Colorado regulators have now decided that the state’s recreational marijuana dispensaries can reopen, following a previous order that limited the retailers to curbside pickup. The executive order for nonessential businesses to close was originally issued by Gov. Jared Polis on March 22 in an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping the globe.
Under that order, which also instructed the state’s residents to stay at home unless necessary, licensed medical marijuana dispensaries were deemed to be essential services and permitted to stay open. Recreational marijuana shops were not covered by the order and were instead told to switch to drive-through sales or curbside pickup on March 24. On March 20, Polis approved temporary rules to allow dispensaries to take online orders and deliver orders to customers at curbside, both of which had been previously prohibited.
But on Monday, a bulletin was issued by the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) indicating that recreational cannabis shops would be permitted to conduct sales on site once again.
“Licensees are no longer prohibited from allowing Retail customers on the Licensed Premises, but are required to implement Social Distancing Requirements pursuant to state and local orders,” reads the memo from MED.
The recreational marijuana retailers that decide to reopen have been advised to comply with state and local guidance regarding social distancing. The bulletin also noted that it superseded any contrary guidance previously issued by the agency.
No More Cash Sales Outside
The MED bulletin also noted that curbside sales will continue to be allowed at both medical and recreational dispensaries, but cash sales outside the licensed premises would no longer be permitted.
Jordan Wellington, an attorney for the Denver-based cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg, told Westword that the new guidance from MED is the agency’s interpretation of Polis’s executive order and that “the implication is that in-person sales are now allowed.”
“There was some scuttlebutt last week, but nothing counts until they send one of these out. These new permissions show the state trusts marijuana businesses,” Wellington said, adding that it is a “huge win” that provides “more wiggle room” for the marijuana industry.
Fears over the coronavirus initially led to panic buying at many retail outlets, including cannabis dispensaries, which saw a spike in sales before in-store buying was halted. Since then, business has declined, with sales on Wednesday, March 25 down 27% from the previous Wednesday, according to cannabis industry analytics firm FlowHub. The executive order instructing nonessential businesses to close is scheduled to remain in effect through April 11.