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COVID-19’s Impact on the Massachusetts Marijuana Industry: Recreational Dispensaries Ordered to Close – Medical Patients May Be Certified Via Telehealth Means

On Monday, March 23, 2020, Governor Charlie Baker ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses in the Commonwealth through April 7, 2020 to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus. While medical marijuana dispensaries made the list of “essential” businesses, recreational dispensaries did not. Therefore, all recreational dispensaries closed at noon on March 24, 2020 and remain closed through April 7, 2020.

While access to recreational dispensaries is no longer permitted, the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) issued an order on March 20, 2020 (the Order) permitting medical providers registered with the CCC’s Medical Use of Marijuana Program (Providers) to request a waiver of the requirements under 935 CMR 501.010(7) that a patient be physically present for a clinical visit prior to certifying that patient for medical marijuana use. The CCC issued the Order following the Baker Administration’s Order Expanding Access to Telehealth Services and to Protect Health Care Providers (issued March 15, 2020).

Pursuant to the Order, “Providers must first ensure that there is an ability to deliver the service through telehealth with the same standard of care and in compliance with licensure and registration requirements using telehealth as is applicable to the delivery of the services in person.” If the Provider cannot meet this standard of care, it must direct the patient to find in-person care. Further, Providers must meet certain conditions prior to issuing a Written Certification, such as disclosing to the patient that the Provider obtained a waiver to conduct the clinical visit by telehealth and without the requirement of a physical exam subject to certain conditions. More details can be found in the Order.

As a result, Providers may serve, via telehealth means, patients who request a Written Certification for the Medical Use of Marijuana if the Provider obtains a waiver from the CCC. The ability to request a waiver is available so long as the March 10, 2020 Massachusetts State of Emergency Order remains in effect. The waiver form can be found on the CCC’s website here.

Hinckley Allen’s Cannabis Practice Group is carefully monitoring COVID-19’s impact on the marijuana industry across New England and will strive to provide future updates as they become available.

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