Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is providing the information below in an attempt to help medical cannabis patients make preparations for the COVID-19 pandemic and safeguard their well-being. This is a fluid situation and recommendations may change as the situation evolves. Please refer to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention’s COVID-19 preparedness page and stay apprised of developments. Follow the recommendations of public health officials to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community.

ASA has issued recommendations to governors and medical cannabis program directors regarding actions that should be taken immediately to address patient and worker safety and to ensure access to medicine now and in the future. Many public officials have issued declarations that reflect the temporary adoption of these recommendations. Please check our COVID-19 state update response page to see if your home jurisdiction has made these changes. If not, you can use our online tool to contact your governor and urge them to consider implementing these recommendations during this health crisis. 

General considerations

COVID-19 is a serious and extremely infectious respiratory illness that has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Public health organizations at the state and federal levels have expressed concern over the capacity of the U.S. healthcare system to handle the scale of urgent lifesaving measures that will be needed. In response, states are enacting measures to limit the spread of the COVID-19, including closing all non-essential businesses. Health experts have warned that it is possible to transmit the virus even when someone is not showing symptoms. Unnecessarily exposing yourself or others to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can prolong and worsen the pandemic. The power to save lives is in your hands. Stay home to the extent possible.

Healthcare recommendations

For the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, appointments with healthcare providers should be conducted via telemedicine whenever possible. Many jurisdictions that did not previously allow telemedicine for medical cannabis certifications have adopted temporary rules to allow precisely that during this public health emergency. While many medical cannabis jurisdictions still require an in-person visit for initial certification, a large number have authorized the use of telemedicine for renewal certifications.

Please give serious consideration to postponing any non-essential medical or dental procedures that cannot be completed using telemedicine. Rescheduling these appointments once the public health threat has diminished will reduce the burden on healthcare providers when they may be under particular strain and may help to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Dispensary-specific recommendations

Many jurisdictions are allowing medical cannabis dispensaries to offer delivery, drive-through, and/or curbside pickup services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we strongly encourage patients to use these services wherever they are available.

If you must go inside a dispensary in order to place or retrieve an order, refer to the dispensary’s menu and determine in advance which products you will be purchasing. If possible, place a pre-order. This approach will help you minimize the amount of time you spend in the dispensary. Do not use “smell jars” or purchase cannabis flowers that others could have breathed on (i.e., if purchasing flowers, ensure that they are pre-packaged).

Any time you are outside of your home, maintain a distance of at least six feet between you and any individuals not living in your household. This includes dispensary staff and others in the dispensary. Be mindful not to touch your face in the dispensary. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after leaving the dispensary. If soap and water are not available, hand sanitizer is an acceptable substitute.

To ensure a sufficient supply of medical cannabis should you need to self-isolate or should a stay at home order be issued in your home jurisdiction, and to minimize opportunities for exposure, it is recommended that, if possible, you purchase enough cannabis to last for two to four weeks. When determining how much to buy, please be mindful of other patients’ needs and the potential for a run on medicine. Artificial scarcity must be avoided. It is important to be prepared to meet your minimum medical requirements, but please avoid hoarding a quantity of cannabis that is far greater than you would normally consume within four weeks.

Cannabis storage

Store your medical cannabis in appropriate containers and under appropriate conditions to preserve its quality. Containers should be rigid, airtight, opaque, and made of a non-reactive material, such as glass or stainless steel. Humidity control packets that maintain humidity at between 58% and 62% RH can be placed in the containers to help protect product quality. Containers should be stored in a cool, dark place.

Rationing medicine

To ensure that your supply of medical cannabis does not run low - or if you already have less than you need and are unable to obtain more for some time - you may wish to ration your medicine. (A scale that can measure up to two decimal places, such as a jeweler’s scale, can be a very helpful tool.) Divide the total amount of cannabis in your possession by the number of days it must last to determine the amount available to you each day. Separate each day’s supply out in advance to help ensure that you do not exceed the allotted amount and will have sufficient medical cannabis through the rationing period.

Cleaning and using cannabis-related equipment

To minimize impact on the respiratory system and prevent illness, patients who administer medical cannabis via inhalation are advised to thoroughly and regularly clean the equipment used for that purpose. Glass can be cleaned with isopropyl alcohol or cleaners formulated for glass pieces. Follow the manufacturer’s directions with regard to cleaning any electronic equipment. 

If you use an adjustable vaporizer, variable voltage battery, e-nail, or other device that allows user control over temperature, keep the temperature on the cooler side of the effective range to minimize irritation to the airway and lungs.

Do not share any such equipment with individuals with whom you do not reside.

Social considerations

In normal times, consuming cannabis can be a social experience, even when its use is required for medical purposes. These are not normal times. Do not share or consume cannabis with - or otherwise come within six feet of - people who do not live within your household. We all must practice effective social distancing measures to save as many lives as possible during the global COVID-19 health emergency.