Alibi V.29 No.16 • April 16-22, 2020 

Cannabis Manual

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

coronavirus

I thought I was so clever when I made that title. Turns out, every hipster this side of the Mississippi has already made it twice. I'm always late to the party.

It's turned into a ghost town out there, and you've likely gone to ground avoiding contact with the infected hordes. The good news is you still have access to cannabis and there seems to be no shortage in sight.

Luckily, New Mexicans have been smart enough not to lose their minds and blow out the state's marijuana supply. If only the toilet paper hoarders were as conscientious as the weed smokers. But COVID-19 is still changing the way we consume cannabis.

For those of us who are used to at least hanging out with fellow patients in close quarters to share company as we smoke: Rolling Stone recommends using social media and telecommunication apps to stay connected while maintaining a safe distance, instead.

And if you're used to going into a dispensary and jawing the ’tender's ear off and being all social and friendly, you're in for some changes.

As of this writing, most dispensaries in Albuquerque are continuing to operate normally—although nearly all of them are encouraging patients to call in their orders before visiting and to take advantage of curbside service to practice social distancing. Near the end of March, the Medical Cannabis Program Director Dr. Dominick Zurlo reportedly wrote a letter to the state's licensed medical cannabis producers assuring them that dispensaries were considered “essential” businesses and were exempt from the recent emergency health order that directed most businesses to shutter their operations. But the order also instructed “essential businesses” to “adhere to social distancing protocol and maintain at least six-foot social distancing from other individuals, avoid person-to-person contact and direct employees to wash their hands frequently.”

Here's the thing: This virus has legs, and it isn't safe to keep pretending that it doesn't. Near the end of last month, reports surfaced of a Washington church choir that decided to meet and practice prior to the state enacting stringent social distancing orders. According to those who attended, no one showed signs of being ill. But more importantly: No one remembers hearing any coughs or sneezes.

According to the Los Angeles Times, this case and others have alerted health officials to the possibility that COVID-19 can be transmitted through aerosols. The World Health Organization has admitted that aerosols—particles smaller than five micrometers—play a part in spreading the virus, but are quick to point out that “in an analysis of 75,465 COVID-19 cases in China, airborne transmission was not reported.” They've been focusing on transmission through “respiratory droplets,” which are produced through coughs and sneezes.

The possibility of transmission through aerosol makes this a completely different battle. A study published last month in The New England Journal of Medicine found that COVID-19 remained infectious for three hours when dispensed as an aerosol. While this was in strict lab conditions, imagine the conditions of a small dispensary lobby cut off from the fresh air coming in at the front door. These places were designed to trap the delicious aroma of cannabis in a small space. At this moment, that also means they were designed to trap the virus, too.

The number of COVID-19 cases in New Mexico are a drop in the bucket compared to the numbers coming out of places like New York and New Jersey. If we want to keep it that way, we should be stringently practicing social distancing. For cannabis users, the best practice would probably be to voluntarily ask for curbside pickup at dispensaries instead of trying to use their lobbies—whether they require it or not. Call in orders ahead of time to your favorite dispensary and take advantage of curbside service. From what I can tell, nearly every place in town is offering it.

When it really comes down to it, it's the responsibility of every person reading this to do their part to curb the spread of this virus.

Hopefully, this will all be over soon, and we can go back to being the friendly New Mexicans we're used to being. In the mean time, stay safe and healthy.

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