COVID-19 update for medical marijuana businesses, essential business travel authorization letter tem
On March 31, Governor Janet Mills issued another in a series of executive orders aimed at limiting non-essential travel and activities in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19. The latest order:
requires all persons within the state to remain at home except to conduct essential activities or work for an essential business,
bans vehicle travel except for these purposes,
mandates continued school closures, and
sets in-store gathering limits for essential businesses.
In light of this most recent order, I have received several requests from medical cannabis operations for a document evidencing that the bearer, whether a caregiver or caregiver assistant, is an essential employee. This is especially important given that, as of 12:01 a.m. on April 2, non-exempt travel (or other violations of the order) will be a class E crime punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The Governor’s Office has specifically exempted pharmacies and other medical facilities from these orders. As a result, Maine’s Office of Marijuana Policy (OMP) has issued guidance that caregivers and dispensaries are exempt from shutdown as “other medical facilities.” Thus, medical cannabis providers are permitted to continue operations and to provide needed medicine to patients.
If you are a caregiver or caregiver assistant who will be traveling to and from the workplace, or to make deliveries to patients, there is a chance that law enforcement may stop and question you as to the reason for your travel. As always, all caregivers and assistants should keep their OMP registration card(s) on their persons when traveling with any cannabis product, and should identify themselves and present those credentials upon request.
Medical cannabis workers may also personalize and present the travel authorization letter at the following link, to support their legal authority to travel while the stay-at-home order is in place:
Essential Business Employee Authorization to Travel Letter
While medical cannabis employees are permitted to travel for essential business purposes, they are subject to the executive order in all other respects. Travel for non-essential reasons is prohibited, and caregivers with retail stores should limit in-store gatherings based on the square footage of the store. Relevant in-store gathering limits are as follows:
Less than 7,500 square feet shall limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 5. Examples of such stores typically include gas stations and convenience and specialty food stores.
More than 7,500 and less than 25,000 square feet shall limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 15. Examples of such stores typically include stand-alone pharmacies and certain hardware stores.
Social Distancing Requirements for All Businesses
Under the governor’s order, all business – even essential ones – are required to “make all best efforts” to maintain the following social distancing measures:
Designate with signage, tape, or by other means six-foot spacing for employees and customers in line to maintain appropriate distance;
Have hand sanitizer and sanitizing products readily available for employees and customers;
Implement separate operating hours for elderly and vulnerable customers; and
Post online whether a facility is open and how best to reach the facility and continue services by phone or remotely.
As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, it remains vital that all businesses, including medical cannabis providers, do their part to reduce the spread of the virus and protect themselves and their customers.
Note that this blog post does not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions about the new requirements under the order, consult an attorney.