Cannabis Industry Grapples with COVID-19 Outbreak, Maine Issues First Adult-Use Licenses: Week in Review

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U.S, March 21, 2020 (CANNABISBUSINESSTIMES) From regulators allowing cannabis delivery and curbside sales to dispensaries being deemed “essential” during shutdowns, the industry is adjusting rapidly.

This week, Michigan’s governor announced that all licensed cannabis retailers may set up delivery services to accommodate sales during the COVID-19 outbreak, while Illinois regulators decided to allow curbside medical cannabis sales. Elsewhere, in Maine, the Office of Marijuana Policy issued its first round of conditional adult-use cannabis licenses.

Here, we’ve rounded up the 10 headlines you need to know before this week is over.

  • Federal: President Trump has instructed the Small Business Administration (SBA) to allot $50 billion in aid to small businesses via low-interest loans during the historic coronavirus global pandemic, which would help small businesses stay afloat with current expenses, including payroll. While the total assistance SBA will offer in these low-interest loans is still unknown, one thing is certain: Cannabis businesses will not be offered relief by SBA. 
  • In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, cannabis businesses are increasingly being declared “essential.” A growing number of municipalities implementing quarantine measures are placing cannabis dispensaries along the same lines as grocery stores, pharmacies and police stations, allowing them to remain open. 
  • Florida: A proposal to cap the THC content in medical cannabis products for patients under the age of 21 stalled in the Florida House as the state’s 2020 legislative session came to a close. Limiting THC content was a priority for House Speaker Jose Oliva this year, although the proposal was not as well-received in the Senate.
  • Maine: The Office of Marijuana Policy has issued its first round of conditional adult-use cannabis licenses to 31 businesses for cultivation, manufacturing and retail operations. Ten cultivation operations, four manufacturing facilities and 16 dispensaries were granted provisional approval and must now obtain local authorization before they can receive a final active license from the state.
  • Washington: The Washington Legislature has approved legislation aimed at bolstering social equity in the state’s cannabis industry, sending it to Gov. Jay Inslee. The bill would create a task force to help establish a new Marijuana Social Equity Program and would allow the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board to award previously revoked or canceled cannabis dispensary licenses to applicants in the new program. 
  • Michigan: Following the general trend toward delivery services amid the COVID-19 outbreak (and, thus, the public health necessity), Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced this week that all licensed cannabis retailers may set up delivery services to accommodate sales in this time of social distancing. Whitmer’s executive order also includes curbside pickup for all licensed dispensaries.
  • Meanwhile, Michigan’s adult-use cannabis sales increased in February, reaching $14.8 million for the month. This is a 34% increase over January’s sales of $9.8 million. 
  • Arkansas: The state’s medical cannabis sales have surpassed $50 million since the market launched less than one year ago. Arkansans have purchased more than 7,932 pounds of medical cannabis totaling $50.7 million in total sales since the first dispensary opened in May 2019. 
  • Illinois: As state regulators rush to maintain easy access to medical cannabis amid the crackdown on mass gatherings, Illinois will now allow curbside medical cannabis sales. “The exchange of cash and product must take place on the dispensary’s property or on a public walkway or at the curb of the street adjacent to the dispensary,” according to a memo from the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation. 
  • Canada: Canopy Growth Corporation has temporarily closed all corporate-owned Tokyo Smoke and Tweed retail locations across Canada, effective March 17, in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. “We have a responsibility to our employees, their families, and our communities to do our part to ‘flatten the curve,’” CEO David Klein said.