long lines and product shortages, with many saying they still have to drive long distances to the dispensaries.
Over the past month, two more dispensaries—Zen Leaf Elizabeth in Union County and Columbia Care in Vineland, opened in New Jersey. Columbia Care already offers cannabis home delivery from dispensaries in other states. It aims to do the same in NJ once permitted.
In April, industry stakeholders seriously looked at the feasibility of cannabis home delivery. Susanna Short is a consultant who has worked collaboratively with licensed medical marijuana companies in NJ. Regarding home delivery, she said:
I think that there is going to be something that happens with delivery in New Jersey in relatively short order. Regulators want it, legislators want it, patients want it, the industry wants it.
Even so, cannabis home delivery has its share of challenges. Given that marijuana is a cash-only business, its delivery could bring security risk for drivers involved. According to the health department’s announcement, only employees of the 11 licensed dispensaries in NJ are allowed to deliver medical marijuana to patients. Besides, the vehicles used for deliveries must have additional security measures including GPS tracking and lockbox.