How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the face of medical marijuana here in Ohio? For starters, marijuana went from being deemed illegal to essential in a matter of 18 months. Every day, many of Ohioans depend on medical marijuana to help with their qualifying conditions. The guidelines for how to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak were changing rapidly in Ohio over the past few weeks and fortunately, the Ohio MMCP made significant changes to the program as quickly as possible. Keeping the patients in mind, the Board of Pharmacy was able to implement and reiterate guidelines and best practices along with making temporary exceptions to accommodate the rules set forth by the state of Ohio.
Transdermal THC patches are a popular product among patients 50 and over
FLATTEN THE CURVE
Complying with Governor DeWine’s initial plea to work from home if able, the Ohio MMCP staff began working remotely on March 16, 2020 to help flatten the curve. The Ohio MMCP staff began practicing social distancing with full intent of conducting business as usual. They reminded the patients of Ohio that there may be longer than normal wait times while they adjusted to this new normal.
Standard Wellness donated 2,000 pairs of medical gloves to ProMedica Memorial Hospital in Fremont, Ohio to aid in the fight against COVID-19
TELEMEDICINE OPTION AVAILABLE DURING COVID-19 OUTBREAK
Realizing that there were many new patient evaluations and renewals scheduled at Ohio clinics such as Ohio Green Team, on March 18, 2020, the State Medical Board of Ohio convened and voted to postpone enforcement of telemedicine regulations for licensees throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This drastic measure allows our physicians at Ohio Green Team and others with a CTR to utilize telemedicine instead of in-person visits to make recommendations and renewals for medical marijuana. Rest assured, this new process is 100% HIPPA compliant, secure and efficient. Although it is not recommended, we at Ohio Green Team are still scheduling in-person appointments at our Columbus location for patients unable to use the telemedicine option. This is one change in the program we hope will remain in tact as it easily serves all Ohioans while minimizing health risks. With telemedicine in place, you can get approved for medical cannabis from the comfort of your own home while doing your part by sheltering-in-place during these unprecedented times.
We’re encouraging patients to use the telemedicine option although they can still take in-person appointments if necessary
MEDICAL MARIJUANA DEEMED ESSENTIAL TO OHIO’S PATIENTS
It was on March 22, 2020 when it was confirmed that the licensed medical marijuana dispensaries are considered a healthcare and public health operation and would remain open during the Order to Stay at Home by Ohio Department of Health Director, Dr. Amy Acton. This order authorizes individuals to leave their home to work or acquire services via a healthcare and public health operation. This would clear up any confusion or panic that the dispensaries would be closed during this difficult time. It also validated that medical marijuana is a necessary and vital medicine used by many Ohioans.
Dispensaries have implemented additional hygiene and sanitizing procedures to ensure the health and safety of all their patients
SHARING IS CARING
The changes didn’t stop there. The Ohio MMCP understood that there are patients who have health conditions that make them more susceptible to COVID-19 and may risk their lives by traveling to dispensaries for their medicine. The first step was a temporary expansion of the caregiver program increasing the number of caregivers from 2 to 3 per patient. In addition, the guidance allows caregivers to be added by applying directly to the Board of Pharmacy. Wow! These are major improvements in the caregiver process as it has been known to not work in certain scenarios. The new application process should eliminate all issues caregivers once faced in the past.
Trichomes on live cannabis plants
Focusing on the higher risk patients that are either over 60 or who have compromised immune systems, most if not all dispensaries implemented new early-bird hours. These high-risk patients are invited to shop without being around large groups beginning 1 hour prior to normal business hours. An important process that should remain in place once the COVID-19 pandemic has ended to ensure these patients remain healthy and safe every day.
DISPENSARIES GOING ABOVE & BEYOND
The dispensaries were reminded by the Ohio MMCP to follow safety and health guidelines currently in place while adding more measures to keep patients protected. Some of the new practices include limiting the number of patients in the building to under 10 at one time, enforcing stricter hygiene and disinfecting practices, taking employees temperatures and checking on their health, washing and sanitizing their hands more frequently, wearing gloves, adding more sanitizer throughout the buildings, and implementing physical distancing in the dispensary and lines outside. A few have added patient reservation systems to encourage patients to remain in their cars instead of standing next to each other in lines.
Dispensaries are continually disinfecting surfaces in an effort to keep patients safe
CALL-AHEAD ORDERING NOW AVAILABLE
Another big win in the program to accommodate patients and caregivers during COVID-19 is the addition of call-ahead telephone orders of medical marijuana products. I tested this new practice with Pure Ohio Wellness in Springfield a few days ago. Once the dispensary is open for regular patient business hours, you can make a phone order as a registered patient or caregiver. Simply have your license or state ID and your medical marijuana card available to read off numbers to the dispensary agent when asked. Tell them the products you want to purchase and quantity of each type. They will take the order and prepare it. Once in the parking lot, phone them to let them know you arrived. At Pure Ohio Wellness, they will send an employee out to your vehicle to grab your ID and Ohio MMCP card. I suggest having a printed version available to avoid handing off your phone. Once checked-in and the order is ready, they will call you and ask you to come in to pay for the products. I am happy to report that the POW employee did have on medical gloves when handling the IDs. It is important that patients and caregivers practice good hygiene as well. It is suggested to store sanitizer in your vehicle to use prior to handing your IDs and after leaving the dispensary. This process may vary slightly at each dispensary. Call them to find out more information regarding their process.
A NEW NORMAL
Together we can work to flatten the curve and keep each other healthy and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. It would be nice to see most, if not all these changes remain a part of the Ohio MMCP once things return to normal, whenever that may be.
For more information on the state’s efforts to address coronavirus, visit http://www.coronavirus.ohio.gov or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.
Interested in getting your Ohio Medical Cannabis Card from the comfort of your own home? Schedule your appointment here!
Need to Renew your card? Don’t forget, we’re the cheapest in the State at just $99 for the year!
Big thanks to Dr. Dank for providing all of the photos. Be sure to visit DrDankOhio.com for up to the minute information on all things related to Ohio Medical Cannabis and give them a follow on Instagram!