The Logan Square dispensary notified customers via email Thursday night that it will only sell to medical marijuana customers until further notice.
MOCA typically sees more than 1,000 customers on the days it sells recreational marijuana, CEO and co-owner Danny Marks said. Because of the restrictions on large gatherings and the response from other organizations, they wanted to play it safe.
“We didn’t want to put our staff or medical patients in a position where they could be exposed to that many people,” he said. “Hopefully it’s a short term thing. There is no playbook for something like this and we are going to take it day by day and reevaluate as things evolve.”
Many medical marijuana patients have compromised immune systems and could be more susceptible to the disease caused by the coronavirus, COVID-19. Ever since legal weed sales started Jan. 1 in Illinois, the same dispensaries that serve medical patients also have sold to hundreds of recreational customers each day.
Marijuana delivery is not legal in Illinois, but some in the industry said it would help protect patients who use marijuana to treat ailments.
Dispensaries are upping their cleaning routines, offering gloves for employees and encouraging patients to use online ordering.
Mission South Shore marijuana dispensary has wiped down its touch-screen product menus so many times in the past few days that the screens started to go a little haywire.
“Bottom line is our medical customers are our most compromised … individuals here,” said Gabriel Mendoza, Mission’s vice president of operations. If anyone thinks they might have COVID-19 or been exposed, “we … really just make sure they aren’t coming to the dispensary.”
Since recreational marijuana went on sale in Illinois Jan. 1, dispensaries around the state have been inundated with customers. In Chicago, many stores have places inside for customers to wait.
But now officials are discouraging crowds from congregating. Parades, sporting events and other gatherings have been canceled, and an increasing number of businesses are telling employees to work remotely.
Cresco Labs started using a text-based check-in platform at its Sunnyside dispensary in the Lakeview neighborhood Thursday to cut down on interaction in the waiting area, spokesman Jason Erkes said.
The wait on Fridayafternoon was about two hours for recreational customers, according to the dispensary’s website.
Erkes said Cresco is evaluating every aspect of its business to maintain the health and safety of employees, customers and patients.
“We will be implementing social distancing strategies at all of our retail stores to ensure customers and patients always have access to their medicine and to be able to continue their daily wellness routines with as minimal personal interaction as possible,” he said.
Foot traffic at Dispensary33 in the Uptown neighborhood has been slower than usual, said general manager Paul Lee. The dispensary is cleaning every hour, and employees are working to ensure everyone who comes in is practicing good hygiene, he said.
“The whole contraction and spread of the virus is what’s most scary for our shop,” Lee said. “To possibly be a point where a lot of people get it is what you don’t want to be.”
Dispensary33 sent an email to its customers earlier this week encouraging anyone with a compromised immune system to preorder their marijuana products “to make sure your experience with us is as touch-free as possible,” or send a caregiver to pick up their order.
Mindful Dispensary in Addison, which sells only medical marijuana, told patients that if they ordered ahead, an employee would bring their orders out to them.
The Cannabis Business Association of Illinois is having discussions with the state about what to do if the coronavirus outbreak gets worse and how to ensure patients can get their medication, said Pam Althoff, executive director of the association. That includes the possibility of delivery, she said, though those conversations are in early phases.
A representative from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which regulates dispensaries, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Thrive dispensaries in Anna and Harrisburg is working to limit the amount of people inside the shops by lining customers up outside, said principal officer Gorgi Naumovski. The stores sell recreational marijuana Thursday through Sunday, and Naumovski said it has been quieter than normal.
Other dispensaries are taking similar measures, including offering latex gloves to employees, increasing cleaning measures and instructing workers and customers not to come if they’re feeling sick.
Marijuana company Verano Holdings has been telling employees to “be very aware,” said co-founder Sammy Dorf. The company has an ownership stake in The Clinic Effingham, which does medical and recreational sales.
“You have medical patients that are mixing with recreational” customers, he said. «At all times just try to be as sanitary as you can be. It might not be the best time to shake everybody’s hands.”